Transform your watch for less with Geckota!
A new watch strap can totally transform the look of a watch, so much so sometimes that you can fool yourself into thinking it actually is a new watch!
Even if you’re the most hardcore of watch collectors, the chances are that could liven up your entire collection for less than the cost of a lower-priced microbrand watch. Not only that, but once you’ve bought a few different straps you can easily swap them between watches with the same lug width, giving you endless combinations. And with so many quick-release options now available, you often won’t even need strap changing tools!
When you are buying a new watch, you’ll probably weigh up various factors such as cost, practicality, style and the environment you’re planning to use it in. The same should probably apply to buying watch straps too, as the right pairing can make or break the watch. That said, we know there’s a world of choice out there, so we’ve put together this guide to buying a watch strap to give you a few pointers.
What are the most popular types of watch strap?
Let’s start with the basics. Whatever style of watch you have, there are a number of different options available to you when it comes to pairing it with a strap. We’ll run through four of the most popular types of watch strap here and suggest which type of watch they might pair best with, as well as running through a few pros and cons of each.
Metal watch straps
Also known as bracelets or ‘link straps’, metal watch straps come in a range of materials, with stainless steel and titanium being the most popular.
This style of watch strap is typically hard wearing, smart and extremely versatile, making it equally suited to the office as it is to an underwater adventure or an evening out with friends. As such, they pair well with everything from a vintage style timepiece that benefits from a modern twist, to a more sporty style watch such as a dive watch.
Whilst there are many different types of metal watch straps, there a number of well-known iconic designs. Here we highlight some of those:
THREE-LINK ‘OYSTER’ STYLE - First created by Rolex for their ‘Oyster’ model, this style of strap is three links wide, usually comprising a wide centre link, flanked by two narrower side links. This makes it even more hardwearing than other metal bracelet watch straps, though it’s not quite as fluid as others in our list.
THREE-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 ‘Oyster’ 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.
BEADS OF RICE - Unlike any other bracelet, the inspiration for the name of this type of bracelet is pretty obvious. The individual metal links look like grains of rice. Five ‘rice’ links flanked by 2 bigger links, usually with a butterfly style ‘hidden’ clasp. from the iconic Gay Frères beads-of-rice from the 1940s 1950s, which was famously used on Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin watches. A great choice for more retro-inspired divers watch or a dress watch.
MESH - Typically used on dive watches and made famous by scenes from James Bond and the like. It’s worth noting that mesh bracelets can vary quite significantly in their look and feel. The extremely high-quality German-made mesh straps that we sell are more refined and can work well with dive watches or versatile sports watches or everyday wearers. Whereas the ‘shark-mesh’ style such as our Butterfly H-link Shark Mesh or Genuine H Link Shark Mesh are more tool-like and better suited to larger dive watches.
JUBILEE - This is a fine-link bracelet, but more often referred to as a Jubilee bracelet after Rolex made is famous on DateJust. You’ll often hear people say that these types of bracelet are the most comfortable they have even worn due to the extremely fluid nature given the small links and slight lateral movement. It’s well suited to a dress watch or a sports watch that sits on the dressier side of the fence!
THE ENGINEER – This watch strap has a more industrial-chic feel and utilises a five-link design, with each link being of equal width. Engineer bracelets usually have an entirely brushed finish. These are robust, hardwearing and chunky watch straps that pair well with adventure dive watches.
One final worth checking that the metal strap you like for your watch will fit the design, as it can be harder to fit a metal strap to a watch than other types of watch strap. Most of our metal straps come with straight end links for a universal fit, however we do offer curved end pieces for some straps which you can buy separately for a very modest cost. You can find these in the accessories section of our website, where you can also buy additional/spare links for some of our most popular straps.
Cost: Metal watch straps are a common sight at the higher end of the market, and it is possible to spend three (and sometimes four) figures on a bracelet style strap, but there are plenty of more affordable, good quality options available as well. For an ‘aftermarket’ strap (such as many available on the Geckota store), you can get the same high quality without paying more than £100.
Pros: Durability, fluidity, variety of styles, waterproof
Cons: Cost, more difficult to pair with dressier watches, curved-end links not always available for your specific watch
Browse our collection of metal watch straps to find the perfect complement to your favourite timepiece.
Leather watch straps
Undoubtedly the most classic material for a watch strap, leather watch straps add a touch of class to whatever timepiece it is paired with. Dress up a favourite daily wearer or give your vintage chronograph the complement it deserves by finding just the right leather strap.
Depending on how it is crafted, leather comes in a range of colours, from light tan all the way through to deep mahogany brown and black.
Leather from different sources also creates different effects: calf leather is known for being soft and smooth against the skin, while something more exotic such as ostrich or crocodile leather will have more texture. As for style, the classic ‘no-frills’ leather watch strap will always look good, but if you are after something a little different, leather watch straps have a range of different design features. A few of the most popular include:
CONTRAST STITCHING - It’s amazing how a simple stitch around the outside of a strap can elevate the look and feel of a strap and complement your outfit. The more contrasting the stitch, the more eye-catching the strap.
RACING STYLE - The original straps for racing watches were perforated to enhance breathability, but the style has stuck and is a popular choice with those looking to give a retro look to their favourite watch.
PADDING - Padded leather watch straps incorporate depth into the design to give a more fuller appearance and a sporty aesthetic.
QUICK-RELEASE FEATURE - Previously a feature found only on very expensive OEM straps from high-end watch manufacturers, we now stock an ever-expanding range of leather straps with a quick-release mechanism. Changing straps need never be a chore again!
One final consideration with leather watch straps is that they will require a little care to stay at their best. This should be no more than a light oiling every few months.
Cost: The cost of a leather watch strap can vary enormously, from around £10 to over £200. Cost depends on a number of factors, including the type of leather, the tannery it came from and the process used to make it.
Pros: Huge variety of styles available at different price points to suit all pockets, vast array of colours, can drastically change the look of your favourite watch, often look better with age
Cons: Not as durable as a metal bracelet, get damaged by water, can stain from sweat, can take a bit of 'wearing in'.
Rarer materials can be pricey, as can the most exclusive leathers, but it is still possible to find great quality leather watch straps at affordable prices. Our range of leather watch straps includes everything from unique ostrich leather watch straps, to soft and comfortable calves’ leather.
NATO watch straps
The NATO watch strap is a direct import from the British Army, who invented it in the 70s in response to the need for a hardwearing, reliable and affordable design.
Usually made of nylon, though sometimes found in other materials such as cotton or canvas, the NATO strap is unique in that it is made of only one piece of material (unlike other watch straps which have two separate parts). This makes it easy to change, as the strap is simply threaded through the spring bars. It also means it is less likely to come undone or come off your wrist, as even if one spring bar breaks, the strap remains on your wrist – so perfect for all action lifestyles.
The NATO style strap most naturally lends itself to adventure or military style watches, though don’t be surprised to see it on more high-end models as well; James Bond has famously worn a NATO style strap in several movies.
NATO straps have inevitably evolved since their inception in 1973 and now exist in three main sub-categories:
THE DOUBLE-PASS NATO
This is the original military-issue type NATO design, considered by many to be the most secure style of NATO. This type of NATO comprises two sections that are unified by stitching at one end. The longest section threads through the lugs of the watch head. The second shorter section has retainers that keep the watch head from moving around freely on the wrist and prevent it from sliding off the strap when putting the watch on or taking it off. The downside is that, by design, two layers of fabric sit between the watch and the wrist, which can cause the watch to sit slightly high on the wrist.
THE SINGLE-PASS NATO
Single pass NATO straps, often referred to as a Zulu-style strap has only one single piece of fabric vs the NATO strap's two. This gives it a slimmer profile as only a single layer of fabric sits under the watch. This style of NATO is often prefered by people who like the look of a traditional NATO Strap but are put off by its additional bulk. However, the trade-off is that the hardware that sits underneath the wrist is often bulkier. Due to their one-piece construction, these straps are even quicker to change in and out.
THE ELASTICATED NATO
Elasticated NATO straps take inspiration from the original elasticated parachute webbing material the French Marine Nationale used and are extremely comfortable to wear.
Cost: NATO Straps are amongst the lowest priced straps available and usually range from £10 to £30. Even those on a modest budget can afford to build a small collection of straps in different colours and sizes.
Pros: Easy on the wallet. Can be washed. Huge variety of colours, patterns and weaves available. Very adjustable. Secure. Easy to swap in and out.
Cons: Can make a watch ride high on the wrist. Tail end will often need folding over on smaller wrists. Can be difficult to pair with dressier watches.
Rubber watch straps
Often thought of as the more cost-effective option, rubber watch straps actually have a lot to offer in terms of practicality, and come in a range of attractive styles these days, all while maintaining its affordable price tag.
Rubber is actually a great option for your daily wearer or sports watch, because its natural impermeability means it won’t absorb sweat in the same way that a leather strap might. A rubber strap's waterproof nature brings peace of mind to those who actually venture into the water with their dive watches (yes, some people actually do wear them for their designed purpose - crazy we know!). Rubber straps come in a variety of styles such a waffle pattern, or tropic style which has holes to aid ventilation to the wrist. As with NATO straps, rubber watch straps are occasionally seen accompanying extremely high-end watches as well: the ultimate statement of casual wealth.
Cost: A great quality, well-made rubber watch strap won’t cost the earth, with most coming in well under the £50 mark.
Pros: Waterproof. Practical. Durable. Different textures available. Won't absorb sweat. Affordable.
Cons: Not suited to all watches. Cheaper rubber straps can attract lint. Can feel sticky against skin.