I bought a Forstner Klip bracelet on a whim after seeing it posted on Instagram. I had been searching for, and experimenting with, a variety of solutions for my Retras Dive Watch. I really wanted a stainless-steel bracelet, but nothing I had seemed to fit, aesthetically speaking. The microbrand diver is a modern watch, but with a distinctive vintage design. Some bracelets seemed too heavy and cumbersome. Others were simply too contemporary. The closest I came to being satisfied was the charming Speidel “Twist-O-Matic”—a true vintage band I picked up at a flea market two years ago.
Then I saw The Klip.
The Klip, or Bonklip—short for bamboo clip—was not originally a Forstner design. In 1929, Walter Kremtez of the New Jersey-based jewellery manufacturer, Kremetz & Co., applied for and received a patent for a similar bracelet. A year later, Dudley Russel Howitt, of Great Britain’s B.H. Britton, also received a patent for a ladder-styled stainless-steel bracelet. Its increased adjustability made it highly popular with RAF pilots, and it can be seen in period photos and ads, on the IWC Mark XI. Even Rolex sold models using the Bonklip during the 1930s and 40s.
By the 1950s, patents on both of these bracelets had run out, and both manufacturers were defunct by the early 1970s.
Forstner’s role in the Bonklip story began in the 1940s, when it created a number of ladder-styled bracelets, similar to its Komfit design that would later be popular with NASA astronauts. The main improvement of the Forstner bracelet was its spring-loaded “pusher” clasp system that increased security for the wearer. Similar to the original Bonklip, it was otherwise styled as a long, infinitely adjustable, stainless-steel band of 3mm flat brackets, strung together like bamboo blinds.
The 2019 relaunch of the Forstner brand has brought back several of the company’s signature bracelets, including the Rivet, Beads of Rice, Komfit, and Omega Flat Link. The Klip, like these other reissues, was among the most popular designs in the maker’s catalogue.
The new Klip has a chain width of 18mm. True to historical specs, it alternates between brushed and polished links, and uses the patented pusher-style clasp. It is 23omm (9 inches) long and will fit wrists between 6 and 8 inches (15-20cm) in diameter without removing any links. It can be purchased with end pieces of 18mm-22mm widths but can also be fitted to fixed lug watches up to 1.5mm thick.
The adjustability of The Klip is achieved by having the bracelet pass through itself–much like a parachute strap–leaving a noose through which the wearer passes his/her wrist. With the watch on, you simply pull the noose tight with the loose end. A metal keeper will catch, retaining the bracelet from slipping back. Then you simply fasten the spring-loaded clasp to the most convenient bracket.
The Klip is not every enthusiast’s cup of tea. My first thoughts as I removed it from the box were that it was attractive, but flimsy. However, after fitting it to several different watches in my collection, I have to say that it is a joy—both visually and practically—to wear. It is uncommonly light and comfortable. And because of its easily adjustable length, it can be worn interchangeably with any 20mm watches in my drawer, no matter their lug to lug measurements. Moreover, the finishing of the bracelet is top notch.
Once the patent on the original Bonklip ran out, a number of other manufacturers flocked to the design with varying success. Gay Freres and JB Champion (who eventually purchased Forstner in 1963) were among the more popular. Joseph Bonnie, of Paris, also produce new Bonklip-styled bracelets today.
It should be noted that if you like to wear your watch loosely, The Klip is not for you. Like a NATO, or a parachute strap, The Klip is meant to hug the wrist. Because of its spring-loaded pusher clasp, it is safe to wear at any length; however, when loose, it is not heavy enough to counterbalance the weight of your watch. I also think it is better suited to watches that are “dressier.” It is of very fine construction. In my opinion, it looks best on vintage-led pieces and more refined tool watches.
While The Klip is not a universal solution for aftermarket bracelets, it is most certainly a modish alternative for those hard-to-pair pieces in your watch box. I intend to rotate it among three, or four, of my smaller divers and chronos. It has a distinctive styling all its own, an unmatched ease of use, and a storied history in the horological timeline. In many ways, this reboot has come along at the perfect moment, as we see a proliferation of catalogue reissues and a trend toward vintage fashion and size.
The Forstner Klip retails fro $125USD. For more information, visit their website.
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