A Gentleman’s Guide to Watch Bands & Straps There's no easier way to upgrade your timepiece than with a well-chosen watch band

When asked for the time, most of us take a quick glance at our smartphones instead of a watch. However, the timepiece isn’t going anywhere. Watches aren’t just functional — they’re fashionable too.  Whether it’s a piece you wear every day or something you only bring out for special occasions, it’s something every man should have in his wardrobe. The band plays a huge role in a watch’s overall look — that’s why we’re focusing on that particular piece.  Here are just a few of the many types of bands out there, and some tips on the best ways to wear them.

Classic Leather

Basic Leather Watch Band

Leather Watch Bands

The most common choice is the leather band, without any bells and whistles. Its classic design makes it easy to dress up or down. Leather looks equally great at the office as it does at a more formal occasion like a wedding. Neutral colors like black, brown, or tan are great for daily wear while the more complex styles like a python or crocodile make for a more elevated look. Just like any other leather product, your watch band will need some care. They can be ruined if they get wet or are exposed to extreme temperatures, so be mindful when you’re wearing them.

Our pick: Black/Silver Leather, MVMT $100

Contrast Stitching

Contrast Stitching Watch Band

Contrast Stitching on Watch Band

This watch band style uses the added detail of contrast stitching to create an eye-catching look.  The detail comes from the contrast in color between the watch band and the stitching.  Go for watch bands with starkly contrasting stitching, like black and white, for the most impactful look.  Wear this band with an outfit that has distinct contrasting colors, to reflect the aesthetic of the watch, for an ensemble that’s visually intriguing.

Our pick: Rotary, World of Watches $100

Double Ridge Strap

Double Ridge Strap

The double ridge strap adds some texture to the leather band. The ridge effect is created with padding under the watch’s leather. This subtle detail goes a long way in elevating your overall ensemble. This style of watch band looks great with a square-faced watch and will give your watch a sportier look.

Our pick: Professional Calf Leather Watch Strap, Hirsch $66

Rally

Zulu Watch Band

Rally Watch Band

On more casual days, switch things up with a rally watch band.  The watch’s distinctive perforations were originally made so that the watch was breathable for racetrack drivers — but today it’s all about the look.  This is a great band to wear in the summer because the cutouts allow for some airflow and enable the band to move with your wrist better. You’ll be able to avoid any sweating or chaffing.

Our pick: Rally Racing Sport, Tech Swiss $15

NATO

Nato Watch Band

NATO Watch Band

The NATO watch band is made of nylon and comes in a plethora of designs and colors.  Originally used in the military, this band style is valued for its price, durability, and water resistance. If you’re doing anything active or near the water, this is the style you want on your wrist. This band gives off a preppy vibe but is still simple with its slip-through design.  Since there are so many options design-wise, you’re bound to find a band that works well with your style.

Our pick: Weekend Fairfield, Timex $60

Zulu

Zulu Watch Band

NATO Watch Band

This timepiece that’s as durable as it is good-looking. The Zulu strap is the older brother of the NATO band. Made of either nylon or leather, it’s usually thicker and has stainless steel detailing. These bands look good with larger watch faces and are best for casual occasions.

Our pick: Infantry Military Army Sport Quartz Wrist Watch, Amazon $25

Link

Link Watch Band

Link Watch Band

Also known as the bracelet strap, this watch band is a more formal style. A major pro of this watch band is the different options in terms of material — stainless steel, gold, titanium, and wood are all popular. Not only are there a plethora of materials, there are also a few different takes on the link styles. Here are a few different styles:

  • Oyster: A classic band style and the most popular type of the link straps. This band is three links in width, making it stiffer than other types of link bands.  Its thick center link makes it durable with few breaking points.
  • President: Similar to the oyster link with the same three-link width, but has more individual links overall because the links are shorter in height.  This band is not as durable but is more formal than the oyster style. You’ll also get more movement due to the greater number of links
  • Jubilee: This band is comprised of three narrow links in between thick, matte-finished side links.  It can sometimes come two-toned, adding some formality to this style.   
  • Engineer: A chunky band that is five links in width.  The links are sometimes angular and this band tends to be on the heavier side. This style has a more utilitarian look while the weight keeps it formal.

Our pick: Time Teller, Nixon $100

Aviator (Pilot)

Aviator Watch Band

Aviator Watch Band

Aviator bands were made popular during World War II.  Although their design has been altered over the years, the distinctive features have remained the same. Aviator bands are made of leather and have large rivets below the lugs.  They were made to be able to fit over a pilot’s jacket so that they wouldn’t fly off of their wrist.  These bands usually come a bit larger than other bands and look best when worn with pilot watch faces.  

Our pick: Aviator 699 Alligator Embossed Watch, Gilt $89

Bund

Bund Watch Band

Bund Watch Band

The Bund strap is a style that was also invented for pilots.  Their purpose is even more functional than telling time. With an extra layer of padding underneath the back of the watch, they’re meant to protect the pilot’s wrist from burns in the case of a fire. This band may not be the most practical choice since they’re on the bulkier side and are quite warm.

Our pick: Bund Strap, Feit $180

Tropic/Rubber

Rubber Watch Band

Tropic Watch Band

The Tropic band is the first rubber watch band that was ever released.  It has a unique texture, great breathability, and a slim profile too. This style is popular among the diving community, but also for anyone else looking for a durable, water-resistant watch.

Our pick: Taft Street, Timex $60

Watch and Learn 

Whether it’s something you save or splurge on, your watch is a reflection of you. Sporty and rugged or formal and refined — it’s all in the band you choose. Experiment with interchangeable straps until you find some you like and that you’re comfortable in.