A Watch Strap Review Roundup
Today, we’ve got something a bit different. While we’ve done reviews of watch straps in the past, they’ve generally been stand-alone affairs. Recently, though, I’ve had a good number of straps come through. Given that people are likely evaluating strap options with the change in weather, I thought it would be handy to have a watch strap roundup of sorts, covering six straps we’ve recently had in.
First up, we’ve got a tweed strap from Rossling. If you recall when I wrote about their watch, the strap was one of the more unique aspects of package. And, of course, I’ve been curious about this style of strap ever since getting in the strap kit from Schofield. Coming in in a dark grey color, the Rossling & Co strap really can be a bit of a chameleon. For this test, I paired with with the Michelsen Arctic Explorer, and set about my day. The tweed material, though leather-backed, makes for a fairly flexible strap, which means it’s easy to wrap around your wrist.
While it might look like you’re attaching a sweater to your watch, that’s really just appearances. I didn’t notice my wrist feeling particularly warm, or any warmer than another leather strap would feel. As I posited in the Rossling watch review, the strap really is a bit of a chameleon. With it’s darker tones, it can blend into a more formal setting; with it’s rougher texture and contrast stitching, it doesn’t look out of place in a casual setting. Perhaps not a look you’d go for in summer, but our friends in the southern hemisphere might be ready for something like this. You can pick one up for yourself in one of five colors (and two buckle finishes) for $39. rosslingco.com
If you’re thinking a summer strap, then, your thoughts may well be turning to a nylon NATO (or B10) style strap – and that makes sense. The straps are fairly lightweight, dry out quickly should you take one for a swim, and they’re available in a variety of sizes, colors, and hardware finishes. In that regard, we’ve got two to bring to your attention. The first of these is from the NATO Strap Co, and goes by the name of Le Mans. Yes, taking a look at it, those colors are reminiscent of a certain famous race car livery (aka paint job), but you won’t find the words Gulf anywhere with this strap.
No worries about the name, though – it’s the colors you’re after with this one. With warmer weather hitting, you can feel free to get some bolder, or lighter, colors in the mix. With the Le Mans strap, you get both. You’ve got the paler blue comprising most of the strap, with the bold orange stripe running down the middle. This strap was also paired to the Michelsen (given the 20mm width), and worked like a champ.
As you would expect from a NATO, the strap is nice and flexible. This one had a nice feel to the material (medium-weave ballistic nylon), not that stiffer style that you can sometimes get. The edges and ends of the strap are well-finished also, leading me to believe that this will last for awhile.
Last, but not least, the strap comes with matte finish hardware, which was a nice change of pace (you often see polished finishes). Coming in at a price of of $16, this is a great summertime option. Should your tastes be for other colors, definitely check out their site, as they’ve got a variety on tap. natostrapsco.com
For those of you on the other side of the Atlantic (as NATO Strap Co based in the US of A), you might be looking for somewhere a bit closer to have a strap sent from. In that case, you may want to have a look at what Gas Gas Bones has on offer. If you recall, we reviewed their velcro straps and really liked what we saw. As of late, GGB has been expanding into leather goods (a natural outgrowth of a strap business, I suppose), but leather isn’t all they do. In this case, we’ve got a nylon NATO on offer as well.
I don’t believe these are being made in the workshop, but they are a known quantity for ordering from, so that’s a plus. On to the strap. This one is a bit thinner than we saw with the Le Mans strap above, which is a tradeoff. It does make for a stiffer strap, although I have a hunch it will break in over time. On the plus side, it does end up with a very tight weave, which makes for a texture that seems more cloth-like.
Our review sample came in a 22mm size, so I paired it to the G. Gerlach Otago for a bit of European synchronicity. As you would expect from a NATO strap, it wore rather lightly, and made for a nice option with the hidden-lug case of the Otago. You can pick one of these up for around $24, or a plainer strap for slightly cheaper. gasgasbones.com
While many folks will opt for the nylon straps for summer weather, I know there are many who might prefer to go for a leather strap, or get one on hand to have for when the weather turns cooler. Whatever the scenario, one of the great things about leather straps is the choice you have in color – both with the strap itself, and the stitching that gets used. The aftermarket for leather straps is especially well-populated when you start looking for 24mm straps (aka, the Panerai replacements), and that’s where we find our next strap that came from Pulchher’s Leather.
And when it comes to color, Pulcher’s has you covered. They’ve got quite the variety of colors available, and even offer strap combos that see each of the two pieces in the strap coming in in a different shade. We were sent one with a uniform shade from their Suitmatcher series, in a rich blue, with what I’m calling a grey stitch (officially, the strap is known as Blue Pearl). The shade is quite nice – brighter for the summer, but not crazy loud. Also, when you get in for a closer look, there are some nice variations in the tone due to the grain of the leather.
Our particular review sample came in with the aforementioned lug width of 24mm, so I paired it with the Magrette Regattare 2011. That was where a pleasant surprise reared up. Often, with these large leather straps, they can be rather stiff when you first put them on. Not so with the Pulcher’s strap. It had a supple flexibility to it that easily conformed to the wrist, making for a comfortable fit right off the bat.
While I’m not personally a big fan of the Pre-V style buckles, it really didn’t present any comfort issues in the wear testing. If you’re looking for a soft, and colorful, leather strap for your big watch, Pulcher’s is worth a look. You can pick up the Suitmatcher series for $130 (buckle included); other lines have slightly higher prices. pulchersleather.com
If you’re looking for something that’s not quite as bulky (both in terms of leather thickness and the watch being paired), then our friends over at Cloudy Sky Leather Works have you covered. Previously, we’ve covered their one-piece straps (thumbnail buckle and button stud). This time around, we’re taking a look at their two-piece strap, along with the newest addition to their stable, a bund-style attachment. Along with giving your wrist some isolation from the metal back (as some people have reactions with metal) of the watch, this can also give a visual boost to a watch, making it appear a bit larger.
For our sample, we went with a blue chromexcel, and opted for white stitching, all in a 20mm width. Given that, this strap got paired with (yup, you guessed it) the Michelsen Arctic Explorer again. As with our previous experiences with Cloudy Sky straps, the leather was very supple, and was comfortably thin (but not so thin you’re worried about it breaking). Once I got it installed on the watch, the bund attachment worked as I thought, by adding a bit of visual heft to the watch itself.
While I found it overall to be pretty comfortable, I also wanted to test it out without the attachment (a note here – while you can slip it off the strap on the long end easily, you’ll have to remove the buckle side from the watch case to get the attachment off). And, well, it was still a great strap. The dark blue shade worked well for everyday in the office, while still giving a little bit of color to the combination.
Combine this with a process that allow you a great bit of flexibility in customization (color, stitching, sizing, etc), and Cloudy Sky is a great (and affordable) way to get a leather strap for your watch. The two piece straps start at $65, and the additional Bund-style backing is a $25 add-on (which, by the way, can be added to any of the straps). Also, don’t forget – WWR can use the code wristwatchreview to get 10% off your order. cloudyskyleatherworks.com
And now we’ve come to the last strap in our roundup. This particular example came in from my old hometown of Detroit, and features something that I’m starting to see a little bit more of in the market – repurposed materials. In this case, Detroit Strap Co is cutting up old baseball gloves to make straps. While you could send in your own glove (for a $25 discount), our sample came from what they had in stock, a Derek Jeter Glove.
When it comes to leather like this, you expect it will have been already broken in for you, and I think that was the case. It was nearly as stiff as some custom leather straps I’ve had cross my desk, but it wasn’t as supple as what I experienced with the Pulcher strap (above). One thing I was pleasantly surprised about was just how clean the leather itself was. You figure for this sort of an operation, used gloves are getting picked up for cheap to turn into these straps (oh, should you not like baseball gloves, check out the list of materials available here).
As this one came in a 22mm width, I paired it up with the Otago as well, and I thought it worked pretty nicely. The strap showed up in time for the 4th of July (can’t get much more American than baseball and American-made), so I had it on for the weekend. Even with being in the outdoors in the sun, this strap worked quite nicely.
In fact, I think the lighter leather is a plus for the summer time, especially if you’re headed to a baseball game. If you’re looking to pick one of these up, prices run around $125 for the sports-based leathers, with some other leather sources coming in $60-65; they also have an intriguing cork option at the $45 mark. detroitstrapco.com
And with that, that wraps up our roundup. While this is by no means exhaustive when it comes to aftermarket options for your watch, it’s a good overview of the different styles you can find out there. If you’ve got a brand that you think we (and the readers) should be aware us, let us know in the comments. Who knows, maybe it’ll make it into another watch strap review!