Updated: Jul 12, 2021
Our watches are given the most thought, but what about the straps? Straps have a utility purpose of keeping our watches strapped to our wrist, right? Wrong. You may be surprised to learn that straps actually make a huge difference in the watch's appearance. For example:
A Patek Philippe Calatrava is a dress watch on leather, but will you call it a dress watch on a Nato strap? In my humble opinion, No. Why? Because it loses its dressy appearance when it is shifted to another strap. As simple as that. Not that it won't remain a classy and classic watch, it is just that it would not be a watch to be worn formally.
In this article, I will be discussing how a strap can change the appearance of the watch and maybe make you like your watch even more!
If you have a watch that is less than 35mm, you should generally go with a leather strap or the original metal bracelet that accompanied the watch. You might as well use a twistoflex (expansion bracelet). But if your watch is less than 32 mm, you should use a leather strap. In my opinion, a bracelet would not suit the watch unless it is a ladies' watch.
If a watch is on any other strap than leather, it is not a dress watch. You might argue that even watches on bracelets are dress watches, but they look dressy and are not dress watches. According to the strictest rule, a dress watch must be gold, less than 35mm, on an alligator or crocodile strap, thin and manual winding, and it should have a white dial. There should be no second hand (center ) and no complications except for the hour and minute. There should be no minute track and only solid indices or gold numerals. But that was years ago; now, a dress watch is a watch on a leather strap that is less than 40mm and is thin. That is it. Now it is up to you if you want to follow the traditional or modern requirements.
But, if you put a dress watch on any other strap, it would no longer be a dress watch.
If you have a chronograph such as the navitimer, thin and classy, you may use a bracelet but be sure that a leather strap would make it beautiful. It still won't be a dress watch but a formal sporty watch.
Twistoflex is my favorite bracelet as it is practical, reliable, and easy to use. You can use it on almost any sub 38mm watch, but mind that if the watch is fat, it might no go very well on it. I won't talk about +43mm watches because most of them are modern.
A casual strap such as nato, Zulu, sporty leather with dual-tone stitching, and metal bracelets can make your dress watch look casual.
Formal straps such as Brown, Black, Dark Red, and Maroon can make a relatively dressy watch look dressy.
Coming to types of straps for vintage, I am a traditionalist, as most vintage watch collectors are. It would be best if you did not use a bright colour strap with a vintage watch. Instead, go for period-correct options like pigskin and calf leather straps. These were the most common leather straps. I am saying so because the leather straps look equally well on a field or everyday watch as the everyday watches were mostly dress watches. For a diver, I suggest going with the original bracelet unless it is an Aquastar. (that would look nice on dark brown or black leather) Go for a nato strap for a field watch preferable to a darker or medium shade of green or a pastel light brown (adding to the field and military watch looks). This is more essential if the watch has a black dial.
Trench watches or pocket watches with wire lugs are another story. Most would look good on a custom bund, or you might as well go for a single pass leather nato or a leather Zulu. You can use a leather strap with open ends that are specially made for wired lugs.
Use dull shades that are more traditional, like Black, dark brown, light brown, et cetera. However, you may use a dark red strap if the dial goes with it or if the watch is gold. Use a maroon strap for a dress watch from the 70s.
How to change a strap?
It is straightforward. You need to get a tool called the spring bar removing tool.
1. check if the watch has holes in the lugs. If yes, use the tool's pin side, insert it into the hole, and gently pull out the strap.
2.Remove the bar inside carefully and place it into the replacement strap.
3.Now lock one end of the bar into the inner hole, and then use the toothed side of the tool to carefully apply inward force on the teeth of the spring bar and release it into the hole.
4.Tug at the strap gently and see if it is coming out.
For a watch with no holes, slide the strap to a side and apply inward pressure at the tooth of the bar while pulling it out. Then repeat steps 2-4.
For a watch with fixed lugs, slide the strap out and slide another strap. For example, if using a 2 piece leather strap, open the notches inside and then fit the strap in the lug. Close the notch now.
Use the spring bar tool to remove the spring bar holding the buckle and replace it with the other strap to change it. Be careful not to lose any part.
That's it! You can now change a strap and understand how the strap changes the watch's look.