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Omega 1035(1039) vs Uncle Seiko 1035 vs Forstnerbands Flatlink : A pictorial review

  1. eugeneandresson 'I used a hammer, a chisel, and my fingers' Oct 1, 2020

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    Firstly I would like to sincerely thank @Uncle Seiko and @Forstnerbands for expanding our options by (as of writing) seven stunning new bracelets for our watches:
    - Uncle Seiko BOR
    - Uncle Seiko Holzer
    - Uncle Seiko 1171
    - Uncle Seiko 1035
    - Forstner Bands JB Champion
    - Forstner Bands Bonklip
    - Forstner Bands Flatlink (like the 1035)

    Tons of pictures and working combinations can be found here and here.

    As the title suggests, this is a pictorial review of the the flatlinks, being a mint/like-NOS Omega 1035/506 versus the Uncle Seiko 1035 versus the Forstnerbands flatlink, as well as a small section on the 1039 vs the Uncle Seiko vs the Forstnerbands. Both Uncle Seiko and Forstnerbands made a single bracelet with optional endlinks to cover both 1035/1039 uses. This is great! Omega could have done the same. I did not go into the same depth with the 1039 as the 1035, as they are much alike, just slightly wider.

    As an owner of all three(four!) I have gained some hands-on experience, and I have met some collectors with both Uncle Seiko and Forstnerbands flatlinks and discussed them, so I will add some thoughts, but a picture is worth a thousand words (or so 'they' say). I will not pick a favourite of the two third parties : both Forstnerbands and Uncle Seiko are fantastic, both are similar (Forstnerbands has the addition of stretchable links) with a similar form, with slightly different end-link profiles and construction and thus are better suited to different watches depending on ones taste. Both are well worth their cost (and both should be had at that). It also appears that the Forstnerbands and Uncle Seiko are much more solidly made than the vintage Omega. There appear to be less parts and their construction is better...however we will only truly know in about 50 years ... when these are as old as most 1035's on the market today (and still functioning). Despite that : I'm a pedant, so will say upfront that the Omega wins hands down for me (on my 60th Anniversary Speedy, which fully deserves it), but it took me some years to complete that set, and those parts are like hens teeth to find in such condition, and cost a small fortune, thus not a realistic option for most. I add it here as this is the bracelet that both parties are helping us get onto our watches : what better than to compare to the original?

    Personally I would not be able to wear any of the new bracelets (or the 1035) on a vintage watch, as the character of the bracelets (new and shiny shiny) just do not match the character of 99.99% of vintage watches...but again, thats just me.

    Why get a 1035/506 in mint condition you may ask? Well, when I put it together, there was no other option...and then a month or so later Uncle Seiko and then Forstnerbands announced their flatlinks. Thanks again guys :D

    Without further a do, lets take a look at the same sized bracelets...the 1035s...

    (clicking the pictures yields super high res images)


    IMG_3495.JPG
    The first distinguishing characteristic of the US/FB flatlinks verses the Omega, are how the links form the taper of the bracelet as a whole. Its clear to see that the Omega has more links making the taper then either of the other two (almost by double). This gives the Omega a more gradual, almost linear taper, whereas the other two form a curved taper ... and an almost identical one at that.

    Also worth noting : the Omega links are very tight in this condition (but, unlike the other two, don't look it) ... this can be seen by how some of them do not fall flat (i.e. between 4/5th central link above the clasp on the Omega). The US/FB are better integrated from new.

    IMG_3496.JPG

    The clasps are very similar. All are tight and close solidly with a nice 'click' sound (and feel) and are great.

    IMG_3497.JPG (Left : US, Center : Omega, Right : FB)

    The thing which stands out in the above picture is that the central links of the US/FB have the same width, but are slightly longer than the Omega. Plus the Omega central links are more rounded at their corners (horizontally in the above pic) than either alternative.

    Again, notice the similarity in taper of the US/FB vs the Omega ... the curved contours of the US/FB and the straight-line-almost-to-the-clasp of the Omega are clearer to see in this shot. Again worth noting : the US/FB are almost indistinguishable.

    Someone mentioned that the last-link that attaches to the end-link of the Forstnerbands is tight when installed, and doesn't flatten easily, and may stick as a result : I can verify that the Omega last link when attached to the end-link has the exact same issue (in this condition). And as Forstnerbands mentioned, when bent correctly, this creates a nice 'drape' over the wrist. From experience of vintage bracelets, this will most likely even out over time and with use.

    IMG_3504.JPG (Left : US, Center : Omega, Right : FB)

    Next up : the back. Both US/FB are brushed, whilst the Omega is polished. Also the back of the clasps (or the 'folding part') differ in size between all three, with Omega being the smallest of the lot, whilst Fortnerbands is the largest.

    IMG_3505.JPG (Left : US, Center : Omega, Right : FB)

    Side-on view of the clasps and links. Biggest difference to be seen here is the mechism by which the bracelets can be resized : US uses pins, Omega uses those funky disassemblable links (which are very easy to disassemble and reassemble once you know how), and FB uses a secure and independant screw system. Its much clearer to see in this shot the 'tightness' of the Omega, and how without tension some of the links are automatically rotated by an angle.

    At this point its worth mentioning the stretch-links of the Forstnerbands.

    IMG_3540.JPG
    (Forstnerbands stretch-links ... almost identical looking to Omega)

    These work fantastically and very similar to the Omega. They appear to be similar in construction and assembly to the removable/stretchable parts of the Omega 103Xs, albeit installed only on one side of the clasp : the side on the outside (the body side being inside) of the wrist. I did not try to disassemble them to verify their functionality, but they look identical to my eye. Personally (and with my few vintage Omega 103X's), I never size the bracelet so tightly that these are stretched when on my wrist ... but they do work wonders when fitting ones hand through the bracelet when putting on the watch.

    IMG_3508.JPG
    (Left : US, Center : Omega, Right : FB)

    A closer side on view ... this nicely highlights the difference in construction between the folded metal of the Omega vs the solid links of the other two.

    IMG_3509.JPG
    (Left : US, Center : Omega, Right : FB)

    A close up of the last links, as well as bracelet. Some major differences in the shapes of all links between all bracelets can be seen. The central links being solid on the US/FB implies that they will most likely age better then the Omega 1035's with regards to stretch. Its clear to see how I abused the screw-heads of the FB. Resizing this bracelet was the most difficult operation I have had to perform on a watch related object. I required the help of my better half, as most of the screws were extremely tight. Given the reasons for this (a more secure way for keeping links attached to each other such that motion over time will not detach them) I feel it’s worth the effort if one doesn’t have the correct tools specifically for this, and thankfully its a once-off job, and won't need to be performed again.

    Onto the end-links.

    IMG_3514.JPG
    (Left : US, Center : Omega, Right : FB)

    Again, some differences here. Omega appear to be the least polished. The brushing is very similar. What I can add, thanks to @Adri, is that the FB/US endlinks are interchangable with the braclets...so should one wish to mix and match, it works just fine. I actually saw a watch of his this evening with a mix of bracelet parts that gave him the look and fit he was after ... and it looked great.

    IMG_3515.JPG
    (Left : US, Center : Omega, Right : FB)

    From the back the differences are much larger. US and Omega are hollow 'flimsy' bent metal, both with slightly different holding mechism to the back of the watch, whilst the FB is a solid endlink with some small feet to keep it in place. The only potential problem with the solid endlink is the different placement of holes in the different cases (however, this too will make the bent end-links have a different fit). What it will fit has to be figured out by trial and error (or combing OmegaForums).

    IMG_3521.JPG
    (Front : US, Center : Omega, Back : FB)

    A side profile.

    IMG_3523.JPG
    (Left : Omega, Center : FB, Right : US)

    The endlink side profile tells a different story. Its clear to see that the US endlinks match the Omega 506 profile the closest, have a flat-ish top, wheras the FB endlink is fully rounded. Now depending on the watch, this may be desirable or not. Personally, I do not like how the curved end-link sits above the inside of the lyre-lugs of the Speedmaster professional cases. However, I think it looks fantastic on the straight-lug cases. The US endlinks also sit higher than the Omega’s (but lower than the FB), as the bend radius of the metal is greater (on these) which may be noticed upon installation. As mentioned earlier, US/FB parts are interchangable, and spares are readily available, and well priced.

    IMG_3529.JPG
    (Front : US, Center : Omega, Back : FB)

    Again the tight Omega 1035 pulling central links up with no tension...FB/US look fab.

    Lets see what it looks like on the 60th Anniversary Speedmaster.

    IMG_3530.JPG
    The Forstnerbands curved profile looks fantastic on this watch ... totally matches the case. However, the springbar hole placement of the 60th Anniversary is different to the First Omega in Space (what was used in developement of these endlinks I beleive) and so there is a gap and some play (it wiggles) in the endlink, as is evident in the next picture.

    IMG_3533.JPG

    Next up the Uncle Seiko.

    IMG_3536.JPG
    This also looks great and fits tight without play, however, the bend of the endlink (around the springbar) sits a bit too high on this watch for my liking. Perhaps it could be bent to fit better on this watch. I'd rather not ... it looks great on my Seamaster.

    And here we have small-fortune-aesthetic-perfection :D ... Omega 1035/506 on the 60th. Sits tight, no play, looks great...

    IMG_3537.JPG

    1039

    Much of a muchness with the 1035 ... the 1039 is just a bit wider in the taper targeted to 20mm lugs. Upon inspection It would appear that the last link of the Omega is 1mm wider on the 1039 than both the US and FB.

    IMG_3545.JPG

    From the back its similar.

    IMG_3543.JPG (Left : US, Center : Omega, Right : FB)

    A quick test on a transitional 3570.50:

    IMG_3546.JPG

    The Forstnerbands looks great...however the only thing that bothers me is the superior height of the endlink to the inside of the lyre lugs. Its very slight here, but looks much more on the Tintin pictured below. Its also worth noting that the last link is slightly narrower than the end-link (which I think looks great).

    Unfortunately (as of writing) I do not yet have a 20mm Uncle Seiko endlink set to do this test...will rectify that soon.

    And here the Omega 1039/516.

    IMG_3547.JPG

    Here it can be seen that the last link closest to the endlink is roughly the same width as the endlink.

    Interchange of end-links between Forstnerbands and Uncle Seiko

    IMG_6129.jpg IMG_6130.jpg IMG_6128.jpg IMG_6127.jpg

    Some random pics to illustrate some of the points made earlier.

    IMG_5854.jpg
    US does not fit the Speedmaster 60th as well as the Seamaster 60th (I guess difference in lug-hole positions)...

    IMG_5266.jpg
    Strange tighness of the last links of the mint 1035 when installed (I beleive there were people saying FB does this as well).

    Capture.PNG
    (Photo courtesy of Kingflum)

    The FB endlinks coming up higher than the lugs (on the Tin-Tin ... could be different with different year Professional Speedmaster cases!)...this looks much more pronounced than on the 3570.50 ... I dont think its the photography, but rather a slight difference in case. I noticed something similar on @Adri 's 145.022-78 with US end-links, but not as pronounced (us pedantic folk ::facepalm2::)

    (More pics/watches to come).
     
    Edited Oct 6, 2020
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  2. jeppehh Oct 1, 2020

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    Thanks for taking the time to do this. Great comparison :thumbsup:
     
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  3. redzer007 Oct 1, 2020

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    +1 great job, thanks
     
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  4. Marsimaxam Oct 1, 2020

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    Great review and comparison. What I like about the 1039 or 1035 bracelets is that the flat links are rounded at the edges which gives it a completely different look and feel then the other two which are consistently flat. Nothing beats the original and thankfully I don't wear my 1039 bracelet and I'm happy with my NATO leather straps.
    4C2C4BE6-2169-491F-9C4F-5E427BB781B5.jpeg
     
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  5. Concer Oct 1, 2020

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    Thanks for the comparison! Nice work!

    Got both, Fb & Us but still don’t have the feeling to be satisfied as a good replacement for the original :(
     
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  6. Bauhaus Oct 1, 2020

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    Great review and comparison, thanks.
    I’ve ordered a FB band days ago for a 145.022.
    Very curious how it will work out “in the metal”.
     
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  7. padders Oooo subtitles! Oct 1, 2020

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    I’ve got a couple of the US Flat Link offerings and a FB JB Champ and like them very much. I have to say, regardless of the suggested slight superiority of the Omega originals in some ways, Id rather have the extra grand or two in my pocket that choosing either the FB or US version provides.
     
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  8. rootbeer7 Oct 1, 2020

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    Great write-up. Many thanks.
     
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  9. Caliber561 Oct 1, 2020

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    Great comparison! There are a few things I would like to add for the sake of discussion, if that's okay.

    I think the reason why the central links may seize up when articulating around the end links (and occasionally around themselves) is that both bracelets' links are of a different profile than the original Omega flat link bracelets.
    Original Central Link.jpg
    This is a 1035 folded over on itself, and you can see that the side link profiles are like rounded trapezoids. The central link has the profile of a rounded rectangle, with no "hard" edges to be seen.

    Link Profile.jpg
    Both the US and the KF (middle and top, respectively) use the same profile for outer and central links, which is probably best described as a rectangle with rounded bottoms. That is most similar to the profile of the spring-loaded links on the original Omega bracelets. (These are the two thick links connected to the clasp on the Omega bracelet at the bottom of the image)
    profcomp1.PNG
    The sharp edge of the topmost central link is what I believe is getting stuck by grinding against the roof of the end links. Also, I feel that the different profile makes both the US and KF look very different to the original Omega bracelet when comparing them side by side, in person. A minor detail, but something that would've been cool to see done correctly on both models.


    On a somewhat unrelated note, I've found that the US clasp tends to sit much closer to the bracelet than the KF. The rear end of the latter's clasp seems to ride a little high in comparison, and it looks like the same thing is happening with your bracelet based on the 6th and 12th photos in your review.
    KF Gap.PNG (KF)
    US Gap.PNG
    (US)

    <Apologies for the crappy photos – still learning how to take better shots>
     
  10. eugeneandresson 'I used a hammer, a chisel, and my fingers' Oct 1, 2020

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    I don't think its superior in quality (although most that I had, no matter how shagged, still work great after 50 years) ... its just 'pure Omega' :)

    Its not just the Forstner ... my pictured Omega 1035 (which is mint) does as well. And not just the links next to the end-links (edit : but that might be the side-links (as opposed to the central-link) and the endlink ... not sure!). You can see it in some of the photos more centrally to each half of the bracelet. But the end-links are worst (on the Omega) so to speak. When its on my wrist its fine, but when its off, and I handle it, sometimes it seizes (the Omega). Having handled a couple of well used vintage 1035's (like most reading I would guess) this problem was not there ... but they had stretch, and were well worn, so personally I think this problem will smooth out over time.
     
    Edited Oct 1, 2020
  11. arkman Oct 1, 2020

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    Great review! Thank you for all the work you put into this!
     
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  12. Pazzo Oct 1, 2020

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    At long last! What a great review!

    I was hoping for a review like this one so a big thank you goes to @eugeneandresson and who else contributed so far and to whom might still contribute.
     
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  13. Pazzo Oct 1, 2020

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    They're not crappy at all.
    Thank you for your contribution.
     
  14. Toishome Oct 1, 2020

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    Thank you for that great write up :thumbsup:
     
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  15. Eve Oct 2, 2020

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    I think the reason for the rear end of the clasp to sit higher on your FB is because the bracelet is connected further away from the end of clasp. If you were to connect both on the very last hole than you would probably get the tightest fit.
     
  16. Caliber561 Oct 2, 2020

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    That would make sense, so I tested it – The gap remains unchanged on the US. I think the micro-adjust holes are simply closer to the roof of the clasp, letting the links sit closer rather than potentially acting as a pivot point of sorts.
     
  17. stefman Oct 2, 2020

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    Great writeup! I have a 1039 and have been on the fence to get a modern interpretation for daily use. This helps a lot!
     
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  18. harrymai86 Oct 2, 2020

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    Great review there! Are those "the" 506s? :cool:
     
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  19. M'Bob Oct 2, 2020

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    A fabulous, detailed, scholarly post. Appreciate the time and effort. This is why collectors come to this forum.
     
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  20. M'Bob Oct 3, 2020

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    Right on the money.