As you know, the total appearance of a watch can be changed on the wrist or on desk, by changing the strap. I am sure most of us are in need of a strap change sometimes, when it becomes old and worn or when sweat and water destroy it.
Buckles and clasps, for all rubber, leather, fabric / cord straps, are best to be made of stainless steel. Alloys may cause allergic skin reaction.
In all conditions, I firstly look for a comfort level then appearance. I am a bit meticulous and restless when a watch can not find its balance on my wrist. Lets look more closer how to choose the straps, the features of each and hints:
For all straps, do not fix watch on your wrist too tight or too loose. Always leave a gap, just to push your watch up your wrist in case you need to wash your hands or you may need to reach to something dirty or sharp quickly.
As you will see all watches have lugs that curve downwards. Sometimes however, this angled structure doesn’t make the watch sit any better on the wrist.
If the watch is too big for your wrist or if your wrist is too thick for even 45-50 mm diameter watches, you’d be better of choosing a strap with curved end links, or curved end, these will fit the case snugly between the lugs .
(HINT) Be careful : Sometimes you can’t fit thin watches with curved straps. The lack of rotation on the springbars would make the watch rest strangely on your wrist.
STAINLESS STEEL BRACELETS : Always choose stainless steel. Alloys may cause skin allergic reactions. While choosing, we recommend bracelets that match with your case finish e.g. brushed case with brushed bracelet, sandblasted with sandblasted… Bracelets are best for dress, diver, sport style watches. Too thin bracelets are not durable and they are flimsy. (HINT) While choosing an aftermarket bracelet, shake the bracelet from side to side. If it fells loose or squeaks,the bracelet is low quality. You want it to feel solid, the thicker the links the better (at least 3mm) with flawless finish and a smooth clasp this is a decent quality bracelet. Always get professional help while adjusting the bracelet for your wrist, or at least get a link remover tool. These can be purchased cheaply off ebay..
There are usually 3 types of link. Cotter pins, which require a sharp object to push them out (look for the arrows on the underside of the bracelet which show you which way they pop out). Small screws, which can be removed with a small jewellers screwdriver. “Pin and collar”, these are removed like cotter pins, almost, but you have to make sure you don’t lose the collar.
The handicap of bracelets are, they are irritating cold at winter, but they are fine looking and durable.
In high grade diving bracelets, there a quick extension (ratchet) system integrated. This is so you can wear the watch over a wet suit without adjustment.
Maybe you fancy a mesh or stainless steel knitted bracelets? Here is a fine sample from 70’s :
LEATHER STRAPS: The most important part, is the leather genuine or artificial? (HINT) Easy testing. Smell the strap if it smells of leather it is ok but if you get plastic smell, probably the strap is made of PU and the leather is artificial. Do not trust what is embossed on backside of a strap nowadays, unless the strap is from a well known brand. Only choose “wax treated” or water resistant leathers straps if you will use watch everyday or at water sports. Regular genuine leather is not resistant to water. It deforms and will be compromised. The waxed and water resistant leather straps are bit pricey if compared regular genuine leather straps. Pay attention to the stitches. They must be clear, and wax treated thread.
You can get custom made leather straps. There are plenty of tailor made strap makers you can find in forums or watch groups. Do some research before you give them an order though. Choose “VAQUETA” leather at this time, where the leather is strong and tanned by using natural ingredients rather than chemicals.
Measure between the lugs to get the size of the strap. The size is usually embossed on the underside of the strap. The above photograph it is given “22” so it is compatible with 22 mm lug width case.
(HINT) Please pay attention to PU and Kevlar straps. I do not recommend kevlar straps. Kevlar dissolves to fibres when exposed to water, chemicals or sweat for a time. For some kind of PU straps or plastic derivatives, always try to choose ones that have genuine leather bonded on the wrist side:
RUBBER STRAP: Mostly silicone mixed rubber straps are fine for diving, tool and sport watches. They don’t go well with dress style, mature looking watches. The strap must not catch dust particles or must not be sticky. It must be medium soft and resilient but pristine. If you like softer, get ones with a high silicone percentage.
NATO-ZULU and NATO BAND: These are well known, durable, nylon/fabric/canvas bands. Designed first for soldiers and field purpose. Even if the band had been torn or damaged, they still stay on the watch. You can choose them from a wide range of colors and combinations. They are budget friendly. Using and changing them can be tricky the first time you try and fit one. (HINT) Here’s how to fix on watch in steps:
I think they’re the most comfortable straps ever, after curved neck rubber and leather straps. A Zulu band has oval rings (and usually more than NATO) and NATOs have rectangular rings.
Here is Nato-zulu sample on the wrist:
CORD /CANVAS STRAP and PERLON: If you want something comfy, but not nato or derivatives, then you can choose cord/canvas or perlon straps, all made of nylon fabric. These are fixed on watch like rubber or leather straps, only the material used is fabric. These are a nice option for hot and damp weather seasons and countries. Durable to sweat and very light, these permit air circulation beneath the strap.
Lately there has also been a rise in sailcloth straps. These are treated / waxed canvas which can repel water so are both comfortable and can be used in a variety of active situations.
If you seek comfort, you may prefer Nato-zulu, nato, cord/canvas and perlon.
Next leather, rubber and stainless steel bracelet with curved neck ends.
We recommend one more comfort plus option, which you can use with leather and rubber straps: Butterfly deployment clasps.
Butterfly deployment clasps flatten the buckle edges and reshape the strap to the contour of your wrist (please see below photo). You can use these with curved neck straps of all kinds except bracelets (they already should have a deployment clasp) to increase the comfort zone .
You can combine the matching colour straps with your watches matching the watch type and dial colour. It is up to your preference and taste.
Some micro brands looking cool with a nato band!
Stay punctual, stay comfy, stay cool…
Author: Mengu Evrensel
Watch designer, maker, artist, guitar player