What's the Best Watch Strap for EDC?

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So you’ve finally got your hands on the perfect EDC watch… But as much as you love it, rocking the same look and feel every single day is starting to feel a little boring. The solution is surprisingly simple. All it takes is a new strap to shake up the look, feel, and function of your favorite timepiece. In this guide, we break down the different types of watch straps to help you decide which one is right for you and your daily activities.

Why Change Your Watch Strap?

Yes, your watch came with a strap. Is there anything wrong with it? Not necessarily. Is it going to be suited for every single situation you may be in? Probably not. You wouldn’t want to wear a dressy alligator leather strap in the water, and a rubber dive strap may look out of place in the office or worn with a suit.

Just a note: make sure whatever strap you get is compatible with your watch! Always check lug widths and bracelet compatibility with your specific model to make sure it all fits.

NATO / ZULU Watch Straps

NATO straps are extremely popular, and for good reason. They’re versatile, affordable, functional, and fashionable. The NATO strap is a single piece of fabric (typically nylon or leather) that weaves through the springbars (read up on watch anatomy here) and closes via a buckle. There are usually one or two bars to slip the excess strap through so it’s not dangling off your wrist.

This style of strap was initially made for British military, and is favored for it’s extra level of security. If one springbar fails, the watch is still held on by the other side. If that ever happened to a normal, two-piece strap, then you're probably never seeing that watch again.

The Zulu variant is a beefed up version of the NATO, with thicker fabric and chunkier hardware, but comes with the same basic function.

Who it’s for: Pretty much everyone. Since these straps are available in so many colors and patterns, you’re sure to find one that suits your outfit or mood. The nylon material is rugged and washable, so it's especially good for outdoor activities.

PROS:

  • Tons of color/pattern options
  • Available in several materials
  • Comfortable and washable

CONS:

  • Long-term durability is a concern

Examples of NATO straps:


Leather Watch Straps

There are several types of leather straps, so we’ll focus on the most common ones. A standard two-piece leather strap is great for both casual and dress wear. They’re comfortable, pick up patina with age, and conform to the curves of your wrist. A nice leather strap can take a simple watch (like the Timex Weekender) and elevate it to the next level of style and class.

In addition to the standard two-piece leather strap, there are also pilot style and bund straps. Pilot style leather straps are commonly seen with rivets on either side of the watch case. They’re styled after the straps used by WWII pilots. There’s also the bund strap, which has a round pad of leather underneath the watch. This does add extra bulk, but also protects the wrist from any impact while giving off a unique visual style.

Who it’s for: Leather straps don’t play well with water or sweat, so keep these dry. Even though they have military roots, they’re best for casual wear. If you’re not sweating profusely all day, or doing anything too active, you’ll appreciate the comfort and look of a nice leather strap.

PROS:

  • More comfortable with each wear
  • Great for casual wear
  • Can class up the look of even a simple watch

CONS:

  • Doesn't play well with water/sweat

Examples of leather straps:


Rubber Watch Straps

Rubber watch straps are usually paired with dive watches, and for good reason. They’re thick, comfortable, and impervious to water damage. They’re not just for dive watches though—you’ll find rubber on most G-Shock watches, which are known for their shock, weather, and water resistance. The most convenient part about a rubber strap is how easily it can be washed. Whether you’re getting out of the salty ocean, or finishing a workout, simply rinse the strap and you're on your way.

Who it’s for: Rubber straps aren’t the most formal-looking straps, but their benefit is in their functionality. You’ll appreciate the comfort and flexibility during activities, and the ease of cleaning afterwards. If you’re a swimmer, outdoorsman, or like wearing a watch during workouts, strongly consider rubber straps.

PROS:

  • Easy to clean
  • Comfortable during activities
  • Water and grime resistant

CONS:

  • Clunky looking
  • Excess strap can be hard to manage

Examples of rubber straps:


Metal Bracelets

The bracelet style strap was created to match the durability of tool watches. If a watch can stand up to the pressure of the deep ocean (Rolex Submariner), getting knocked around on expeditions (Tudor North Flag), and even flown into space (Omega Speedmaster), so should the strap.

Even if you're not at the bottom of the ocean, the top of a mountain, or in outer space, you'll appreciate the durability, security, and classic looks of a bracelet. They're typically made from linked steel, and closed with a locking clasp.

A bracelet goes well with both casual and dress outfits. They're versatile, but there are some downsides. They add extra weight, and most can't be easily adjusted for size throughout the day. A good bracelet should be comfortable, but it's not going to come close to a NATO or leather strap.

Who it's for: If you're looking for the most durable strap possible, consider a bracelet. They're not as comfortable during activity as the other options, but they'll hold up to almost anything you can throw at it.

PROS:

  • Very durable
  • Water resistant

CONS:

  • Heavy
  • Less comfortable than other options

Examples of metal bracelets:


Which is the best for most people?

If you're only going to buy one strap, it should be a nylon NATO or ZULU. They're easily the most versatile and are great for wear in the office, water, and everything in between. On top of their versatility, they're also affordable. You can pick up a NATO strap for under fifteen bucks that will totally transform the look and feel of your EDC watch.

Buy a NATO Strap

What's your favorite strap type? Let us know what you use it for in the comments below!

#watches #carry-smarter see all



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Discussion (17 total)

I have a Seiko 5, which I love, and it came with a NATO strap. It was ok. Kind of stiff, and it allowed the watch to slide around my wrist more than i would have liked. So I bought a ZULU strap and had the same problems. Now, I put on a rubber strap which I got on Amazon for about $8 and I love it! Fits well, holds well, easy to clean and I don't have to worry about it getting wet.
How are you finding the seiko 5, they strike me as an automatic every Watch guy should have
Although not really in vogue with most EDC folk I've rediscovered the swatch watches of yesteryear. Being able to have multiple chronographs, automatics, dive watches and all with Swiss movements you can not only change bands but whole watches quite cheaply and even more so if you look at second hand vintage watches.
I mean a skeletonised ETA movement in a light comfortable case for under $50, cmon what's not to love.
Try the Clockwork Synergy NATO Straps! Just got one for my Movado as well as one for my Apple Watch...
https://www.clockworksynergy.com/shop/product-category/nato-straps/
Thanks for the mention!
Lets not forget about the Bertucci Tridura band. Comfortable, sleek, and extremely durable.
Yep, the Tridura is my favorite watch band. It's comfortable, durable, and easy to clean. The biggest problem is that it only comes in 22mm and 25mm sizes. http://tridurawatchband.com/
Who doesn't love a good natostrap
Some solid made to order leather straps to be had from etsy
Been looking all day for a new leather strap for my Citizen GMT, but after reading your article, I'm going back to my Goldfinger NATO strap. It always was more comfortable. Thanks!
Anyone knows the info on the last Timex piece & it's NATO strap?
It's the Timex Waterbury x Red Wing collab, the strap is from cheapestnatostraps.com
On my Rolex submariner I currently am wearing a leather nato but have a nylon NATO and a steel bracelet. The steel looks so good in a suit, but the leather is just so comfy
https://www.h2o-watch.com/armbander-verschlusse/metallarmbander/h2o-orca-torpedo-bracelet-ss-1021800011.html metal orca torpedo strap, £150, i have one, they are built like a tank and precise like a surgical instrument, best strap in the world
There are two additional types that deserve mention: the Milanese mesh metal bracelet, which is a dressier variation on that clunkier style metal bracelet; and the perlon strap, which is kind of the dressier cousin of the NATO strap.
Another option is to have a custom made strap out of an old baseball glove, belt, wallet or whatever piece of leather you have laying around. Johnny from www.johnnystraps.com can do just that. He made a strap for me from an old leather ammo pouch. Wears like buttah!

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