LUNATIK, the company that made a name for itself a number of years ago by creating popular watch bands such as the TikTok and LYNK for the sixth-generation iPod nano, has debuted a similar offering for the 42 mm Apple Watch with its new EPIK lineup.
EPIK began as a Kickstarter project that raised over $240,000 and offered a protective anodized aluminum casing for the watch itself paired with an integrated silicone sport band or aluminum link bracelet. Intended to aid in using the Apple Watch in more rugged environments, the EPIK adds protection to the Apple Watch in the form of enclosed sides, a significantly raised bezel to protect the face from impacts, and coverings for the device's physical features.
Following the Kickstarter campaign and an early launch of a special low-end polycarbonate version initially made available through Best Buy for $60, LUNATIK is today announcing the broad release of EPIK for all customers. Aluminum models start at $140 for either a silver or black housing paired with a black silicone band, stepping up to $150 for a black housing paired with either a black or brown leather band. At the high end are the link bracelet models, which come in silver ($200) or black ($220) housing and band combinations.
LUNATIK sent me one of the black link bracelet models for review, and I've spent nearly a week wearing it as my sole Apple Watch band. Overall, I found it to be an interesting addition that adds some nice protection for the Apple Watch but which has a few drawbacks.
Putting EPIK onto the Apple Watch is not nearly as simple as sliding a standard Apple Watch band into the grooves on the device casing. In order to secure the watch inside the EPIK housing and band combination, a pair of screws must be removed, allowing the housing to come apart into two pieces that are then placed around the apple watch. The ends of the EPIK band are then paired up with the screw holes and everything is put back together. As a result, this isn't a band you're going to be swapping on and off of your Apple Watch on a regular basis. It does, however, make for a sturdy feeling and helps protect the watch from wear and tear in more rugged environments.
As with other link bracelets, sizing the band requires adding or removing links to achieve the proper size for the user's wrist. Anyone familiar with the LYNK band for the old iPod nano will recognize the EPIK link bracelet, as it uses the same band. Individual links are held in place by spring-loaded pins, which can be removed by using the end of a small paperclip to compress the pin.
I did have some minor sizing issues related to the natural changes in wrist size experienced throughout the day depending on hydration levels and temperatures. With each link adding over 9 mm to the band's length, I found myself "between sizes" with this band. While it fit fairly well much of the time at my initial sizing, it did become uncomfortably tight at times when my wrist started to swell a bit.
Moving up a size by adding another link into the band made my Apple Watch very loose in general and was not a feasible option. Changes in wrist size throughout the day are not an uncommon fit issue for link bracelet wearers, but bands with smaller link sizes such as Apple's link bracelet at closer to 7 mm per link allow for finer control over sizing to hopefully achieve a better initial fit that could provide a bit better wiggle room as the user's wrist swells and shrinks. Those using either the silicone or leather band should be able to avoid these issues due to the greater pliability of the bands and the ease of tightening or loosening the band if necessary.
With all of the added protection EPIK brings, one particular challenge is maintaining access to all of the hardware features of the Apple Watch, and I found EPIK to do a solid job in all of these respects. The raised edge around the display has a bevel that maintains good access for touching the display, while the side button works fine through a built-in button covering on the case. Speaker and microphone access is also maintained with the use of mesh grilles.
One of the key innovations for EPIK in terms of usability is the Active-Control Crown, which fits over the Apple Watch's Digital Crown. The Active-Control Crown adds some size to the crown and makes it easier to use, even with thin gloves. A grip pattern on the Active-Control Crown also makes it easy to turn by just swiping a finger over it.
While EPIK does provide some protection for the rear of the Apple Watch, there is a circular cutout leaving the heart rate sensor exposed so it can contact the skin. I experienced no problems with heart rate monitoring while wearing the watch, and it remained comfortable on the wrist. The cutout also means there is no interference with wireless charging.
The closure on EPIK is butterfly-style, similar to the mechanism used by Apple on its link bracelet. But unlike Apple's low-profile butterfly closure, which integrates the buttons for releasing the clasp into the profile of the band, EPIK includes a pair of wings on the underside of the band that must be squeezed to release the mechanism. In general this was not much of an issue and worked fine for taking the watch off, but as the watch grew tight at the times my wrist swelled a bit, the wings did become a little uncomfortable.
LUNATIK's EPIK definitely adds a good bit of bulk and some weight to the Apple Watch, but I did not find it overly heavy on the wrist or find myself bumping or catching it on things any more than a naked Apple Watch. For those looking for some extra protection while still retaining full access to the Apple Watch's features, that could be enough to make this a worthwhile purchase.
EPIK feels sturdy and has a decent look, although the band doesn't have a super premium feel to it. The 6000 Series aluminum casing protects the watch well and generally makes the Apple Watch look like many other rugged sports watches at a quick glance. The aluminum will likely pick up scratches and other wear in a rugged environment, but unless the face is hit at an odd angle it should keep the watch itself in great shape. I do, however, wish the band was a bit more comfortable for all-day use, especially since it requires tools to remove EPIK and switch to a different band.
- Adds good protection for Apple Watch
- Maintains access to all Apple Watch features and controls
- Pricing for polycarbonate models (starting at $60 at Best Buy) good for integrated band and case
- Some sizing and comfort issues
- Difficult to swap on and off of watch for frequent band changes
- While much cheaper than Apple's band-only link bracelet, EPIK's link bracelet models start to feel a bit pricey at $200+