The Best Watch Straps for Every Occasion (2024)

One of the best parts of owning a watch is its stylistic and functional versatility. The same watch that you might wear to a formal occasion could serve you just as well 100 meters beneath the ocean’s surface. A big part of that versatility, however, is derived from the thing that keeps that watch on your wrist: the strap. And pretty much every worthwhile watch nowadayshas the added benefit of removable straps.

Sure,you could feasibly buy a bunch of different watches for every occasion. Or you could rely on a select fewto get the job done. All you have to do is swap out the band whenever it calls for a switch. It’s far cheaper than purchasing a litany of full timepieces and serves to illustrate your situational preparedness. But with the hundreds of options available today, where do you start? Well, rather than traversing the internet or trudging through the shopping malls, you could start right here. We’ve done the leg work and put together this list of the best watch straps you can get right now.

Best Watch Straps for Every Occasion

Types of Watch Straps

Leather Aviator Strap: Whenever anyone thinks of a classically styled leather watch strap, they’re imagining anaviator watchband– or at least something likely based on it. Originally popularized during WWII, these watch straps were designed for German pilots with simple functionality in mind. They were easy to attach to the arm and were secure enough that they would stay put during flight. These watch bands typically come in one of two basic styles. The standard style is made of leather, sewn and/or riveted together, and comes equipped with a simple metal or synthetic buckle. The other, known as a bund strap, is very similar in nearly every way, but also comes with a secondary piece of leather that fits beneath the watch case. The reason for this was to protect the wearer’s wrist from burning in the case that flames from a plane crash caused the watch to become superheated. Nowadays either of these straps are handsome and comfortable additions to any watch – and, by proxy, any set of everyday carry gear.

Leather is a fantastic choice for dress watches and the like. However, they don’t have as much versatility style-wise, and your wrist can also suffer from the material’s lack of flexibility and ventilation.

Metal Link Bracelet: The natural and more formal counterpart to the Aviator strap, this type of watch band consists of a number of interlocking metal links that wrap around the wrist. They lend a dressy look to any watch, are very tough, and have the extra benefit of being adjustable by adding or removing links and come in a variety of styles, but the four most popular include the President, Engineer, Jubilee, and Oyster. The downside of many third-party link bracelets is that they may have a hard time matching up with your watch’s case.

Mesh Band: Like the link style, mesh watch straps are also most frequently crafted from metal. In fact, they’re sort of the next logical step, as they are comprised of a greater number of far smaller links. These watch bands tend to be a bit more refined and more appropriate for pairing with a nice suit, but they’re also less resilient than their larger-link counterparts – just a result of having more and smaller moving parts. Of the two prevailing styles, the first is called Milanese, because it was developed, you guessed it, in Milan, Italy. Reminiscent of and developed much in the same manner as the chain mail that made Milan’s armories famous in years long gone, these bands lend a measure of refinement to any watch case. The second style, Shark Mesh, is named for its appearance in an Omega watch advertisem*nt claiming that one of their dive watches was tough enough to survive a shark attack. While that’s not actually true, these bands, while chunkier, are certainly more durable than their Milanese counterparts.

NATO Strap: The NATO strap is easily the cheapest, most accessible, and most versatile of all other watch bands. Typically crafted from nylon, these straps received their name as a shortening of “NATO Stock Number” – which is a 13-digit code used to identify salable products betweenNATO member nations. These watch bands originally gained popularity, however, amongst British soldiers during WWII (at which time it was known as a G10 strap for its association with the G1098 requisition form that had to be filled out in order to get one). Since then, the more tactical style watch strap has remained virtually unchanged, but for color variations and the improvements made in itsconstruction materials over the years. The most notable difference between a NATO strap and other band styles (apart from the nylon construction) is that it features a single-piece design – making them far easier to remove and reattach.

NATO bands tend to be cheaper in price than others and may or may not lend themselves well to ventilation, depending on construction. Likewise, you may be limited in how you can wear these straps.

Rally Strap: With inspiration drawn from classic racing gloves, the rally strap differs from an aviator in one very notable way: it features three or more circular perforations in the center of the band. There are two schools of thought to this style. First, it is believed that – like driving gloves – the rally watch band was perforated as a tribute to early race cars (which feature parts with holes drilled in them to save on weight). The other belief is that the holes were added as a means of ventilation for the wearer. In any case, these watches are a handsome and unique style addition to just about any watch – especially if the wearer likes to incorporate their fondness for quality vehicles into their style. A subset of leather straps, rally/racing straps have some of the same limitations.

Synthetic/Rubber Strap: Most frequently made from rubber (or some variation therein), synthetic straps originated as a means to make diving watches lighter and less cumbersome for actual underwater use. They’re durable, waterproof, flexible, comfortable, and – because they are most frequently black – still offer a clean and handsome style. And, although they are relatively inexpensive and easily replaced, they can also last for an incredibly long time with the right care. If you like the look of a classic dive watch, but you’re not too hot on the idea of carrying around a heavy metal band everywhere you go, these synthetic straps are definitely worth considering. Among rubber straps, the most popular is the “tropic” strap, characterized by its basketweave pattern and unique hole design.

Crown & Buckle Supreme NATO Strap

The Best Watch Straps for Every Occasion (6)
  • Lots of color/pattern options
  • Stainless steel buckle
  • Cheap
  • Soft against skin
  • Website doesn’t organize plethora of strap options well

Best NATO Strap: If you’re looking for a new option for your rugged, adventure-ready field watch, a NATO strap will fit the bill. Available in an array of colors and patterns, Crown & Buckle’s Supreme NATO Strap is not only incredibly affordable but constructed with reinforced stitched nylon that won’t fray over time. It also feels incredibly soft against your skin, which is especially important in removing distractions from your most rigorous excursions. Buckled with tough stainless steel hardware, this strap is a fan favorite for a reason.

Type: NATO
Size Options: 19mm to 22mm

ZULUDIVER Vintage Tropic

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  • 2 spring bar options
  • Several color choices
  • Cool vintage style
  • Limited size options

Best Tropic Strap: Rubber tropic straps are fantastic versatile options, especially when you consider the amount of color options that are available to you. Inspired by the original Swiss Tropical straps from ‘60s/’70s-era divers, the ZULUDIVER Vintage Tropic is simply the best rubber-based accessory to adorn your watch with — especially if you’re looking for a stylish and physically cool option for summertime wear. Available in three colors and sporting diamond hole perforations, this affordable band is made from NBR rubber and boasts salt water and UV resistance which make it a perfect beach or poolside companion as well. However, the basketweave pattern is exquisite on chronographs or everyday timepieces as well.

Type: Rubber
Size Options: 20mm to 22mm

Windup Watch Shop Wyckoff

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  • Good for dress watches
  • Develops patina
  • Soft lining feels nice against skin
  • Limited size options

Best Leather Strap: Leather bands won’t be for everyone but that’s not to say they don’t have their time and place. If you’re looking for the best option for plussing up your dress watch, or even just giving it a new aesthetic to go with a specific outfit, the Windup Watch Shop’s Wyckoff is a solid pick. Sporting pebble-grained leather available in four colorways (different shades of brown and gray), the Italian-constructed strap comes in sizes from 19mm to 22mm and features a soft inner lining. It’s also cut straight with a three-quarter stitch and will develop a patina over time.

Type: Leather
Size Options: 19mm to 22mm

Crown & Buckle Rallye

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  • Really authentic racing strap look
  • Really affordable
  • Heavily padded near holes
  • Basically only makes sense on racing watches

Best Racing Strap: Few watch strap types are as assertive as the classic racing-inspired leather bands. Coming into prominence in the 1970s as the sport was reaching its pinnacle of popularity, rally straps are unlike no other and just may win the trophy in terms of wrist presence. This Rallye from Crown & Buckle has all the hallmarks of the category, featuring three large holes up top, a 5mm contoured design, off-white stitching for contrast against the tan colorway, and calfskin leather construction. The holes are even padded for comfort on your wrist. And if that weren’t enough, this band is also incredibly affordable if you’re looking to level up your racing chronograph in a way that won’t break the bank.

Type: Rally/racing leather
Size Options: 18mm to 24mm

Windup Watch Shop Sackett

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  • Versatile stylistically
  • Very low suede nap
  • Soft lining feels nice against skin
  • Limited size options

Best Suede Strap: Similar to traditional leather straps, suede leather can be a solid choice for dress watches. However, the unique aesthetic gives these types another level of range when adorning your timepieces. For example, suede makes more sense on everyday timepieces and the color options don’t look tacky (as they may on certain pebble-grained leather) once you’ve added the classy suede nap. This option from the Windup Watch Shop is subtle, available in five colorways with matching thread. Italian-made, the Sacket also sports a soft lining on the inside that makes it comfortable to wear all day.

Type: Leather
Size Options: 19mm to 22mm

The Strap Tailor Badalassi Bund Watch Strap

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  • Beautiful leather
  • Wide width options
  • Lots of buckle options
  • Expensive

Best Bund Strap: If you’re not familiar with Bund straps, you likely haven’t seen one before because they’re hard to forget. Designed as a utilitarian tool for fighter pilots in order to protect their skin from the backs of their timepieces heating up in extreme conditions, Bund straps eventually became a popular style piece in the 1970s, even becoming a favorite among Steve McQueen, Miles Davis, and Paul Newman, just to name a few. For an emblematic example, take a look at the Badalassi from The Strap Tailor, a beautiful hand-made band constructed from proprietary Wax Calfskin leather and stitched with polyester thread. Only one color option is available — however, you get to choose from four buckle options and an array of widths.

Type: Leather
Size Options: 17mm to 24mm

Isofrane Dive Watch Rubber Strap

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  • Temperature-resistant
  • Lots of color options
  • Pricey

Best Rubber Strap: If you’re heading into aqueous conditions and want something a bit more purpose-built than tropic straps, you should opt for a traditional rubber strap. With more durability than a tropic, this ISOfrane Dive Watch Strap has been a classic since the 1960s for its incredible resilience and temperature resistance, which is acquired from the Isoprene rubber construction — the same material used in tire production. Built with the brand’s trademark ladder-style design to ventilate your skin and drain it of liquid, the dive watch band also comes in a myriad of color options to match with any timepiece.

Type: Rubber
Size Options: 20mm to 24mm

Forstner Rivet Bracelet With Stretch Links

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  • Wide range of sizes
  • Flex lets it grow when your wrist swells
  • Steel can still conduct heat in high temps

Best Stainless Steel Bracelet: Steel bracelets may be one of the least common when it comes to swapping in a new watch accessory, simply due to the fact that it’s often the default band type and can be difficult to find one that matches specifically with the metal used for your watch’s case. However, if you do want to get yourself a new steel bracelet, Forstner’s Rivet Bracelet is a good choice because of its accessible design and stretch links which offer a nice fit. Not to mention, this classic three-link band is great for warmer weather thanks to the added flex which adapts to the potential swelling of your skin.

Type: Metal link bracelet
Size Options: 18mm to 22mm

Staib Satin Finish Heavy Mesh Bracelet

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  • Well-machined stainless steel material and finish
  • High perceived value
  • Only one size; Staib has other options available though

Best Mesh Bracelet: An alternative to steel link bracelets that are a solid choice for warm weather due to their holey construction, mesh bracelets provide you with a wholly new aesthetic altogether. Among the biggest names in third-party mesh bands is the German brand Staib, whose Satin Finish Heavy Mesh Bracelet is perhaps the best quality you can find. The well-machined strap is both vintage and luxurious in appearance while offering a thickness and sturdiness that will ensure its durability on your wrist.

Type: Mesh bracelet
Size Options: 22mm

Nomad Goods Titanium Band

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  • Scratch-resistant
  • Made with aerospace-grade titanium
  • DLC finished
  • Expensive

Best for Apple Watch: Despite the fact that they are exceptional fitness trackers and health monitors, Apple Watches are the de facto tellers of time for most people who wear them. Likewise, the smartwatch is totally rife for third-party bands, which is why Nomad — one of the best tech accessory providers around — has taken it upon itself to make bracelets and straps specifically for the Apple Watch. Toss in titanium material to this $300 swappable bracelet and you have yourself the best option on the market. Titanium is already lighter in weight and more corrosion resistant compared to stainless steel, but this Titanium Band from Nomad is built with scratch-resistant aerospace-grade titanium that’s been DLC finished.

Type: Metal link bracelet
Compatibility: 40mm, 41mm, 45mm, 49mm

The Best Summer Watch Straps

If you’re looking to beat the heat with a new band, check out our guide to the best watch straps for the summertime.

The Best Watch Straps for Every Occasion (2024)
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