Watch straps: which one is best for me?
The watch strap is often overlooked, but it is an essential part of any watch. I mean without the strap, a watch would just be a clock face (which defeats the whole point). Luckily, in modern times, it’s now very easy to change watch straps, so you can customize and switch up your strap if needed. There are a few factors to consider when choosing a watch strap such as: appearance, material, comfort, etc. so it can get quite overwhelming when trying to choose the right one for you. But no need to worry, because we have compiled everything you need to know about watch straps, so you can make sure you have the perfect one for your needs!
Straps can come in a few different materials which all have varying levels of comfort & durability. Let’s take a look at the different materials that are available.
Stainless steel is the most common metal used for watch bracelets and casing, as it is strong, durable, and cheap but it does scratch fairly easily. Titanium can also be used as it’s also a fairly strong metal. If you have a bigger budget, you can get bracelets made from precious metals such as gold and silver but because of the large price tag they carry, a lot of straps are made from steel and then plated with gold or silver on the surface which reduces the price. Metals usually have either a polished, brushed or blasted finish.
Polished: A polished finish will be very shiny and reflective. Achieved by using a polishing wheel.
Brushed: A brushed finish is done by using a steel brush which creates fine lines on the metal, giving a stain smooth look.
Blasted: A blasted finish is achieved by blasting the metal with glass, or sand particles to give a very matte appearance.
Leather straps are not only durable, comfy, and stylish but are also environmentally friendly. They can come in many styles and colours, as well as different grades of leather. You can get faux leather which is cheap & made from synthetic materials (making it a great vegan option), but unfortunately it won’t last as long as genuine leather. Real leather is more expensive and lasts a very long time, however it is always highly desired in the world of fashion. The leather can be made from a range on animal hides, which will vary in price depending on which one is chosen.
Rubber straps are the most suitable for the get-up-and-go people out there as they are water-resistant, and flexible. Because of this, they are often used on smartwatches. They can come in a wide range of colours and styles, and are made from a combination of natural and synthetic materials.
Silicone is very similar to rubber, however it’s made completely from synthetic materials. It can be made in a range of colours, and is water-resistant. It can be a little more pricier than rubber due to its added longevity.
Nylon straps are very strong and durable, hence their wide use in military watches. Overall, nylon straps are a great all-rounder as they can last a very long time, withstand a lot of trauma, dry off very quickly, are not damaged by water, and are quite comfortable.
Canvas straps are similar to nylon straps with the big difference being that they are made out of natural materials; nylon is made from synthetic materials. Canvas straps don’t seem to last as well as nylon straps, as they absorb moisture easily and are susceptible to damage, so they can become worn out quite quickly.
Now that we have covered the main materials that are used for watch straps, we can delve into the sea of different styles of straps. And there’s a lot, so you better strap in ;)
The oyster is an absolute classic to say the least. This style of bracelet was first brought about in the 1930s by Rolex and has stayed a firm fan favorite ever since. The restricted number of links used in this 3-piece link design, means some flexibility may be compromised, however you can rest assured that the strength, durability, and aesthetics will not be. It’s typically used on diving watches, however it’s a popular choice for many types of watches now. This style looks great on large and small watches.
The jubilee bracelet has a very intricate style, perfect for a dressy occasion. It was created to commemorate Rolex’s 40th anniversary in 1945, and it really is beautiful. It’s typically made up of two chunkier matte links on the outside of the bracelet, with three smaller polished links in the centre. This design draws attention to the watch face, and is rather impressive on the eye. Because the links in the centre are quite small, some integrity of the bracelet may be lost but it shouldn’t be too much of an issue on newer watches. This style works on both large and small watches brilliantly.
The president bracelet is similar to that of the oyster bracelet, except… it’s a lot more expensive. It really is a beautiful bracelet. It was first made for President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a gift and thus is now a highly sought after style of bracelet. It too, like the oyster, has a three-piece link design and the width of the links are similar to those in an oyster bracelet, but there is just a lot more of them. This means there is a lot more flexibility to a president bracelet making it more comfortable. The increase in links means it may be more susceptible to breakage, but it shouldn’t be a big issue if the watch is being cared for appropriately. It is obviously a very formal, dressy watch bracelet and best suits medium or small watches.
NATO straps are extremely rugged and secure, which is why they were primarily used on military watches. In fact they were first developed in the 1970s, specifically for British Soldiers. The strap is only a single piece of material, so consequently the strap will still stay on securely if a spring bar did happen to break. The strap can be easily changed if a replacement or customisation is needed. The NATO is made from nylon and is more suited for smaller watches because of how thin it is.
The Zulu strap is very similar to the NATO strap but there is a few differences. The Zulu strap is significantly thicker and is made from either thick nylon or leather. They also have chunkier buckles. This increase in thickness means they are more stable, and stronger than NATO straps but as a result they may not be able to fit through the spring bars on all watches. These work best on bigger watches.
These bracelet's were first created by Seiko, and are very heavy and chunky. They are made up of 5 chunky angled rectangular links. They are definitely pleasing on the eye and thus are great dressy bracelet's. Because they are very heavy and sturdy they can withstand some fair wear and tear. They are best on larger watched but can work well with any size as long as the proportions are correct.
Aviator straps were originally made for pilots during the Second World War to make watches more functional for them. The strap was initially quite long to allow the watch to be hung from the pilots pocket with ease. There are also rivets which are within the lugs of the strap, this was to help secure the watch to the pilots wrist, preventing the watch from sliding about. These straps are made from leather and have a timeless look about them.
These straps are made from rubber and are characterized by their stamped patterns. They were created in the 60s as an alternative to metal straps, as metal straps were quite heavy for divers, and so the tropic strap was born. This strap has an array of advantageous features for divers, or any sportsperson (e.g. water-proof, breathable, lightweight, flexible) making it a great choice for an active person. These straps do have a very modern look to them as well, making them perfect for everyday use too. They can be changed very easily, and come in a whole range of colours making customization effortless. And to top it all off, they have great longevity. Thumbs up from me.
The perlon strap is made from intricately woven, thick nylon, and was first brought about in the 60s. These straps are very unique, as they don’t have any pre-punched holes. While this is an unusual concept, it means the strap has extensive adjustability so you can get the perfect fit (great if you have an awkward wrist size). This strap, like the tropic, is also great for a range of people, from the everyday watch wearer to those who love their sports and adventure. This is because it is a very durable strap which can withstand harsh conditions, however it is still very breathable. It also dries off very quickly after being submerged in water making it another brilliant choice for divers or swimmers.
The waffle strap was first invented by Seiko. This strap was loved by Vietnamese soldiers due to its flexibility, its breathability, and its water-resistance. These straps are extremely easy to clean as they are made out of rubber, making them easy to care for. And of course the stamped “waffle” pattern really is iconic (I mean who doesn’t love a waffle).
I hope after reading this you feel prepared to choose the perfect watch strap which will work the best for you. I know it can get confusing with all the styles and materials to choose from, but at the end of the day it's all down to personal preference. Don't worry too much about the technicalities, just go for whatever makes you feel comfortable and happy :)