A Thorough Guide to Watch Straps: Different Types and the Best Ones to Buy

Metal Bracelets

Many timepieces still ship on metal bracelets — steel, titanium, precious metals, or otherwise. In fact, the list of occasions on which a metal bracelet is inappropriate is actually much shorter than the amount of instances in which they’re a great fit.

Available in various lengths and diameters, this vintage 1930s/1940s-style “beads of rice” looks best paired with a vintage watch — especially a chronograph.

Bulang & Sons Beads of Rice Straight End Link Steel ~$131

An aftermarket version of Rolex’s beloved “Jubilee” bracelet, this tapered version comes with straight “quick-release” end links and a double-button diver’s clasp.

Strap Code Super-JUB II QR $72

Perhaps no one is doing bigger things in bracelets these days than Forstner, whose “ladder” bracelet recreates a vintage Gay Frères style that once accompanied the Zenith El Primero.

Forstner Ladder Bracelet $125

Leather Straps

This is a startlingly broad category — and that’s a wonderful thing! A leather strap is no longer merely the expensive, lizard or alligator hide affair that comes paired to a $30,000 dress watch from the likes of Patek or Vacheron. These days, one can find leather straps in all kinds of guises: some are painstakingly modeled after particular vintage types, while others are wildly creative and colorful contemporary works of art.

Bas & Lokes Everett Light Grey Suede Watch Strap $159 Handmade in Sydney, Australia and customizable, this gorgeous suede strap is almost laughably comfortable, and a perfect, dressy accompaniment to a beloved tool watch. The Amagoh Vegan Pineapple Leather Watch Strap In Carlsbad Caverns $85 HODINKEE sells a plethora of well made straps, perhaps none quite as interesting as this vegan leather model, which is — believe it or not — made from pineapple leaves. The Strap Tailor Pueblo Leather Bund Watch Strap – Stealth Black $154 The “Bund” strap is a popular accessory to watches issued to the German Bundeswehr in the 1970s. This modern calfskin version is customizable and beautiful.

Three Excellent Leather Straps:

NATO Straps

The contemporary nylon NATO is an outgrowth of several types of military-issued straps that came about between World War II and the 1970s. In its current guise, the NATO consists of two lengths of nylon, one long, and one short — the longer length is secured to the watch using its spring (or fixed) bars between the lugs, while the shorter length connects to the first via a metal keeper. The entire shebang is then cinched to the wrist and secured via a pin buckle and keepers.

Wind Up Watch Shop US-Made ADPT Mil-Strap $48 If you are inclined to spend a bit more on a NATO in order to purchase something American-made, we highly recommend the stiff and robust ADPT strap. UTE Watch Co. The Sumba Nylon Watch Strap In Army Green $20 Probably the best $20 you’ll ever spend in watches, this NATO is thoughtfully designed, well sized at 290mm, and features excellent hardware. Crown & Buckle Supreme NATO $34 A popular and emerging sub-category within NATOs is the premium “seatbelt” style. This example from Crown & Buckle is comfortable, smooth, and available in different colors.

Three Excellent NATO Straps:

Perlon Straps

Though not as popular as NATOs, perlons are of a similar ilk: Made of woven nylon, they pass between the spring bars on your watch and lay flat against the watch’s caseback. Unlike NATOs, however, they only have one length of fabric, meaning the watch head sits much closer to one’s wrist. Also, unlike NATOS, perlons are braided from small nylon loops — rather than one, tightly woven length — making for a different feeling against the skin. They’re also fast-drying, and because of how they’re woven, can be adjusted to nearly any size along the length of the strap.

The Logan Strap by HODINKEE $14  Modeled after the original perlons developed in Germany in the 1950s, the Logan is woven by master craftsmen who supply nylon to the automotive and aeronautical industries. Crown & Buckle Linen Melange Perlon $16 Woven from two thread colors, this contemporary offering from C&B features an adjustable length, brushed stainless steel buckle and an extra floating nylon keeper. Clockwork Synergy Perlon Strap $12 Featuring a heat-sealed end and available in myriad colors, widths, and buckle types, this fun offering from Clockwork Synergy is a great, affordable perlon choice.

Three Excellent Perlon Straps:

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