When choosing a watch, most guys just focus on the face – does the casing look expensive, and is the branding visible?
A lot of guys don't know how much a difference the watch strap can make on the overall look and formality of a timepiece. Wear the wrong style to an event, and you could look out of place and inappropriately dressed.
No stylish man wants that. So, with that in mind, I've listed the best watch straps you should look out for when investing in your next timepiece and how they rank on the formality scale.
Today, we'll be covering:
- Leather Watch Straps
- Metal Watch Straps
- Fabrics Watch Straps
- Does A Strap Change A Watch's Appearance?
#1 Leather Watch Straps
Many guys consider a leather-strapped timepiece to be the most classic style of watch.
It all comes down to simplicity – a monochromatic leather band attached to a single-metal watch casing. Historically, this watch style came into existence pretty much straight after the decline in pocket watches.
The minimal design isn't over or under-stated. You can wear one with a shirt and tie, a tux or just jeans and a henley. My point is, because of its timelessly minimal aesthetic, this watch strap style can satisfy almost any man.
So let's talk about leather for a second. As with any material, not all leather is created equal.
A good rule is to aim for the highest grade leather that you can afford. The higher the grade, the pricier the strap – however, genuine leather should be considered a minimum.
For those unsure of what I mean by Leather Grades, here's a quick breakdown of the different levels of quality leather:
- Full-grain – thick and rugged leather that hasn't been sanded down or buffed
- Top-grain – leather with a split layer with imperfections buffed away
- Genuine – leather that has had an artificial grain (or texture) applied to its surface
- Bonded – a mixture of leather scraps bonded together with synthetic materials
Unless you really have to, I'd advise you never to opt for synthetic leather. Real leather is tougher and will last longer if properly cared for.
Pro Tip: When wearing a leather wrist strap, ALWAYS make sure that the color of that leather matches both your shoes and your belt.
#2 Metal Watch Straps
A metal watchband, even one the same size as a leather band, will always
appear larger & heavier because of the nature of metal.
This is an important consideration if you have smaller wrists. Metal bands will emphasize the appearance of a larger watch, making it a primary choice for men with larger wrists.
Metal is lower on the formality scale than leather. It goes well with sports
coats and a pair of odd trousers or denim. On occasion, it's okay to wear metal
bands with suits if it's not a formal suit.
Common types of metals used in watches have a wide range.
- Stainless Steel
Each one can come in a polished or natural state.
If you want a watch as an heirloom, the best options are something with longevity. Titanium and stainless steel in their natural state are great options for that.
Solid gold and platinum will also stand the test of time, although they are more expensive options.
Unlike leather and fabric straps, metal watch straps can come in a wide variety of constructions. Depending on your style, the size of your casing, and the clasp you prefer, you can choose from any of the following:
- Jubilee Bracelet – Five-piece links, used in dress and sports watches.
- Oyster Bracelet – Larger three-piece links for a sportier look.
- President Bracelet – Less common, uses elegantly rounded three-piece links.
- Pearlmaster Bracelet – Arguably the most elegant strap design, with five-piece links.
#3 Fabric Watch Straps
Fabric is usually found in functional and casual watches.
Materials like Nylon are an excellent choice for an informal watch.
A great place to wear these is anywhere that involves water – for example, to the lake or the beach. The fabric won't get easily ruined if water splashes on it, which makes it a great summer accessory!
Common types of fabric watches include:
When looking at quality, it's best to stay away from plastics. They're pretty cheap, will quickly break over time, and don't look that great.
Rubber is an excellent alternative to plastic for wearers who need to clean their straps quickly. It has the same sporty feel and appearance while being far more professional-looking and durable. You can actually buy Rolex watches with a rubber strap, which speaks for itself.
Those involved in watersports benefit greatly from rubber watch straps. They're easily cleanable, work well in a gym environment, and don't look too ‘flashy.' What's more, guys who love watersports won't need to worry about the water, grime, or chlorine damage.
However, not all watch straps are made equal. Stick to solid color straps without any bold patterns – zig-zag straps might be great for your kids, but you're a grown man.
Plain, black rubber is a little dressier and can be matched with business casual outfits.
Commonly, you'll find most NATO straps use Nylon in their construction.
Many guys hear ‘Nylon' and automatically assume cheap and poor quality.
Cheap? Yes – but that's not always a bad thing! The great thing about Nylon NATO straps is their value for money. For little more than five bucks, you can buy a watch strap that's robust, comfortable, and versatile in pretty much any color you can think of.
A Nylong NATO strap can be attached to a dress watch, chronograph, dive watch, and even a smartwatch. It's quite literally the most versatile watch strap available.
Is it going to replace your high-quality leather strap or intricate metal strap? Probably not. However, will it provide a cost-effective and classy option when you don't want to risk your more pricey pieces? Absolutely!
Tweed is timeless – fact.
When I think tweed, I think of a classicly British tailored suit from Saville Row.
When it comes to watch straps, tweed is a great way to stand out from the crowd. They're not that common, and people don't often associate this fabric with men's watches.
However, you need to be careful; they don't suit every situation and can stand out in the wrong way when worn with a business suit.
The brushed, thick nature of tweed heavily contrasts with the sleeker appearance of cotton and light wool suits. Wearing a tweed watch strap with a business suit is not advised – in this instance, opt for leather or metal as your strap material of choice.
However, a matching tweed watch strap can look fantastic when it comes to wearing a tweed suit! You can also dress it down with a blazer and slacks or even jeans and a t-shirt.
In fact, many guys wear tweed straps on their field watches – the most informal style of watch on the market.
#4 Does A Strap Changes A Watch's Appearance?
You wouldn't believe the difference a watch strap can make on the overall look of a timepiece.
A simple change of material can have huge implications on the formality of a watch, taking it from a strictly weekend accessory to office-appropriate in minutes.
Let's take one of my favorite watches – the Rolex Submariner – as an example:
Metal Strap Submariner
Let's be honest – it's a timeless classic. The metal strap Rolex Submariner is a staple piece in watch-making history. Pictured here with an Oyster style bracelet, it suits most occasions, from casual weekend trips to weddings and beyond.
In my opinion, as long as you aren't wearing a tux, you can pull this watch off with any outfit. Black-tie events require a dress watch with a leather strap and minimal design – however, outside of that, you're good to go!
Leather Strap Rolex Submariner
The leather strap on this submariner elevates its formality ever so slightly.
Would I advise wearing this with your casual clothing? Probably not. It's just a little too formal to wear while at home with the kids.
However, on the flip side of this, it does make it more suitable for wearing to a black-tie event. Is it ideally suited to this level of formality? No. However, at a push, you could wear it to a black-tie event where the traditions of formalwear aren't taken too seriously.
This would also be a great watch to wear to an interview. It shows a level of sophistication that recruiters will appreciate without going overboard with a classic dress watch.
Fabric Strap Rolex Submariner
A fabric strap on a Rolex Submariner isn't something you see every day. However, I think it has a certain charm for more informal occasions.
A chunky metal strap can look a bit out of place on the wrist when wearing your casual clothes. Equally, a leather strap can look too informal, so a fabric strap can be a great way of balancing your watch with the rest of your casual outfit.
In many ways, a fabric strap makes a dive watch more accessible to men who don't wear a suit every day. A Rolex is a high-status watch, so we tend to associate it with power suits and million-dollar deals.
But even CEOs take a break at the weekend! Switching your usual strap for a fabric one is the perfect way to detach yourself from work and enjoy a more laid-back weekend with the kids.
Rubber Strap Rolex Submariner
Just because you're going to the gym doesn't mean you should have to swap out your favorite watch for a cheaper, plastic alternative.
A rubber strap enables you to take your luxury watch to the gym and not worry about sweat clogging up the metal or ruining the leather.
As I mentioned before, rubber is wipeable, which means a submariner with a rubber strap is perfect for occasions when you're likely to sweat. That could even be on hot summer days or a holiday to the Caribbean – the rubber strap reduces the formality of the watch to make it easier to wear with shorts and a linen shirt.
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