Buying a watch can be a big investment, especially if it’s the purchase that launches a collection of even bigger investments, sending a guy down a rabbit hole where words like “horology” and “in-house movements” and “reference number” get tossed around. Or a watch can cost less than a few hundred bucks and still hold a place of esteem on your wrist each day for years. Either way, the time piece you wear makes a statement about, both about how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you.
For most men, the watch is the only piece of jewelry that they wear. Yes, watches have a job to do, and some do many more than one, telling everything from the phase of the moon to the day of the week in addition to the time. But watches are more of a decoration than a tool, which is why aesthetics play such an important role.
Then you have to factor in individuality. Not only do you want a watch to look good, but you also want it to not look like everyone else’s. The Rolex Submariner is one of the most handsome (and imitated) timepieces ever created. The first time you see one, a wave of jealousy and desire sweeps over you. But then you realize that you aren’t the only one that feels that way. In fact, lots of other guys and quite a few women love the Sub. Then you’re faced with a bit of an existential conundrum, be like everyone else or go out on your own.
But there is a relatively easy solution to the horological crisis: a watch strap. A new strap or bracelet can completely transform a watch’s visual appeal. A strap made from a beautiful leather creates a more polished look, while a nylon strap makes the exact same watch case appear more workmanlike. Both styles have their place in a man’s wardrobe and swapping out straps is an easy fix that any guy can do with a few simple tools.
So if you’ve shelled out for a statement watch, but want that statement to be a bit more personalized, you don’t have to go out and cop a whole new watch. Just change the strap and you’ll be surprised how different your watch looks. You’ll also find that starting a watch strap collection is far more cost effective than starting a watch collection.
To get you started, we found eight great watch straps that will look sharp on your wrist.
HODINKEE RUSTIC BROWN LEATHER
Vintage watch owners don’t go in for all things shiny and new. They know how to appreciate the patina that objects take on over time. The same discerning quality is evident in this rustic leather strap. The color isn’t uniform because it isn’t supposed to be. Those differences add character, particularly to a heftier tool watch like a Rolex GMT-Master or Omega Speedmaster.
CROWN & BUCKLE NATO
The ballistic nylon strap, more commonly known as the NATO strap, adds color to your wardrobe in a fun and preppy way. They work well with all watch styles, but some tool watches are better served by a solid, while stripes can look sharper on a slimmer case. The red and blue pattern on this one is reminiscent of the famed Martini racing livery.
WORN & WOUND SAFFRON
You don’t tend to see this burnt red color a lot, and it’s a shame because it adds a very cool southwest vibe to whatever’s on your wrist. The suede on this one comes from famed Chicago tannery Horween and has a long nap that creates an incredible texture.
SHINOLA ROSE GOLD
If you prefer a precious metal bracelet for your watch, it is hard to go wrong with rose gold. It’s the personification of understated elegance. Shinola makes one with a distinct link pattern that you can get lost staring at.
HODINKEE SMOOTH DOUBLE
The double watch strap is traditionally associated with Hermés, but Hodinkee also makes a handsome one that is far easier on the wallet. There is something decidedly rakish about wearing a watch strap that loops around twice. It makes you think that whoever would do such a thing, must have an interesting story to tell.
NOMAD VULCANIZED SILICON STRAP
Mechanical watches aren’t the only ones that can do with a little sprucing up. The Apple Watch also benefits greatly by switching out the strap. This silicon strap from Nomad is as tough as they come and has a nice texture that looks similar to carbon fiber.
CROWN & BUCKLE RALLYE STRAP
Watch guys tend to be car guys and vice verse. So it’s easy to understand the appeal of a strap whose design is inspired by the chronographs that race car drivers used to wear, with thick padding and tapered holes.
PUBLIC SCHOOL X FITBIT TYPE III PARACORD
Makers of smart watches and fitness trackers know that a wearable has to be something you actually want to wear. That’s why Fitbit tapped the New York designers behind Public School to create this badass paracord bracelet for the Fitbit Alta device. With this bracelet on, the device is at home in a lot more places than the gym.