Bicycle Inner Tube Watchband: Project Report

After a satisfying design process and two days of building it, I have finished my inner tube watchband. So far, it’s turned out a lot better than I thought it would. It’s waterproof, comfortable, looks hip, and upholds the bike aesthetic that I love since I am a cyclist myself. I will detail in this blog how it all came to be.

The ideal design process we discussed in class varies from person to person, but it always goes something like this: Problem, brainstorm, test, revise, finalize. The design process I used utilized each of these steps, but in a different order. It also was mostly carried out in concept only due to a dearth of time and resources. I started out by actually brainstorming. As I said above, my house has many bicycle tire inner tubes, so I got the idea to use those because of their versatility. Then I went out and looked for a problem that those inner tubes could solve, and I thought up the watch wristband idea since I had an extra watch lying around without a band. Now that my project was set, I set a list of conditions that it needed to meet, which will be described later.

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My group’s design chart

Afterwards, it was time to start actually building my project. Testing consisted of finding the best way to make the band. I toyed with the idea of making a Velcro strap and loop type band, but decided against it for waterproof reasons. Wanting the band to be made of 2 layers of rubber for durability, I tried stitching or gluing the layers together. After making prototypes of each from the extra inner tube material I had, I decided on stitching for aesthetic reasons. Finally, there wasn’t much of a debate about the rest of the design. Stitching the rubber around the watch buckle and retaining loop is the sensible choice, as was creating the holes in the band from a punch. And since there aren’t a lot of bike parts small enough to fit on a watchband, using a couple of chain links sewn on for embellishment was an easy decision as well. After everything was decided, I constructed the final product.

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The process of creating the band is too long to put in this post, but if you’re interested here’s the link to another blog post I did detailing it: http://www.aesdes.org/2016/01/31/bicycle-inner-tube-watch-band-finished-project/

In the true spirit of design, the actual process totally didn’t match the ideal process. Each design is very different and there are a million factors that can cause you to need to do one step before the other. In this case, it was trying to balance my expectations of the project (the criteria I listed above) with what I had to work with and was willing to do (time, materials I had to work with, etc.) and the way my mind thinks. What I learned is that if I were to create my own diagram for the design process, it wouldn’t be linear or looped. I would just list every step (maybe in a scattered placement to drive the point across) and just leave it. You connect them in whatever way you want, tailor it to the project at hand.

I initially chose to create this inner tube watchband because I am a bike racer who has lots of bike parts lying around and I wanted to use them. There are companies who create bags and wallets using inner tubes like Green Guru and Alchemy Goods, and it’s easy to see why. They are perhaps the most versatile of all bike parts, as their rubber construction makes them well suited to a variety of waterproof or elastic applications. Drawing inspiration from this (and because I have too many worn out tubes), I decided to use them.

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Inner tube wallet

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Inner tube bag

My vision for the project was to create a band that not only recycled inner tubes, but would be functional and good looking enough to want me to wear it every day. Being made primarily out of bike parts, I wanted to go with an outdoorsy and bike based aesthetic. Looks wise this meant that I was aiming for a look that was form over function, less posh and luxurious, while still being hip. Functionally, it needed to rise above the usability of a normal wristband, something that would work just as well on top of Mount Everest or in the Amazon rainforest as it did on the town. And finally, it needed to use bike parts to drive home the point, since cycling is an outdoorsy sport. Using these guidelines, I created a set of criteria for my wristband: it needed to be waterproof and comfortable, attach to the watch using the normal pin mechanism, be embellished with something extra to complete the bike aesthetic, and needed to not look like a shoddy 15 minute project.

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Functionally, the wristband was a success. Because it’s basically made of butyl rubber, it is completely waterproof. As a bonus, its level of waterproofing will not degrade over time due to the nature of the material. The rubber is also elastic, which helps to make for a more comfortable fit compared to a leather or metal wristband. For breatheability perforations were considered, but this particular band is thin enough to not need it. Perforations would also compromise the structural integrity of the rubber at such a width. Speaking of structural integrity, this band is very strong due to its dual layer construction and hand stitching. Two layers makes the band feel more solid as well as reducing the probability of a tear, and the stitching won’t degrade as much as an adhesive like rubber cement would over time. In all, the band feels like it won’t let you down or get in the way even in the wilderness.

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Artistically, this was a success as well. The rubber contributes to the rugged and outdoorsy aesthetic, while also reminding of the bike aesthetic. That bike aesthetic is hammered home by the addition of the two chain links on the band for decoration. The links look undeniably like they’re from a bike, and yet are unobtrusive enough for the design to not be loud and garish. However, the biggest triumph aesthetically comes from the decision to hand sew the band together instead of rubber cementing it. The hand stitching makes a piece of normally boring rubber look classy, and goes a long way in making it look like an actual watchband and finished product than just a project for a college class.

Even though this project was successful, there’s always something to improve on for the future. I learned how to hand sew just for the sake of this project, so some of the stitching may not be as tidy as it could be. The inner tube rubber was merely cut by scissors using the seams as a guideline, so they could’ve been cut more precisely. These are both issues that could be addressed next time I do this. And unlike most projects I’ve done, there could actually be a “next time.” The final product looks good enough that with some durability testing I could see myself selling these wristbands. I think people would buy them and they’d make a great gift too. So far I haven’t come across any company who sells them, so it’s an open market. As for this particular wristband that I made for this project, I’ll probably keep on using it to see how it holds up in real life should I consider selling it.

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I think this project was a success. The band works exactly like a normal watchband, and is comfortable due to the elasticity of the rubber. Because it’s rubber, it’s waterproof too. And finally, its utilitarian materials means that it upholds both an outdoorsy and bike-themed aesthetic. If you ever have inner tubes you have no use for, making a watch wristband out of it would be a good way to go!

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Image Sources:

Jackson Wallet

Cruiser Cooler 6L Handlebar Bag

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36 Comments. Leave new

Awesome idea, I love the functionality and the aesthetic. I’ve been wanting to make a watchband for a while and I hadn’t thought of using an inner tube.

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Green Guru is an awesome upcycling inspiration. I have a lot of tubes and definitely want to make sure they go to good use! They make good bungee cords, for one. Also good antifriction padding.

Good to see you made something considerably more crafty

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Reminds me of something from Ecocycle here in town. Very cool look. How robust is the stitching?

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Shawn Sprinkle
February 9, 2016 10:09 pm

It turned out great! I like the look of the hand stitches

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Jason Mcgrath
February 9, 2016 7:56 pm

Definitely a strong and readily available material. Did you consider sewing a comfy backing onto the band?

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That’s really cool! Great way to reuse all of that rubber in a utilitarian way. I like the chain links as a way to accentuate the bike aesthetic.

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Christopher Coffman
February 8, 2016 8:29 pm

Really creative idea, and it actually looks pretty natural with the watch. Nice attention to detail.

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Peter Brunsgaard
February 8, 2016 7:32 pm

The stitching on the band really adds to the look. It’s a great way to stick to a bike aesthetic while reusing something that would have been otherwise trash.

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The chain links add a unique touch to the band really bringing the piece to life. I think it would be pretty cool to add this feature to an analog watch

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Turned out nice! I agree with Jean, the hand stitching gives it a cool rugged feel that goes well with the outdoorsy aesthetic.

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Samantha Maierhofer
February 8, 2016 2:47 pm

I like how the final design reflects a bit about you. Also it was cool how you incorporated the chain into the wrist band as well. Great final product and it looks like you learned a lot from your experiences!

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Ashley Zimmerer
February 8, 2016 2:18 pm

I like how it looks so industrial, the strap looks great with the watch. The way you used a couple of the chain links is a great idea, it adds extra interest. Was it tough to sew through the rubber? Is the rubber tough enough not to tear if the stitches ever pull or get caught on something?

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I think what’s interesting about your idea is that it truly took one material item and totally re-purposed it. This gave a completely new life to the inner tube, as well as your watch. I liked hearing your evolution on the processes behind your build. Are you concerned about the rubber stretching over time?

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Nicholas Flood
February 8, 2016 1:45 pm

I like the use of the bike chain. It’s still not completely obvious that it made from bike parts, but it looks durable. Nice work!

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This project seems like something which an entire business could be built around: recycling old, worn bicycle tubes into watch bands. I could see a series of modern, rugged, durable watches coming to the market from a company who uses donated bicycle tubes to construct the bands.

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Jacob Mccormick
February 8, 2016 12:59 pm

Nice choice of aesthetic, especially here in Boulder.

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I like the human element that the hand stitching added.

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Thomas Brunsgaard
February 8, 2016 12:50 pm

You could add a piece of backing fabric on the piece that touches your wrist. That may make it more comfortable, and wouldn’t trap sweat. If you revisit this, you may try using a walking foot on your sewing machine. That would allow you to pull the rubber through the dog feet on the machine. Most modern machines have built in over stitches that would give the same look as your hand stitching. I really like the additional chain pieces.

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Good job going through various design iterations to create a better product!

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David Holliman
February 8, 2016 12:49 pm

Great industrial aesthetic! I can see this look being very popular in bike communities such as Boulder.

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Great Aesthetic. I like that you used both the inner tube and the chains. It must be comfortable. Nice job!

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I like the actual look of the band. It reminds me more like a leather dress belt with the shine. I think that this really does look professional.

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Interesting idea and use of materials. I like the use of chain links to keep with the aesthetic. The watch band looks very burly and industrial. Good job.

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Ryan Yankowsky
February 8, 2016 12:48 pm

Always a fan of bike art, like the chain parts to give it a definite bike feel. Hits the aesthetic perfectly, maybe using colored stitching could bring a bit more pop.

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Sreyas Krishnan
February 8, 2016 12:48 pm

The rugged appearance is cool, great use of stitching.

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Nice use of an old pike part. Do the chain links on the band chaff? Will the band stretch since it is made of rubber?

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The watch has an interesting aesthetic too it. I am not a huge cyclist, but appreciate using your own personal passion in your project. The process for building it seemed liked an interesting procedure. The results look great.

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Joseph Yoshimura
February 8, 2016 12:48 pm

When I was younger, I used to collect watches and many of their bands have either broken or have become tattered. Having the ability to make a new one and one that looks so cool would be so handy! Especially for someone like me. The chainlinks add a great finishing touch to it!

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I like this a lot, it’s a great use of old materials. I like the use of the chain as a trim piece.

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I love the use of a bike inner tube. They are often thrown away and not recycled without much processing. In the future, it might be interesting to use a watch face that also uses bike parts.

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Turned out really nice! I like how it adds a waterproof layer to it which probably helps when biking especially if you end up riding in the rain!

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I like how functional your project is. I think it makes sense to use the bike parts as well as the rubber part allowing it to be waterproof. This is a cool project, but I am curious as to if you could enhance or improve your aesthetic in any way?

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Rachel Grosskrueger
February 8, 2016 12:47 pm

I really like the inspiration for your project! It seems to really reflect your interests and needs in a creative way! I also like how you made it look similar to a regular watch band with the stitching!

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I like it! I usually hate watches, but this band is rally cool. Does it feel comfortable on your wrist (with the rubber)?

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Anfal Abdulrahman
February 8, 2016 12:46 pm

That a cool watch definitely has a unique and interesting look to it.

Nice wok!

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Meridith Richter
February 7, 2016 1:42 pm

I’m happy to see your watch turned out so nicely! The chain links you sewed on are very appropriate and not too overly distracting or complicated. The whole thing looks very professional – I could really see bicyclists wearing and appreciating something like that. Did you attempt to use a sewing machine with the material, or did you start right away with the hand-stitching? Truth be told, I actually like the rough-hewn appearance of the hand-stitching. It suits the overall rugged look of the product. Well done!

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