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A Comprehensive Guide to Watch Straps: Part I

Sporting an impressive timepiece on your wrist is practically de rigueur these days. While there’s much to say about these mechanical wonders, we’re going to put a spotlight on its most often overlooked partthe strap.

By Charlie Co
July 1, 2021

While every cog of a watch’s movement is dissected, the case’s shape and dial’s proportions scrutinised, not much attention has been paid to the strap. A part that’s not only necessary—it only keeps that watch on your wrist—it also enhances (or indeed could possibly ruin) the timepiece’s overall aesthetic. A strap is not just a strap, after all, as it does tell a lot about one’s personality and lifestyle.

From leather and metal to nylon, rubber and fabric, you would be surprised to know that there’s a myriad of strap types out there, and we’ve taken the liberty of breaking it down for you. Though your choice of strap might depend largely on style preference, you must consider other equally important factors such as where you plan to wear it and what you’ll be doing in it most of the time.

For example, do you live somewhere warm? Pairing your watch with a breathable strap might be best, so it’s safer to stay away from leather. And indeed, width matters. Thinner straps are more formal and found more commonly in dress watches, while burly thick ones are for more casual and even sporty looks.

In the first of a two-part primer on straps, we bring you 6 types: Leather, Rally, Aviator, Bund, Oyster and President.

Strap up and enjoy.

Leather

You can’t go wrong with this classic material. There’s something about the texture and the way it smells. It can be made from regular cowhide or more exotic options like crocodile or kangaroo that are ideal for dress watches. It can also come with extra padding and have a stitched or double-ridged profile for a more casual look. This strap is timeless and will never go out of style. It is durable enough for everyday use, and its lifespan can be extended further by using a clasp instead of a pin buckle.

Rally

TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf 2018 Special Edition

As its name implies, this is a sporty strap that is perfect for bigger watches with chronographs that have a racing pedigree. Inspired by racing gloves, the Rally strap is easily distinguished by the large perforations punched out below the lugs. It traces its style from the period in racing when perforation was seen everywhere from seats and gloves to pedals to cut the car’s weight and increase ventilation. This last feature makes the rally strap ideal for warm weather and an active lifestyle—if the rubber variation is not your style.

Aviator

Popularized by German airmen during World War I, the original Aviator straps have rivets below the lugs to prevent the watch from flying off the wrist. While current models still feature those distinct rivets, they serve nothing more than just aesthetics and a nod to its history. Best matched with pilot watches, the black watch face pairs beautifully with the brown leather, harkening back to its military heritage.

Bund

Just like the Aviator strap, the Bund strap was made popular by the German air force —this time from World War II. The distinct padding underneath the watch was more than just a design flair, it prevented watches from burning or freezing the pilot’s skin when flying under extreme temperatures as well as absorbing sweat. Nowadays, the Bund is associated with an active lifestyle. However, it’s important to note that the strap is quite warm so not the best option for tropical countries. And because of its heft it will be a challenge for people with small wrists.

Oyster

This quintessential metal bracelet is among the most popular straps available. Introduced by Rolex in the 1930s for its line of diver’s watches, the Oyster is easily distinguished by three asymmetrical links in its design. It chooses function over form as the fewer number of links means fewer potential break points, making it more durable especially for rough, everyday use. However, this means also fewer swivel points which makes the strap feel a bit stiff. The chunky links make this strap appropriate for large watches, though it’s been seen in small watches as well.

President

Named after its close association with US President Dwight Eisenhower, the President bracelet is essentially a variation of the Oyster. While the latter uses asymmetrical metal links, the President incorporates a shorter link, which equates to more links used in the entire strap and makes the President denser than the Oyster. This also means that this strap hugs your wrist better but is less durable due to more possible break points. The President is seen as dressier than the Oyster and pairs perfectly with smaller watches.

 

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