Watch Strap

Expert Guide To Watch Straps

An in-depth look into the expansive world of watch straps.

While some might argue that you’re never fully dressed without a smile, others, especially watch enthusiasts, would counter saying that an unadorned wrist demands greater attention. This expert guide on the numerous varieties of watch straps will ensure you always leave the house looking your best.

And of course, for as long as wristwatches have been around, watch straps have played the significant role of allowing us to sport our beautiful timepieces on our wrist. It helps separate the functionality of a pocket watch from the aforementioned wristwatch.

In the post-war era of the First World War, the popularity of wristwatches began to grow and so did the importance of the aesthetic and function of the watch strap.

Like how a man changes his clothes to suit an occasion, a watch may be paired with different straps to suit the need and overall appearance of its wearer. This guide aims to impart the knowledge of the many different types of watch straps and styles available to us and their relative functionality and charm.

Leather Straps

If a watch was like a well-groomed gentleman, a leather strap would be akin to wearing a finely tailored suit. Refined and at the same time, fashionable and dressy.

There is a wide variety of leathers in the category alone. Just to name a few; Calf, Crocodile, Alligator, Ostrich, Lizard, Snake, Kangaroo, and even Stingray. The price of the strap would vary depending on the material it is made of, and then, of course, the style of the leather strap it is done in.

Black Alligator Standard Leather Strap on a Hamilton Viewmatic

A standard styled or stitched leather strap would be more appropriate for dress watches as they exude elegance. These simple designs allow the texture and finish of the leather itself to take the centre stage. After all, it is not always good to draw attention to your wrist, no matter how beautiful your timepiece may be.

Contrarily, Aviation, Bund, and even leather NATO and Zulu styled straps emanate a rugged and somewhat macho feel. So while these work in more casual situations, you might want to leave them out of those big corporate meetings or when you’re going to meet the queen.

A Brown Vintage Calf Leather Strap on a Breitling Callisto

Coming in many different styles, leather straps are probably one of the most popular types of watch straps because of their aesthetic appeal.

However, the leather strap is only versatile outside of water, which is it’s greatest weakness it would seem.

Leather and water are great adversaries. It might sound counter intuitive but exposure to water actually makes leather drier, causing it to tear and break apart over time. Therefore, in the same aspect, rain, humidity, and not to mention your own perspiration, can all be considered natural enemies of leather straps.

Metal Bracelets

Metal straps, otherwise known as bracelets, are known for one thing. Durability. These bracelets would not face the same issues a leather strap would because of the resistant materials they are manufactured from.

It would be criminal though, to say that metal bracelets have no aesthetic quality to them. In fact, many would argue that they actually prefer the appearance of a bracelet to any other kind of watch straps. After all, taste is subjective.

Steel 1581/953 bracelet on the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean

Where they do excel in durability and water resistance, they sacrifice for in flexibility and if not sized right, comfort. And whilst it is far from weighing a tonne, metal bracelets are noticeably heavier than their other material counterparts.

Oyster Bracelet on a Rolex Sea Dweller

The Oyster and Engineer styled bracelets are examples of strong and resilient watch bands which suit an active sort of outdoor lifestyle whilst not being complete strangers to the office. However because of how bulky they are, they would not suit thinner dress watches.

Rubber Canvas Strap (Left), Black steel bracelet on a Seiko Samurai, Black Nato Strap on a Seiko 5 and a Black Milanese Strap (Right)
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Bracelets such as the Jubilee and President are a dressier alternative to the Oyster and Engineer. After all, the President bracelet is usually reserved for Rolex‘s premium watches. Being thinner, they fit better under a cuff and having smaller links offer a much more refined look. This, however, compromises the strength of the bracelet and would not be as well suited for vigorous activity.

Stainless Steel Milanese Bracelet on a Straton Curve-Chrono
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The Shark and Milanese Mesh bracelets are light and comfortable. Having tinier links, they also provide great flexibility in the bracelet itself. The Milanese Mesh is even adjustable, allowing it to achieve the suitable length for the wrist of the wearer.

Metal bracelets, while interchangeable, are usually designed with the specific watch in mind. In fact, many if not most of the naming conventions of metal bracelets were decided based on their original Rolex conceptions. This therefore limits the personalising aspect between metal bracelets. Not to mention, metal bracelets are higher in cost as compared to other straps simply because of the material used.

Rubber Straps

As far as water is a concern, a rubber strap is a set resolution. No matter the situation, rubber is your water-resistant answer. This also means it’s easy to maintain and wash as well.

Black ‘Carbon Texture’ Rubber Strap on a Seiko SKX007
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Whilst the appearances of rubber straps are not something that takes everyone’s fancy, it does have a lot of versatility in terms of design. The synthetic material is easy to shape and manipulate in the manufacturing stage so you do see many unique designs and colours in the market.

Rubber straps are also soft and flexible, making them extremely comfortable to wear. They are also lighter in comparison to a metal bracelet, hence a worthy competitor to them in the water-resistant market.

Nylon Straps

When you think nylon, you think one word, NATO. With an origin dating back to the 1970s, the NATO strap was originally issued to British soldiers because they were well suited for the environments of the battlefield.

Sir Sean Connery in his portrayal of James Bond in Goldfinger, 1964, sporting his Rolex Submariner with a Nylon Strap.
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It is without a doubt though, that the NATO strap was first popularized by Sir Sean Connery when he famously donned the strap with a Rolex Submariner in his portrayal of 007 in Goldfinger in 1964.

So you might be wondering, if the NATO originated in the 70s, how was James Bond wearing it during filming in 1964? Simple answer, Bond was not wearing a NATO. It was another style of Nylon strap. This little error did however, skyrocket the popularity of the NATO strap when it did eventually enter the market.

In recent years, everyone has become familiar with this trendy style of strap. Perhaps a certain fashion brand raised the general public’s awareness of this style of strap.

Like the rubber strap and metal bracelet, nylon straps are water resistant. On the lower side of the spectrum, the price of nylon straps are actually very affordable. Also the fact that they come in a wide array of designs and weaving styles, makes nylon straps an extremely popular and accessible choice for many.

Fabric Straps

Production of a Fabric Strap.
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Materials like canvas and denim are also used as watch straps. These straps are celebrated for their texture and unique appearance. Because of the soft nature of fabric, it also offers great comfort to the wearer. Designs are plentiful, offering us a wide selection of styles, colours, patterns and even prints.

Although water-resistant, it’s important to note that like clothes, fabric straps would require time to dry, as compared to say a rubber strap which would not absorb any water at all. This fact leaves the fabric strap as more of a dress strap as compared to a functional outdoor strap. Fabric straps also tend to weather and fray quite quickly. Despite its durability, it will begin to lose their initial aesthetic appeal due to this fact.


In the end, choice of strap boils down to the individual and the kind of lifestyle they live. It’s therefore important to find out which type of strap suits you and your personality best. Most importantly, whether or not it suits the watch you are wearing.

And with that, be sure to throw on your favourite watch and strap combinations and walk out of your home with a big confident smile. After all, you’re never fully dressed without them.

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