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.
- Tons of color/pattern options
- Available in several materials
- Comfortable and washable
- 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.
- More comfortable with each wear
- Great for casual wear
- Can class up the look of even a simple watch
- Doesn't play well with water/sweat
- Berfine Vintage Strap
- Worn & Wound Model 2 Premium
- PopovLeather Burgundy Strap
- AnchorWatchStraps Horween Bund Strap
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.
- Easy to clean
- Comfortable during activities
- Water and grime resistant
- Clunky looking
- Excess strap can be hard to manage
Examples of rubber straps:
- Marathon Vulcanized Rubber Watch Band
- Barton Quick Release Silicon Watch Band
- StrapsCo Premium Divers Strap
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.
- Very durable
- Water resistant
- 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.
What's your favorite strap type? Let us know what you use it for in the comments below!