Whether you realize it or not, a watch’s strap is one of the first things you notice when looking through that watch boutique window. A strap is an important design element that tells you a lot about a watch. A chocolate brown crocodile strap exudes luxury, while a navy blue rubber strap calls us to the sea, and a gray distressed leather strap takes us back in time to watches of old.
The great thing about straps is that switching them out can bring a whole new lease of life to a watch, making you feel like you have a brand new watch all over again.
When the weather gets warmer, try changing the strap material. Alligator and leather skins don’t fare well in the warm weather or in water, but add a rubber strap (assuming your watch is water-resistant for swimming – see our article hereif in doubt), then you can wear it to the pool, the beach or anywhere tropical without a care in the world.
Another great option for the summer months is a Nato strap. This woven fabric strap with a different colored stripe down the middle has an interesting history. Nato straps were not introduced by the North Atlantic Treaty Organizsation, as the name may suggest, but by the British Military in the 1970s. All soldiers were issued with a chronograph on a leather strap, but many preferred the textile version as it was more comfortable to wear in wet conditions. To order one, they had to put in the NATO reference number G1098, and the name stuck. These kind of straps have become hugely popular over the last few years and there are a number of companies selling them in all kinds of color combinations. See below for some great addresses.
For ladies, try changing the strap color for a brand new look. Most watch companies offer a good choice of colors and can make special orders for you if you have a particular color in mind. Failing that, there are numerous companies offering straps in all kinds of materials. From alligator to snakeskin, manta ray to ostrich and shark to calf skin, and in literally every color under the rainbow, so everyone can get creative.
You may have purchased your watch on a strap, but check to see whether it exists on a bracelet too. Matching metal bracelets provide a whole new look to a timepiece and they don’t wear out like straps do so they are a smart choice. You can always change back and forth when the mood takes you, which brings extra life to your watch.
If you are ordering a new strap online, you will need to measure your existing strap between the lugs. This is the distance between the two metal parts at the top and/or bottom of the case where the strap is attached. The other measurement you will need is the length of the two parts of the strap, although some strap sizes come in XS, S, M, L and XL, which will normally match your clothes size.
If you have a watch that you aren’t wearing so much anymore, it is easy to jazz it up with a new strap and it is great fun experimenting. Check out some of these external strap makers for ideas.
Erika’s Originals was founded by Dutch woman Erika op den Kelder who started out making sandals, but when her husband asked her to make him a custom strap for a vintage Doxa, her business took a whole new direction. The straps are made from old parachute static lines from the 1960s and 70s that were used by the French Air Force, and feature an ingenious loop and hook buckle that allows the owner to adjust the size of the strap. www.erikasoriginals.com
Camille Fournet is one of the leaders in the fabrication of watch straps and they work with many of the big watch brands. They have shops in France, Japan and China. It is also possible to order directly online from all over the world. Check out their website, which is really user friendly and has a huge choice of skins and colors. www.camillefournet.com
Ateliers du Bracelet
This Geneva-based bespoke strap manufacturer (see trio of straps above) allows you to choose the material, color, stitching, shape and thickness of your strap so you can really get creative. Orders take three to four weeks and you can request priority production if you just can’t wait! They have a store in Switzerland at 8 Rue Sigismond-Thalberg, 1201 Geneva, or you an order online. www.adbg.ch
Bas & Lokes
Bas & Lokes started as a father and daughter team, which has grown into a thriving strap business. Based in Sydney, Australia, the company makes bespoke straps that are tailored to the size of your wrist. Check out their vintage-looking leathers, which are super cool. www.basandlokes.com
Crown & Buckle
Crown & Buckle is an online strap manufacturer based in Florida that makes custom, high-quality nylon and leather straps. In business since 2010, the company offers a range of different materials and is best known for its NATO straps which come in an array of styles and colors. www.crownandbuckle.com