A Comprehensive Guide to Watch Straps

An essential watch companion, a good strap can be easily swapped out for a new style. You can have a wide range of strap options. To an observer, the strap is more prominent than the face of the watch. A large selection of straps will make even a small collection seem huge.

Watch straps can be much cheaper than buying a new watch. It is therefore often cheaper to buy more straps than it is to purchase a new watch. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a collection of watches. But, make sure to not forget the one that connects them to your wrist.

There are a lot of watches straps out there. I will try my best to list the best. Every strap has a fascinating story, so if you see one that interests you, the text below will be a great read. Be sure to look at the available retailers. They should be able to help you find what you are looking for regardless of your budget. You don’t have to spend more to get what you want.

Let’s get to it!

How to Measure a Watchband

A affordable watchpin tool makes it simple to swap straps in or out.

The watch band size is determined by the width of the watch’s lugs. If you are lucky enough, the size can be printed on the back.

The Best Men’s Dive Watches

The NATO strap was originally designed for British Army soldiers in 1970s. Its original name was “G10”, which is a form of requisition. Similar styles can be traced back as far as World War II. However, this strap was first to debut under its current title.

The strap quickly gained popularity in the military and the public began to enjoy its many features and capabilities. G10 straps were made in the USA and sold in military surplus shops. Each one was branded with a unique NATO surplus number. Surplus shops sold quickly and watch strap retailers emerged to capitalize on the booming demand. They will continue to be popular for many decades, despite the fact that NATO straps have been a huge success.

A NATO strap’s single-piece construction is the most distinctive. Most other garmin watch straps are made of two pieces and can only be applied by removing the spring bars attached to the watch. It can take a while to change straps, but NATO straps can be applied or removed in seconds.

The watch keeper strap is an additional feature that ensures the watch case stays on your wrist, even if the spring bars break. James Bond famously wore NATO straps in films and on actors. These characteristics make NATO straps a great choice in almost any situation and their low cost is a boon for those on a tight budget.

Timex Slip-Thru Strap

Maratac has trademarked Zulu garmin straps. It is surprising that such a unique name has so little history. While they are clearly inspired by NATO straps there are some minor differences. They are made of thicker materials such as leather or nylon. They may not fit between some watches’ spring bars due to this. Zulu straps are wider and more rounded to accommodate their larger girth.

NATO straps, on the other hand, have smaller, squared-off rings and buckles that are more suited to their reduced volume. The watch keeper strap can be added to Zulu watches bands as an optional addition. They are available in 3-ring and 5-ring configurations. There is virtually no aesthetic impact on either of these options, so you can choose the one that feels most comfortable.

Thinner straps are more similar to NATOs but without the keeper. They are often referred to as either one-piece or slip-thru as in the Timex photo.

What is the difference between a NATO and Zulu straps?

Zulu straps are generally larger in size and can be used for large watches. This is because the face of the Zulu straps is much smaller than the hardware. NATO straps, on the other hand, are great for small watches. The thinner material will fit through spring bars more easily and has a more proportionate look. Zulu straps take longer to get used to, but they are more durable than NATO.

It comes down to personal preference. Some people don’t like the extra bulk of a Zulu, while others find NATO straps too fragile. I suggest that you pick up one of each type, and then decide which one you like in person!

The Watch Forum

Rally straps are a tribute to old-school racing gloves. They can be identified by the large perforations below the lugs. Automotive racing is primarily about speed and weight plays a direct role in the maximum velocity. Many early race cars were made of parts that had holes drilled through them. Perforation reduces the overall weight of most metal parts. Driving gloves, later rally straps, were also perforated to maintain an aesthetic consistency.

One might argue that perforations were there to allow for breathability and ventilation, but it is difficult to know the real reason. Perforations were used to reduce heat and weight in race cars, which are known for being extremely warm.

Rally straps, regardless of their origin, are great for summer wear. Although it was not the original intent, perforations can significantly increase ventilation. This is especially useful in summer heat. A vintage chronograph is a great choice to match with this strap. They were often used to time races. If you like the history and style of the Rally strap, I recommend it highly.


The Oyster bracelet was introduced by Rolex in 1930. It is a classic in every sense. The Oyster bracelet is known for its thick and long three-piece link design. It is the most widely used bracelet model. It’s been featured on almost every Rolex model and has enjoyed a huge following.

Its rich history is only one reason it has been so successful, but many people love its simplicity. Because the bracelet has a wide center bar, each link is stronger and less likely to stretch, it is extremely durable. The bracelet’s break point potential is also reduced by the small number of links. However, this comes at a price: the strap feels a little stiffer than other bracelets due to the smaller number of swivel point.

The Oyster bracelet can be used with almost any watch, except for this minor issue. Although the Oyster bracelet looks great on larger watches, its hefty links can be more prominent on large watches. The Oyster is a watch with a rich and varied history and it won’t be going away anytime soon. This is a great place to start experimenting with bracelets!

Alpha Watch

The President bracelet was first worn on the Rolex Day-Date 56 in 1956. Its name comes from Dwight D. Eisenhower’s close association. According to legend, Rolex gave Mr. Eisenhower its 150,000 th certified chronometer in a token of appreciation. He accepted it. Although each link is roughly the same width as the Oyster’s, there are vast differences in the total number of links. Each link on the President bracelet is significantly shorter than that of the Oyster.

Although this eliminates stiffness, it can pose a problem in terms durability. This can lead to an increase in break points but should not be a problem. After wearing the strap for a long time, you might feel some stretching. However, this is due to the quality of the strap and not the link construction.

Because of its smaller links, the President bracelet is much more formal than Oyster. The strap is also more versatile, as it can be worn up or down easily. It is an excellent choice for those who value versatility. This watch works well with small to medium-sized watches. However, this is a personal choice.


The Jubilee bracelet first appeared in 1945 to commemorate Rolex’s 40 th year. It was featured on the Datejust, one Rolex’s most famous dress watches. It was initially only available in gold but soon thereafter, it was made available in steel and two-tone. The Jubilee features three thin, polished links that are located between the thick, matte-finish side links. Although the total number of links is the same as that of President bracelet, the central portion appears narrower because of its triple-wide construction.

The Jubilee is placed on watches to draw attention to the central part of the watch face. This minimizes the footprint on the wrist. This effect is magnified by the two-tone variations, especially when the central links of the watch are different from the case. A Jubilee bracelet, whether mono- or dual-tone, is a great choice for small and large watches, as it brings out the best in each.

The Jubilee’s propensity to stretch over long periods of times is the only problem. The Jubilee’s tiny links, just like the President of the United States, reduce its structural integrity. The pins that hold each link together begin to loosen over time, eventually extending beyond the wrist of the wearer. Modern construction techniques have solved many structural issues, so that the slight decrease in durability is not noticeable on older models. You shouldn’t have to worry about the Jubilee strap breaking unless you give it some severe abuse.


Engineer bracelets are known for their chunky design. The Engineer was believed to be created by Seiko. Its proportionally-sized links make it a great match for heavy diving watches. These links are very large but they are stacked up to five links in total, making them visually dense. Links are often cut in a pseudohexagonal pattern which gives them an angular appearance that is unmatched by other bracelets.

You might feel a little fatigued by the sheer size of this Engineer bracelet. The Engineer is a great choice for a beater watch because it makes up for its bulky size with its amazing durability.

Although its bulky appearance may seem intimidating to small-wristed people, it is important to remember that proportions are more important then physical dimensions. Engineer bracelets are a strong choice for large wrist divers such as the Seiko Monster. Because the bracelet is the same width as the watch case, it looks very slim when worn. Because they don’t hang too far from the wrist, the lugs are surprisingly small.

The Engineer bracelet is compatible with all wrist sizes, provided it fits the watch.

Watch Talk

The German air force popularized the Aviator watch strap during World War II, as its name implies. The first iterations of the watch were extremely long, so they could be worn directly over pilots’ flight jackets. One or more rivets were also added below the lugs to keep the watches from fluttering off their wrists. For clarity in extreme situations, the watches were often larger than normal (often up to 55mm in diameter). These two items were significantly reduced in size once they reached the general public, but the basic features remained. The final result is a black watch face with white Arabic numerals attached to a leather strap. Large rivets are located below the lugs. These rivets, while no longer functional, add an interesting aesthetic flair and a fascinating backstory.

Because of their past in the air force, Aviator Straps are best suited for pilot watches. Especially those made by Stowa or IWC, Laco, Hamilton , and Hamilton . The striking contrast between the brown Aviator strap and black dial exudes a militaristic aura. The rivets are subtle details that harken back to the original purpose of the watches.

The strap pairs well with chronographs which were introduced later to pilots to help them time their flights. The Aviator is a stunning strap that can be used to spark conversation.


Bund straps were created in World War II for German pilots. They are similar to Aviator straps. However, they have a slightly different purpose. In the event of a crash, the most dangerous thing is the fire that follows. Anything made primarily from metal will quickly melt. Watches come in direct contact with skin so standard straps would be able to cause burns on the wrist.

Bund straps are made with extra padding under the back of the case to prevent it from burning. The extra layer of leather prevented the metal from freezing to skin, which was useful at high altitudes. The Bund strap’s ability to absorb sweat is the final benefit. Early watches were not very resistant to water, and sweat could easily get through the case back and cause damage. The Bund strap was a great way to increase the life expectancy of watches issued by the government because servicemen were very active.

Bund straps may not be for everyone. They can get too warm in the summer and are often too big for people with small waists to wear them on a daily basis. They are a great choice for people with metal allergies, as they keep the watch from touching the skin. This strap is recommended for wrists that are large enough to hold it, particularly if you have a pilot watch, chronograph, or other timepieces. Be aware that the Bund’s padding should follow the contour of your watch as closely possible.

Shark Mesh

Although the Shark Mesh bracelet’s name might conjure up images of the oceanic predator, the strap has very little physical connection to it. Omega launched the popular advertisement campaign for their groundbreaking dive watch, Ploprof 600. This famous title was taken from that campaign. This watch is intended for professional use and can withstand extended operations at extremely deep depths.

The strap of this watch is a testament to its ruggedness and strength. It is not as shark-proof as advertised, but it is still more durable than standard bracelets due to the absence of pins between the links. The entire strap is held together with intertwined loops. This makes it much more durable than a standard bracelet. The loose, chunky chainmail design gives a snug fit to any wrist. Additionally, the links can be easily removed to allow for the removal of excess material.

The strap is quite heavy but retains breathability due to the large gaps between interwoven links.

Shark Mesh’s most distinctive feature is its large links. The Shark Mesh bracelet is a different kind of mesh bracelet. It has a lot more links than other bracelets. Because of its relaxed links, it is easy to wrap around your wrist. This strap can be worn with a vintage 1970’s diver. But, as long as it is in the right proportions, it can be attached to almost anything.


Milanese watch bands were created in Milan, Italy, as their name suggests. The origins of the Milanese mesh design can been traced back to the 13 th century. It was then used as a special type of chainmail. It was hand-made and has remained a speciality in Italy for more than 500 years. These rare straps were revived by German watch strap experts Staib & Vollmer in the 1920’s. This led to a huge rise in their popularity. Milanese straps were a popular choice for vintage dress watches, and this demand continued well into the 1960’s.

They are distinguished by their dense, tightly woven mesh construction which makes them one of the most smoothest metal straps available. Although this does have a small impact on durability, these straps are often worn in formal settings so the risk of being exposed to the elements is lower. People may feel less comfortable with tighter weaves because of the rigidity of the mesh.

These minor issues aside, Milanese Straps are a great choice for everyday wear. They can be worn with modern watches, even though some may consider them antique. Keep in mind the proportions – very thin links can look disproportionate when worn with large watches. I recommend that the watch face not exceed 40mm.


The original invention of Tropic straps was in the 60’s to replace the expensive metal bracelets on Rolex and Tudor watches. While metal bracelets are useful for underwater excursions, they can be heavy and difficult to replace. Rubber straps solved both these problems.

The Tropic strap was the very first rubber strap to be released. It quickly gained a significant share of the market for dive watches. The distinctive basket weave pattern, which is stamped on the strap’s outward-facing side, and the many perforations running from tip to lug made it easy to identify. The strap’s unique texture was complemented by a lot of breathability. This is unusual for a waterproof strap. The original Tropic straps were stiff and fragile in the beginning. However, they had been improved over time to remain soft even after many years of use.

The Tropic strap’s remarkable longevity was one of its most impressive features. Many models are still being used today, more than 40 years after they were originally commissioned. They feel and function exactly the same as when they were first made. They also managed to maintain a slim profile while retaining this durability, something that is very rare for modern versions.

Due to their shared history, Tropic straps work best with vintage divers. However, they can also be used with modern timepieces.

Crown & Buckle

Perlon straps, like Tropic straps in popularity, were also popularized during the 60’s. Perlon straps can be easily identified by their tightly woven basket weave design, which is very similar to a Tropic strap’s surface. It is not a stamped pattern but a weave made of thick nylon-esque threads. Perlon straps have a stunning three-dimensional texture and extreme breathability.

The Perlon strap’s unique feature is its unlimited resizability. There are no predetermined holes so the buckle’s prong slides through the weave.

The strap is ideal for people with unusual wrist sizes as it can be adjusted to any circumference. Perlon is extremely resistant to abrasions, so it will not fray from repeated use. Perlon is also quick drying and doesn’t stretch when wet making it an excellent choice for diving where rubber is not available.

Perlon straps were developed in Europe and never made it to America. These straps are not available in the United States. You might need to search for international sellers to find your desired colors or styles. Perlon straps were very popular in the 60’s and 1970’s. They look great on vintage divers.

They can be used with any watch, no matter what their original purpose was. They are a summer favourite due to their breathability and durability. I recommend buying a few!

Uncle Seiko

The Waffle strap, which was first introduced on the 6105 Diver in early 1970’s is an iconic Seiko invention. This watch is widely considered to be the most important diver in Seiko’s history and was a popular choice for Vietnam war veterans. The original army-issued watches were destroyed in the jungles of Vietnam, but the Seiko 6105 kept going strong long after the war ended. They quickly gained popularity in civilian circles as they were returned by veterans to the U.S.

Many loved the Waffle strap, which was named after its distinctive texture and adorned many of these watches. The strap had numerous small vents running down its sides, which increased its breathability. It was made of rubber and was waterproof, washable and flexible. Many vintage straps have become brittle and hardened, and many people are turning to replicas and homages.

The Waffle strap is best paired with a vintage Seiko. But that’s quite a tall order. These watches and the accompanying straps are no longer in production so they are outrageously expensive for non-collectors. However, they are still very affordable 1:1 replicas that have been sold by many retailers. I recommend them if you want a Seiko experience.

Moon Watch

The long Velcro strap was given to the Apollo astronauts for use with their Omega Speedmasters outside their spacesuit.


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