We talk a lot about power and performance when discussing watches. But let’s not overlook watch straps. More than just an aesthetic component, the strap – or band – accounts for the comfort level of a given model. Let’s take a look at the different types of straps, bands, and bracelets that you can choose from.
Types of Watch Bands
Let’s talk about the general classifications of bands that you can take a look at, based on material and construction, before we dig deeper into the more distinct strap specifications (more on this later).
Specifically the deployment strap, this watch strap is often made of plastic, rubber, leathers, gels, or fabric. There are various widths available, depending on the size of the watch itself, and whether it’s made for men or women.
One of the most common strap materials, stainless steel is made of a highly durable mix of chromium and steel. This band usually resembles precious metals. It is resistant to rust, is durable, and is strong.
Bracelets are made of flexible material with detachable links. Adding or removing links is often done to customize the length of the band.
Fabric bands are more casual, allowing you to experiment with different colors, prints, and patterns. These are made of various textiles.
Considered a material suited for the classic watch look, leather can come in different forms. These usually are calfskin, cowhide, or even alligator and crocodile. Of course, there are faux leathers as well.
Ceramic bands are made of two or more metals that are heated and compressed to produce this hard material.
PLASTIC OR RUBBER
Usually used for casual or sport watches, these bands are made in a way that renders them resistant to some degree of moisture and shock.
Bangles are just like link bracelets. This type looks like any piece of jewelry. You can stack them with bracelets if you want a fashion-forward layered look.
Types of Watch Straps
The Oyster was first introduced in the 30s by Rolex. It’s considered the ultimate classic watch strap. It has a long and thick three-piece link format. To this day, it is the most famous model of bracelet available. You can find it on almost every Rolex watch in history. It’s not surprising why it’s still heavily sought-after today.
It was first seen on the Rolex Day-Date back in 1956. This strap is called President mainly because of its connection to the US President Eisenhower. The story tells us that the company offered Eisenhower with the 150,000th Rolex chronometer as a gift and token of respect. He accepted. The link width of the President is somewhat similar to the Oyster’s, but the biggest difference lies in the total number of links. It is denser than the Oyster, meaning that the links are a lot shorter.
This design solves the stiffness issue but brings forth the question of durability. By adding more links, they also increased the potential points of breakage. However, this is never a major problem, given the overall quality of Rolex products. After extensive wear, it is possible to notice a minor amount of stretching. Of course, this relies on the strap quality as opposed to just the construction of the links.
Aviator / Pilot
We’ve talked about aviator watches extensively in the past. Let’s look into how its bracelet came to be. This strap was made famous in the Second World War by German air forces. In fact, the original designs were very long to make them fit over the aviators’ flight jackets. There were a number of rivets directly added below the lugs, designed to avoid flying off the wrists while on the air. The watches are oversized, at about 55mm or larger, to give the pilots an easier time reading the time in intense situations.
When these watches hit the market, the sizes were significantly reduced for the mass population. Still, the basics of the model were retained: and what we’re left with is a simple, black watch face with white numbers connected to a leather band with big rivets under the lugs. Of course, these rivets serve no function to the general user, but they do add an aesthetic to the overall look, powered by history.
Zulu straps are trademarked by Maratac. These straps don’t as much backstory as the others on this list. These are mainly inspired by Nato straps but do carry some differences that set them apart. First of all, the Zulu strap has thicker materials, usually leather or nylon. As a result, you get more strength and better durability. However, this limits the number of watch models that can fit the straps between their spring bars.
Secondly, Zulu bands use bigger and more rounded hardware to compensate for their larger girth. This makes Zulu straps good for big watches. Common complaints from users include having to wait for a long break-in period before the strap gets comfortable. But in the end, you are also getting better longevity and durability.
Rally straps take inspiration from old-fashioned racing gloves. You can easily recognize a Rally strap from the three (or more) perforations punched below the lugs. As a sport, auto racing is – first of all – a test of speed. Weight affects the racer’s maximum velocity, that’s why many race cars were designed with parts that have holes all over. As a result, the overall weight of the car was reduced, increasing its speed. As an homage to this principle, driving gloves were perforated as well. Rally straps take inspiration from this. Today, these are available to the general public and remain a vintage look for racers and non-racers alike.
First launched for the 40th anniversary of Rolex in 1945, the Jubilee bracelet premiered on the Rolex Datejust (which, to this day, is among the brand’s most popular dress watches). Originally, the Jubilee was only available in steel, gold, and two-tone versions. Soon, more variations were released. You can recognize the Jubilee by its three narrow and well-polished links found between the side links that have a thick matte finish. The Jubilee has the same number of links as the President strap, however, its middle portion looks narrower because of the triple-wide construction.
The NATO strap is famous for many things. The most notable of which is its one-piece construction. Most straps use at least two separate pieces and can be applied by taking out both of the spring bars connected to the watch. This is, of course, time-consuming. NATO straps solve this issue because they are simply woven below the spring bars. You can take them out and apply them in mere seconds. Plus, having a watch-keeper strap makes sure that your case will firmly stay on your wrist even if one of your spring bars snaps off.
Engineer bracelets have a dramatically big wrist presence. They are designed this way. Many say that this design was created by Seiko. The huge size of this band makes it an ideal match for bigger dive watches, thanks to its large links. But even if these links are bigger than usual, they are stacked to a total of five, making them look dense. Usually, the links are cut in a pseudo-hexagonal manner, rendering an angular pattern that very few bracelets in the market can match.
Milanese straps, as the name suggests, originate from Milan, Italy. This strap has a mesh design that goes back to the 13th century. At the time, this material was used as a form of chainmail. It was manufactured completely by hand – a specialty that remains an Italian tradition for more than 500 years.
In the 1920s, Staib and Vollmer, German watch strap specialists renewed the manufacturing of these straps. This led to a massive spike in the strap’s popularity. This fame lasted until the 60s, making these bands a common component of vintage dress watches.
Bund straps were invented by German aviators back in the Second World War, just like aviator straps. However, their conception is for an entirely different reason. In the event of a plane crash, the biggest hazard in history is the fire that follows. Anything that is made of metal would instantly become superheated. For this reason, the bund strap was invented to prevent burning the skin – since watches are always in direct contact with the pilot’s skin. Any standard strap will lead to scalding.
The Waffle strap premiered on the Seiko 6105 Diver back in the 70s. This strap is an icon for the brand and is even considered the single most essential diver watch in its history. Vietnamese servicemen often chose this model back in the day. Originally, these watches were issued to the army but failed in the humid jungle environment. Thankfully, these models kept production long after the war ended. Veterans going back to the US took these watches with them, giving birth to a rise in popularity among non-army circles.
These straps were first conceptualized in the 60s, with the vision of having a cheaper alternative for metal straps. They were developed for Tudor and Rolex sport watches. Plus, it was greatly impractical to use metal bracelets for sports. While metal was great for underwater use, they were quite heavy and costly to replace. Rubber straps soon came in as a practical solution to such problems.
The Tropic was the very first rubber strap in the market. It was quickly in other designs, such as dive watches. You can recognize it from its basket weave pattern that is stamped on the outside side of the bracelet. Plus, it has several perforations that are placed from the tip to the lug.
Perlon straps were also popularized in the 60s. You can recognize these with their basket-weave patterns, similar to the Tropic strap. But instead of being a stamped pattern, Perlon straps are actual weaves made of thick threads. This design makes these straps have a realistic 3D texture while also affording the user with immense breathability. In addition, Perlon straps are resizable infinitely because they have no definite number of holes. Its prong just slides through any opening in the weave.
The Shark Mesh strap, just from its name alone, can give you an idea that it’s used for fierce water activities – or that it was inspired by the shark. But it doesn’t actually have any relation to this creature. This name was taken from an Omega advertising campaign for the Ploprof 600, their newest dive watch at the time. It was marketed for professional divers, as it was designed to withstand deep operations. The strap itself is quite heavy, but it allows for great breathability through the big gaps between the interwoven links. Similar look and feel as a Milanese with a deeper, unique link pattern
Finally, we have the NASA strap. It is a long velcro band designed for the Apollo astronauts, to go with their Omega Speedmasters. The watches were worn outside of their spacesuits.
There are many types of watch bands and straps today. It’s overwhelming to read about all these options, but the most important thing to remember is that you only need to think of two things when choosing: (1) do you plan on using the watch for specific jobs or for playing certain sports?, and (2) what particular style preference do you have? These two things will be all you need to decide which band you ultimately need.
We hope this guide has been helpful. Let us know in the comments which watch strap you chose, and why!