Named after the Italian city of Milan, where it was first created in the late 19th century, the Milanese watch bracelet (or “mesh” ) is today made all over the world, from Germany to the Far East. Due to the tremendous flexibility of the trend, giving watches a both contemporary and retro style, watch bracelets of stylish mesh or fine links are nowadays a permanent feature of gold and steel wrist watches.
The mesh was created to have the movement and feel of leather (as opposed to the chunky metal one gets on divers’ watches) but with far more breath-ability. Summers in Milan are hot and leather not only makes you warmer, it is also rotted by sweat, hence the need for metallic smoothness.
A typical Milanese watch strap will be eye catching, smooth and cuddly with the skin, as it features tiny interlinking pieces of metal that offer a snake-like strap which is in many ways similar to a jewellery bracelets.
Companies such as Germany’s Staib and Vollmer, both based in the gold and jewellery manufacturing city of Pforzheim (Germany), pioneered the making of Milanese mesh watch bracelets back in 1922. Hansjorg Vollmer, co-owner and grandson of Ernst Vollmer, the founder of the eponymous family-run watch strap manufactory states that it take 85 steps, from the raw materials to the final checkover, to create a Milanese watch bracelet, and that this long work only makes the strap more precious. His advice on how to find a good Milanese strap is that it can be recognised by its “consistent and stable mesh, as well as its lack of sharp edges” and its deployment clasp, which “must be functional, solid, and stable”.
Clockwise from left: Braun stainless steel watch at Mr Porter; Skagen silver titanium mesh watch at Bloomingdales; Danish Designs mesh watch at Asos.com; Skagen carbon fibre and titanium chronograph watch at Nordstrom.
A wide selection of watch brands have started incorporating Milanese straps into collections, particularly Danish watch brands such as Skagen, Danish Design and Bering, with which the straps have become synonymous. These three brands have allowed mesh bracelets to become a recurring complement to slimline case shapes and dials of an unfussy, often matte-finished nature that sit snugly and cooly to the wrist. These streamlined and contemporary designs as well as retro-inspired timepieces have also inspired Breil, Accurist, CK and Emporio Armani, which all have created watches featuring Milanese Mesh for their 2012 collections.
Big brands to also embraced the slick style of mesh straps include IWC and the legendary watchmaker Zenith.