The Complete Men’s Guide to Watch Straps

When a watch is designed, watch manufacturers pay a great deal of attention to the type of strap fitted to the watch. Whether a leather strap or metal bracelet, it sets the tone for the watch. Firstly, the strap reveals the functionality of the timepiece. Therefore, a Dive watch will have a water resistant strap made from rubber. However, a Pilot Watch may have a vintage leather style strap with rivets designed to prevent the strap from flying off. Secondly, the strap makes a style statement. Whereas a minimalist design will have a plain strap with no stitching, a dress watch may have a more luxurious strap in a bright colour or unusual grain.

Replacing Your Watch Strap

Original Branded Straps

When it comes to replacing your watch strap, you can go one of two ways. You can either look for a strap that is identical (or similar) to the original or you can ring the changes with something new. Original branded straps tend to have a higher price tag than generic replacement straps. However, for watches with special fittings, they are sometimes the best option. If you require an original branded strap, please contact us by phone or email. We can source original straps for all the brands on our website including Seiko, Citizen, Oris, Mondaine, Frederique Constant, Maurice Lacroix, Junghans and Michel Herbelin.

Replacement “aftermarket” straps

Replacement watch straps offer a chance to refresh your watch and give it a new look. With so many different types of watch strap available, it can be hard to know what to choose. In this Complete Men’s Guide to Watch Straps we look at all the different types of straps and examine which watches they suit best. Also, we examine why watch straps can vary so much in price.

In terms of Leather Watch Straps we look at Plain, Genuine Skin, Grained, Contrast Stitched, Vintage Leather, Rally, Double Ridged and Vegan Leather. For Non-Leather options we consider NATO, Rubber Dive Straps and Metal Bracelets.


Men’s Guide to Watch Straps: Types of Leather Watch Strap

Plain Leather


Black padded leather watch strap model WH890

Plain Leather Watch Straps are a popular choice. Not only are they smart, but they are comfortable too. For a quality strap, look for one with a rolled edge as it offers a finer finish. Alternatively, a cut edge strap can be a more economical option. The edges ofthe strap are cut and then sealed with a colour stain. The Junghans Max Bill Automatic has a deliberately plain strap to tie in with the Bauhaus design principles of the collection. A good replacement strap for it would be the Askew in black leather with stitched sides. Lightly padded, it has a nubuck lining for increased comfort on the wrist.

Mondaine evo2 big stainless steel watch with 40mm case and red leather strap model MSE.40110.LCExtra long red plain leather flat profile watch strap model WX107

Brands such as Mondaine favour a plain leather strap with no stitching at all. To keep the clean aesthetic of the original Swiss Railways Watch, the Hoxton strap is available in a variety of colours including Mondaine’s favoured Black and Red.

Genuine Skin

Frederique Constant Heart Beat Slimline automatic men's watch with rose gold plated case and brown leather strap model FC312V4S4

Genuine Skin Watch Straps are usually found on the most luxurious timepieces. Often made by hand in Italy, the process of making these high-end straps has many stages and quality control processes. The two pieces of the watch strap are cut from the hide by hand. This is so that the scales of the skin are similar in size and shape across the two pieces. For example, on an alligator hide, the finest straps are cut from the centre of the hide (the animal’s back) where the scales are larger are square in shape. Also, as you move to the edges of the hide, the scales are smaller and less regular in shape. This accounts for the high cost of these straps as sometimes only 3 or 4 straps can be cut from the centre of the hide.

The Frederique Constant Heart Beat Slimline Auto is fitted with an elegant brown alligator leather strap. For an alternative in crocodile, the Milano strap is available in black, brown and tan.

Grained Leather

Grained Leather Watch Straps are usually made from calf leather with an embossed design. The design creates the “grained” look of skins such as crocodile, alligator, shark or lizard.

Timeless styles such as the Frederique Constant Slimline Midsize Watch look great with an alligator grain watch strap. For a similar replacement strap, the Hampton is a good fit and is available in black and brown in a wide range of sizes.

Frederique Constant Slimline midsize, date men's watch with yellow gold plated case and brown leather strap model FC220V5S5Brown croc grain leather watch strap model WH501

Leather With Contrast Stitching

Straps with contrast stitching give a watch a more casual feel. Often found on Pilot Watches and Sailing Watches, the look is smart but relaxed. Both the Alpina Startimer and the Mühle Glashütte Terrasport II Pilot Watch have contrast stitching. For similar replacement straps, try Cambridge or Darcy.

Alpina Startimer Pilot Automatic men's watch with stainless steel case and black leather strap model AL525S4S6Brown modern cut edge leather watch strap model WH805

Vintage Leather

Vintage Leather Watch Straps take their design cues from the watch straps of days gone by. Often found on heritage designs, they are usually made from distressed leather. Consequently, they are designed to look aged and sometimes crease with wear.

MeisterSinger Metris Bronze Line men's watch with bronze case and brown leather strap model ME917BR_SVF02-1Tan vintage distressed leather watch strap model WV101

This just adds to their charm! Often with a simple cut edge, over-stitching at the case gives the strap a practical no-nonsense look. The MeisterSinger Metris and Seiko Presage Hojicha Cocktail Time Limited Edition both utilise vintage leather straps to full effect. For a good value replacement strap, try the Thruxton. Available in Tan, Brown and Black it has stitched detailing at the case and tip.


Just as Rally cars have holes to reduce their weight and increase their speed, Rally Watch Straps follow in the same tradition. Usually with 3 large holes but sometimes with many smaller holes, the holes increase air flow to the wrist. Consequently, Rally Straps are a great choice in summer. Also, the same perforated design can be seen in driving gloves and perforated steering wheels. Therefore, Rally straps are the perfect choice for a racing chronograph such as the Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Healey. For a replacement strap, the Rally or Racing straps are ideal.

Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Healey limited edition men's watch with stainnless steel case and green dial and leather strap model FC397HGR5B6Tan perforated Italian leather quick release watch strap model WR101

Double Ridged

Double Ridged watch straps are great for a watch with a substantial case. Padding underneath the leather creates a double ridged look. Replacement straps such as Miles are a smart, functional option.

Brown double ridge profile leather watch strap model WR916

Vegan Leather

Michel Herbelin City Vegan men's strap watch with stainless steel case model 19515-12LKNWhite vegan imitation leather stitched watch strap model WH634

Vegan Leather Watch Straps are the perfect choice for anyone who chooses not to wear genuine leather. Manufactured from Faux-Leather, it is a synthetic material and is not derived from animals. Also, it has the advantage that it is soft to the touch and therefore comfortable to wear. Michel Herbelin have selected a vegan leather watch strap for their City Watch. Made from 100% plant-based cellulose wadding it is eco-friendly and durable. The FAUX imitation leather strap would be a good option for a possible replacement.


Men’s Guide to Watch Straps: Types of Non-Leather Watch Strap

Leather may be the most traditional option, but no Men’s Guide to Watch Straps would be complete without a good look at the many brilliant non-leather options available.

NATO Straps

NATO Watch Straps have their origins in the military and armed forces. Watch cases with solid lugs were more durable and so single length heavy duty straps were used to thread underneath the case. Created as a practical piece of equipment, they have an enduring appeal. In the 1965 film Thunderball, Sean Connery’s 007 first famously wore a striped NATO strap on his Rolex. Bond has continued to perpetuate the popularity of the NATO, with Daniel Craig also wearing a similar black and grey striped strap on his Omega Seamaster 300 in Spectre.

Whereas the Zulu is a one piece strap, the NATO has a safety feature consisting of an additional flap which goes underneath the case. Therefore, if one of the spring bars should fail, this additional flap secures the watch.

In recent years there has been a definite resurgence in the popularity of NATO and Zulu Watch Straps. Firstly, they are comfortable to wear particularly as the strap goes all the way under the case. Secondly, they are easy to change and furthermore, they are inexpensive.

Oris Carl Brashear Calibre 401 limited edition watch with bronze case and textile strap model 0140177643185-SET Oris Carl Brashear Calibre 401 limited edition watch with bronze case and textile strap model 0140177643185-SETBrown leather heavy duty buckle watch strap model ZUL5

The stunning Oris Carl Brashear Limited Edition in Bronze demonstrates that a NATO strap looks fantastic on a high-end timepiece.

Seiko have selected NATO straps for a number of Seiko 5 Sports models including SRPD77K1. For a replacement in green textile, try the NATO or for a leather option try the ZULU.


Rubber & Silicone Dive Straps

Rubber and Silicone Dive Watch Straps are a practical, functional choice. Durable and water resistant they are also great value for money.


Seiko Prospex King Samurai white dial men's watch with black silicone strap model SRPE37K1Black silicone quick release red stitch watch strap model WH697Q

For day to day wear or sports use, Rubber can be a great option. Its natural impermeability means it won’t absorb sweat in the same way that a leather strap might. Take a look at Velocity or Regatta for two contemporary style silicon straps that would be a great pairing for any daily wear watch.

For a professional Dive Watch, accordion straps allow for expansion of the wrist under water. Invented by Seiko, this type of strap can be seen on models such as the Seiko Prospex “King” Samurai Diver and the Citizen Promaster Diver.

Metal Bracelets

Metal Watch Bracelets are often considered the most durable way to secure your watch to your wrist.


Firstly, for a classic style with a slim case, a MESH Milanese bracelet provides an elegant update. Made from stainless steel and in a variety of finishes, the look is sleek with a hint of retro chic. Originally popular in the 1970’s, Milanese bracelets have made a huge comeback in recent years.

Seiko Presage Frozen Margarita Cocktail limited edition watch with stainless steel case and bracelet model SRPE49J1Silver tone Milanese watch bracelet model 3983

Constructed using wire mesh, there are no pins holding the bracelet together. Consequently, it is flexible, supple and therefore comfortable to wear. Furthermore, the Mesh Bracelet has an adjustable clasp with a safety catch. Easy to adjust yourself, you simply move the clasp to the correct position on the bracelet and then lower a flap to lock it into place. Take a look at the MeisterSinger Neo Plus Pointer Date, Michel Herbelin City and Seiko Presage Frozen Margarita Cocktail Time Watch to see how great a Milanese bracelet can look on a classic style.

Linked Bracelet

Secondly, for a watch with a more substantial case, a linked bracelet with a folding clasp is recommended. Links can be removed to ensure a good fit. Also, minor adjustments on the clasp are also often possible.

However, a word of warning: it’s not as easy to find a replacement watch bracelet that fits well compared to a replacement strap. Watch manufacturers often machine cases so they they exactly fit the bracelet it is supplied with. Therefore if you need a new bracelet, it is a good idea to consider replacing the original with another identical branded bracelet. If this is not possible, replacement bracelets are available. Try to purchase exactly the width that you need so that the bracelet fits well. Also, curved ends with ensure a good fit for a watch with a round case.

The three main types of linked watch bracelet are:-

Ball Fireman NECC automatic men's watch with silver dial and stainless steel case and bracelet model DM3090A-SJ-SLThe 3 LINK OVAL First created by Rolex for their ‘Oyster’ model, this style of strap of just three links wide. Consequently, it is more hardwearing than other metal bracelets, though it can feel a little stiff. The Ball Fireman NECC Automatic has a durable three link bracelet.

Ball Engineer Master II Skindiver II men's automatic watch with stainless steel case and bracelet model DM3108A-SCJ-BK

The 3 LINK D – Also just three links in width, and also first created by Rolex for their ‘President’ model, this style uses much shorter links than the 3 Link Oval style, which means that it feels more flexible. This can mean it is slightly less durable, though the extra links do add a more formal look. Take a look at the SIMPSON for an economical version.



THE ENGINEER – This watch strap has a more industrial-chic feel, with a five-link width design. These are robust, hardwearing watch bracelets that pair well with adventure dive watches. This type of bracelet can be seen on the Ball Engineer Master II Skindiver II Bracelet Chronometer.


Men’s Guide to Watch Straps: How much to Spend on a Watch Strap?

As with all things, you usually get what you pay for and with leather straps it is no different. There is no comparison between a sub £10 strap in hard leather with a cut edge and a beautiful hand made strap. The amount you spend on a strap should reflect the value of your watch. A fine watch should be paired with a well-made strap. Soft leathers make the best watch straps. Also, attention to detail such as nubuck linings and a ribbon loop to stop the keeper on the strap moving too much are all elements that will enhance your wearing experience.

I have been lucky enough to visit a leading Italian watch strap manufacturer on a number of occasions. Seeing at first hand the amount of care that goes into creating a hand-made strap has left me in no doubt: Italian hand made watch straps are the finest in the world. Using only the finest leathers from local tanneries, Italian artisans hand cut, stitch, line and polish each strap. Expect to pay upwards of £40 for an Italian Made watch strap.

However, for a daily wear watch, there are loads of great options available from £15 upwards.

Browse our full selection here and or help on fitting your chosen watch strap, this short video gives some helpful pointers.