Gentleman holding watch by strap

Strapped In: All About Watch Straps

A good wristwatch is a staple in any wardrobe. Whether you’re a collector, or an enthusiast who amasses scores of watches, or maybe just a one-watch-fits-all kind of person, there’s no doubting that a watch strap canmake a statement. Maybe a rubber strap goes on your watch for a morning at the gym, swapped for leather at work, and finally a polished metal bracelet for date night. Swapping out watch straps can change the entire look of your accessory and thankfully, it’s never been easier to do it yourself.

When Pocket Watches Became Wristwatches

The first watches were pocket watches—a classic watch face attached to a chain and kept in the pocket—and were considered a high-end status symbol worn by the elite. However, wartime efforts in the late 1800s meant infantrymen needed watches that were time-synchronized with their cohorts and pocket watches proved too difficult to access on the battlefield. Fumbling with a watch chain amid battle was a big no-go, so watches on leather strap that could be worn around the wrist became the choice for military men. Although the first wrist watches that surfaced off of the battlefield were donned by women and typically marketed as bracelets, eventually the trend spread far and wide to become the iconic accessory we wear each day.

How Can I Change my Own Watch Strap?

Previously, most watches were made with a standard watch band, which consists of multiple telescoping metal bars affixed to the watch case that can be removed to release the watch’s strap. Since this process can be time-consuming and requires specialized tools to do, the quick-release watch strap was born and has risen quickly in popularity. A quick-release strap features two spring-loaded pins that, when pressed, release the watch strap from the case. This simple method makes it quick and easy to freshen up your watch’s look with a new type of strap. The quick-release function doesn’t affect the watch case or the comfortability for the wearer. However, it’s recommended that heavier watches avoid the quick-release function, as the weight of the watch could potentially trigger the mechanism and cause the watch and strap to detach from one another.

What are the Most Common Watch Straps?

Leather Straps

Leather is the tried-and-true, the classic, the paradigm of watch straps. It was the first material used in the production of wristwatches and its comfort and style versatility make it a popular choice for watch straps. Most after-market leather straps are easy to swap on and off, freshening up your timepiece so it looks almost like a new watch. The downside to leather is that it cannot get wet, so leave that watch at home if the weather looks rainy or you’re going to the beach.

Metal Bracelets

Perhaps the highest-end strap choice is the metal bracelet. Bracelets are most commonly made from stainless steel, but can also be precious metals, like 18K gold. Standard watch bracelets consist of individual links that can be removed or added to fit the wearer’s wrist, but many also feature a micro-adjustment functionality on the clasp or in between links to ensure an even tighter fit. Because of the material, metal bracelets can be a versatile strap style, as they can easily transition from land to sea, dress to casual, or day to night.

Rubber Straps

If you’re looking for something more flexible or sporty, a rubber strap is the way to go. Its durability makes it perfect for sport watches of all kinds. Rubber straps tend to be more casual and affordably priced. With a rubber watch strap, you always know what you’re going to get.

NATO Straps

The NATO watch strap is made of woven nylon, making it a versatile and easy-wearing material. Originally created in 1973 to meet standards and requirements established by the British Ministry of Defense for watches worn while in service, NATO straps gained popularity due to their practical use on the battlefield. They gave soldiers the ability to signal their regiment colors, giving rise to the colorful striped straps that are popular today. NATO straps require no additional tools to take on and off, as they loop easily under the watch case and through the spring bar. Its quick-drying nature makes it good for any outdoor or athletic wear. After the rise in popularity of the NATO strap in the 1970s, more watch and strap manufacturers have made their straps easier to swap on and off in response.

Whether you desire versatility, want to make a bold statement, or anything in between, it’s never been easier to customize your watch exactly to your liking. A quick-release watch strap is an easy and convenient accessory that gives the wearer the ability to transform their entire piece with the click of a button.