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Panerai Luminor 1950 on a classic raw leather strap
- See Also Bracelet
A strap or band is a flexible loop used to attach a watch to the wrist.
There are many different styles of watch strap, from a simple loop to a metal bracelet. The most basic watch straps are similar to a belt, being a leather or cloth loop with a buckle. Most straps attach to a spring bar held between the lugs of a watch, though some pass under the watch in a continuous loop. Some straps use a more-complicated deployant or clasp while others are flexible and require no opening at all.
Common strap styles include the following
This Glashütte Original watch has a traditional tongue and buckle strap
© Glashütte Original
IWC Flieger on a riveted Aviator strap
- A longer piece with a pointed end or “tongue” attaches to the bottom of the case
Some watches feature a mechanical deployant clasp rather than a simple buckle. These often attach as above, but some manufacturers, notably Seiko swap the arrangement of these pieces when they are used with a deployant.
The familiar NATO strap features two pieces that attach differently The “watch keeper” loops through the lugs to hold the watch while another passes under the watch, attaching to the first strip as well as the clasp. The Zulu strap is similar but may have only one loop.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso on a blue crocodile strap lined with calfskin
Leather is the most common strap material, typically made from cowhide, horsehide (“Shell Cordovan”), or reptile. Straps made from alligator, cayman, or crocodile are prized for their durability and flexibility, while those made from lizard or ostrich have decorative patterns.
Some watch straps are made from plastic, rubber, or silicone. This is popular in low-cost watches as well as in dive watches. For example, Tropic straps are popular silicone rubber straps for diving, while Swatch watches usually have color-matched plastic straps.
A TAG Heuer Monza with a Rally strap
© TAG Heuer
Most watch straps have multiple layers attached with stitching at the side. Typical straps include an inner surface (often calfskin) for comfort and an outer surface for decoration and wear. They are usually padded in between.
Some straps are perforated, such as the popular “Rally” pattern (with 3-4 large holes) or riveted (as on many pilot watches).
Lugs and Attachment
Most watches have a spring bar between the lugs. This can be accessed from the inside using a spring bar tool. Pressed away from the lugs, the spring bar will disconnect and allow the strap to be changed. Some lugs are “drilled”, so the spring bar can be compressed by poking a tool through the hole on the outside face of the lug. Some are drilled and feature screws to retain the bars.
Not all lugs have spring bars, however. Some have fixed bars, either soldered in or a solid loop. The strap must be stitched to these bars or looped through them as on the NATO strap.
Most straps are flat at the lugs, but some are contoured at the end, fitting to the rounded case between the lugs on some watches. Similarly, some bracelets have contoured end links that fit exactly to the watch.
Some watches feature non-standard lugs and straps that attach at the center or through other mechanisms.
Watch straps are typically listed with three measurements
- The lug width, measured in millimeters and typically falling between 14 and 24 mm.
- The buckle width, measured in millimeters and typically (but not always) 2 mm less than the lug width
- The overall length, measured as “short”, “medium”, “long” and so on, though sometimes specified in inches
- The thickness of the strap is also sometimes listed in millimeters
When fitting a watch strap, it is important to consider all of these measurements, usually in order of importance listed here. It is important that the lug width matches the intended watch, that the buckle width matches the buckle or that new hardware is included, and the length matches the wearer's wrist. The thickness and other specifications can vary based on taste and preference.