Milanaise Mesh Watch Bracelets: What’s The Attraction? – Reprise

As a great many watch lovers know, straps and bracelets can make or break a watch. While some might find the “vintage” appearance of mesh too delicate for today’s watches, for me mesh remains one of the most beautiful ways to dress up a watch, whether new or old.

And for those in warm or tropical countries, mesh bracelets have the advantage of a very long lifespan compared to leather straps.

It is not always apparent how much work has gone into the smoothness, comfort, and design of a metal bracelet’s manufacture. And a mesh bracelet is one of the most comfortable in existence: because there are no links, it doesn’t catch arm hair and it feels silky and smooth on the skin.

Breitling Chronoliner on mesh bracelet

A Breitling Chronoliner from 2015 on a factory mesh bracelet

If you’ve ever looked into this type of bracelet before, you will know that there are price differences among mesh bracelets. Many bracelets found on today’s Swiss or German watches were manufactured, or at least partially manufactured, in the Far East. And while those products are good in both looks and quality, they are almost 100 percent machine-made.

In fact, there are very few factories left these days that make their bracelets almost entirely by hand.

The best quality mesh bracelets almost always come from Staib, which was established in 1922 in Pforzheim, Germany.

Breitling Transocean Chronograph Unitime on mesh bracelet

Breitling discovered the advantages of mesh early on: here on a 2012 Transocean Chronograph Unitime

Mesh or milanaise: how is it made?

Mesh is also known by the name milanaise or milanese (“of Milan”).

The technique for making mesh bracelets was apparently already known to the ancients, confirmed by findings at Etruscan graves.

During the Renaissance and baroque eras, goldsmiths in Milan made mesh from hand-wound wire spiral coils, which they fashioned into bracelets and necklaces. These jewelry pieces made of woven metal material were named for the place of their birth. Since then, the word milanaise (sometimes seen as milanese) has been used as the technical term for mesh within the watch industry.

It is possible to manufacture this material entirely automatically, but the quality is significantly lower than that of handmade mesh. A great deal of qualified work done by hand is needed to ensure the qualitative level necessary to any smooth and attractive watch bracelet, but most especially one made of this beautiful metal.

Close look at the guilloched dial of the RGM Reference 151BE

Elizabeth Doerr replaced the strap of her RGM Reference 151BE with a beautiful Staib mesh bracelet

Staib manufactures high-quality milanaise, some of which is used by the company for the bracelets it sells and some of which is sold to other manufacturers to produce their own products.

At Staib, woven “blankets” are first created that are cut, shaped, and soldered as needed depending on their final use. The steps needed to reach the blanket stage include annealing, trimming, cleaning, and polishing. The blanket edges need to be carefully pressed and condensed so that they do not unravel as a knit sweater might if it is cut.

Milanaise weave comprises rows and rows of wire, coiled together, woven into each other by long machines that look like automatic long lathes, but which are specially built for the job. Staib works with wires of all metals – steel, gold, silver, and platinum – from 0.20 to 2 millimeters in thickness.

The carpets are carefully trimmed to get rid of any sharp edges that may have been created during cutting. Some of the mesh carpets are pressed by very powerful machines to give them another pattern or structure.

Every time the material is worked, it becomes a bit stiffer. For this reason, it is annealed in an oven after every step so that it relaxes again. Stainless steel is annealed at more than 1,000°C.

After the last annealing step, the mesh blanket is shaken out by machine and rolled over hard rubber to make it flexible again. When using gold or especially delicate mesh, such as that seen on the 2018 Audemars Piguet Millenary, this is done manually.

After being cut and pressed, the clasp elements are added. And then it only needs to be cleaned, polished, and dried in large dryers.

Vintage catch: Omega Seamaster Professional 600 Ploprof

Vintage Omega Seamaster Professional 600 Ploprof on mesh braclet

How to recognize good mesh

Good milanaise, which looks like finely knit metal when complete, can be generally recognized by the consistency and stability of its mesh.

Hermès Milanaise

The Hermès milanaise bracelet as seen on the 2018 Cape Cod

It may not have any sharp edges and must feel like a cool, smooth material when put to the skin. It must hug the wrist and show good flexibility in one direction.

Though milanaise is currently not in over-abundant use in the luxury watch industry, its beauty and smoothness can hardly be topped. It is the amount of time invested into a milanaise bracelet that today makes it more luxurious and expensive than other types of watch bracelets.

Standout watches on mesh bracelets

Most recently, I was entirely captivated by the Gustafsson and Sjögren (GoS) Sarek Midnight Blue, one of the Swedish duo’s individualized Sarek models with a 164-layer Damascus steel dial.

GoS Sarek Midnight Blue on mesh bracelet

A unique GoS Sarek Midnight Blue with hand-engraved case on mesh bracelet

“The Ice Blue, Midnight Blue, and an occasional all-purple dial are all finished and tempered by me in the GoS workshop,” watchmaker Patrik Sjögren recently told me of the vibrant colors. “I use traditional watchmaker finishing methods and heat tempering to achieve these results, but the Midnight Blue was something I developed by combining a technique I learned from Johan [Gustafsson] with traditional heat tempering. My goal was to achieve a dark and very elegant dial for a watch that would not be out of place when worn together with a tuxedo.”

Sjögren also explained that he can reproduce very similar colors for all Midnight Blue dials, but never exactly the same colors: the patterns will always be unique. While the look of the unique dial and hand-engraved case is in itself breathtaking, for me putting this combination on an amazing mesh bracelet just sealed the look.

Hermès Cape Code Milanaise

The 2018 Hermès Cape Cod on a milanaise Single Wrap bracelet

The SIHH 2018 revealed a couple of watches with mesh bracelets as well. One of these was the Hermès Cape Cod Milanese in two case sizes and in two “wrap” sizes: Double Wrap and Single Wrap. The Hermès-typical double-wrap strap that became known simply as the “Double Tour” invented by designer Martin Margiela in 1998 appears for the first time here as a supple, silky mesh bracelet.

Hermès Cape Cod Double Tour Milanese

Hermès Cape Cod Double Tour Milanese as seen at SIHH 2018

La Montre Hermès creative director Philippe Delhotal told me that the house’s artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas gave him the order to ensure the mesh bracelet would be as comfortable and high-quality as an Hermès leather strap.

I am of the opinion the brand succeeded in this; during the SIHH I had a hard time putting the watches down, so engrossed was I in playing with these much-emulated, reinterpreted bracelets.

Audemars Piguet Millenary Frosted Gold with opal dial on mesh bracelet

Audemars Piguet Millenary Frosted Gold with opal dial on mesh bracelet

Another watch on mesh that caught my eye at the 2018 SIHH was the Audemars Piguet Millenary (see the original version in Give Me Five! Scintillating Ladies Watches From SIHH 2015). This watch, in fact, has been fully re-dressed for sublime femininity with white opal dials, the brand’s own frosted gold case and lugs, and the jewelry-like gold mesh bracelet.

I was captivated.

For more information, please visit,, and

Quick Facts GoS Sarek Midnight Blue
Case: 43 x 10.5 mm, stainless steel with crown shaped as Viking sword hilt (optional hand-engraved bezel, shown here with wildflower pattern)
Dial: 164-layer Damascus steel forged by Johan Gustafsson, finished and tempered to Midnight Blue color by Patrik Sjögren; each dial is unique in pattern and color
Movement: automatic Soprod A10 caliber with GoS triskele rotor, hand-finished
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: $9,500 plus applicable tax
Remark: five-year guarantee

Quick Facts Hermès Cape Cod Mesh Bracelet Large Model – Double Tour
Case: 29 x 29 mm, stainless steel
Dial: rhodium plated and mirror polished
Movement: quartz
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: €3,250

Quick Facts Audemars Piguet Millenary
Case: diamond-set or frosted gold pink gold or diamond-set white gold, 35.4 x 39.5 mm with crown set with sapphire cabochon
Dial: white opal disks, 0.85 ct for hour/minute subdial and 0.10 ct small seconds subdial
Movement: manually wound Caliber 5201, 49-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds
Price: $47,000 (frosted pink gold)

* This article was first published on February 21, 2018 at Milanaise Mesh Watch Bracelets: What’s The Attraction?

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13 replies
  1. Randy Allen
    Randy Allen says:

    Nice article Elizabeth, very informative. These seem to be a stylish alternative to leather for those of us who live in hot places. Thanks.

    • Elizabeth Doerr
      Elizabeth Doerr says:

      That is by far the most noteworthy (and maybe the only remaining) supplier in Europe. I am wholly unfamiliar with the suppliers in the Far East, so I cannot comment on them.

      • Elizabeth Doerr
        Elizabeth Doerr says:

        My information is that Vollmer does not make its own bracelets, but rather sources them from the Far East. Nonetheless, they are attractive.

  2. Mike Compeau
    Mike Compeau says:

    I’m surprised to see no mention of Forstner, as they have been know to Omega and Speedmaster enthusiasts for decades due to their use at NASA…


    The Story

    Forstner’s stainless steel expandable mesh watch band (called the “Komfit”) was one of the only watch bracelets sanctioned by NASA for use on manned space missions. It was worn by astronauts throughout the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, and even made it to the surface of the moon. Now, after a long hiatus during which time only vintage models could be sourced at high prices, we have reissued and improved this classic watch strap.


    The Komfit, with its square-patterned mesh, beautifully decorated spring-loaded end pieces, and unique forward-facing clasp, has a distinctive look not available from anyone else. Made entirely of stainless steel, the band is light, breathable, and extremely comfortable, having the ability to be easily sized in micro-increments for the perfect fit. Here are some important details:

    End pieces: spring loaded to fit lug widths ranging from 16-20 mm
    Mesh width: 16 mm at the central mesh portion
    Accepts spring bars up to 1.8 mm in diameter (including authentic Omega spring bars)
    Internal lug protectors provided with each order

    The Komfit band is offered in two lengths: “Original” and “Regular.”

    The “Original” reflects the length once worn by astronauts over their space suits, and as a result is equivalent to a “long” size. This band works best on wrists at least 7 inches (18 cm) in circumference and will fit wrists up to approximately 10 inches (25.5 cm) in circumference.

    The “Regular” was made to fit small to medium wrists, and works best on wrists between 5.75 inches (14.5 cm) and about 7 inches (18 cm) in circumference.


    We have made several notable improvements over the vintage Komfit. First, whereas the vintage model had end pieces up to only 19mm wide, ours extends to over 20mm. As a result, the band now fits watches with more contemporary proportions, including the Omega Speedmaster Professional (the watch with which astronauts commonly paired this bracelet). Second, the mesh is now slightly wider at 16mm vs. 15mm in the vintage model, to accommodate the wider end piece. Third, the band fits more securely — whereas the clasp of the vintage versions had a tendency to “slip,” the clasp of the re-release has been improved to avoid this problem.

  3. James Eyster
    James Eyster says:

    This is a lovely advertisement for Staib. They may be very good, but if you’re “wholly unfamiliar” with other brands, I’m not sure you’re qualified to say that that brand is the best. I’m looking for a high-quality mesh bracelet for a Seamaster and am disappointed in this article.

    • Elizabeth Doerr
      Elizabeth Doerr says:

      Staib is the manufacturer I visited (on my initiative and on my own dime) to find out how mesh is made. Staib is to my knowledge the only manufacturer in still making mesh in Europe, so I think my comments stand up. This article was not intended to be a guide to all the suppliers of mesh bracelets, nor was it intended to be a buying guide.

  4. peter rizzo
    peter rizzo says:

    i love mesh, milanese and also shark mesh on my dive watches. but i find bracelets to be unyeilding,
    and my wrist seems to expand as the day wears on. so i got a bunch of diver’s extensions, these are very easy to adjust, larger or smaller, it’s nothing to adjust while driving a car, even, and way easier that
    a buckled strap, even, so i recommend these to anyone who has the same problem with bracelets,
    taikonaut makes a nice one.

  5. JB
    JB says:

    Although many decry the Apple Watch as something “less than” a mechanical one, nevertheless, Apple ingenuity has surpassed the Swiss in attaching a watch to the wrist. The quick change mechanism is far superior to springbars. And the Milanaise bracelet is ingenious! The ability to have a continuously variable length without an opening/closing mechanism is amazing! The result of bringing a fresh perspective to timepieces.


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