Every good watch collection should have the right accessories, from watch boxes befitting of their stations to the best tools for a bit of amateur watchmaking. This issue though we’re delving into the most underestimated part of a watch, the element that can transform its entire look in one go: the humble strap. I say ‘humble’ but many straps are far from it. In fact, these days there are some extraordinary artisans making everything from classic calfskin numbers to rubber designed for diving. Whatever you’re after – be that traditional, sporty or statement – there’s a strap for you and, more importantly, your watch.
Your classic watch strap, the kind to match a dress watch or charming vintage number, well-made and comfortable but without detracting from the watch itself. Sumptuous calfskin, leathers exuding refinement and understated colours suited to boardrooms and galas both, these are straps for the traditionalists among you.
Jean Rousseau Brown Alligator Watch Strap, £270
Pure Parisian craftsmanship at its finest, the maestros at Jean Rousseau know their way around a sumptuous stretch of leather. After all, if they’re good enough for Harrods, they’re probably good enough for the best watch in your collection. Case in point, this luxurious – and somehow water repellent – crocodile strap in light brown. If there’s a better match to a 60s gold dress watch – ideally with a champagne dial – we’ve not seen it. It’s pricey, but it’s worth every penny.
Available at Jean Rousseau.
The Strap Tailor Blue Suede Watch Strap, £97
Nothing oozes class quite like suede. The feel and look of the particular type of leather is extraordinary and, like a delicate vintage watch, something that deserves looking after. This denim blue number from British strap specialist The Watch Tailor offers a vintage buckle option to really set off your prize 50s dress piece. It’s a stunner – and you might even have some shoes to match.
Available at The Strap Tailor.
Bulang & Sons Siena Brown Retro Leather Strap, €130 (approx. £112)
Got an old pilots watch or racing chronograph somewhere in need of a new lease of life? Nothing says retro speed like a chunky brown leather strap, particularly with the white stitching we have here. Made by Italian Artisan JPM and supplied by vintage watch retailer Bulang & Sons, it’s the perfect pairing with a vintage Daytona or, even better, original Zenith El Primero.
Available at Bulang & Sons.
Analogue/Shift Laika Black Alpine Strap, $89 (approx. £64)
The guys at stateside vintage specialist Analogue/Shift know what sets a watch apart and have invested that knowledge in a collection of gorgeous horological accessories, including straps. This pared-back, supple black number is from their ever-popular Alpine collection, the name being a tribute to the first dog in space. It should be well-suited to a Speedy, in that case.
Available at Analogue/Shift.
Diving headfirst where leather dare not tread, these are the straps made for the high-octane or ocean depths, with practicality and comfort practiced above all else. They also happen to be pretty cool besides, whether they’re on a dive watch, tool beater or regular summer timepiece.
TROPIC Original Strap, $79 (approx. £57)
Back in the 1960s, TROPIC was the go-to name in dive watch straps and now that they’re back and better than ever, they’re once again making their presence felt. Available in a series of colours, all made from the brand’s proprietary vulcanised rubber formula, they’re incredibly comfortable and, thanks to their perforations, breathable, whether over worn over a wetsuit or not.
Available at Tropic Strap.
Artem Sailcloth Strap, from $85 (approx. £61)
A nautical alternative to rubber, sailcloth straps are one of those things its surprisingly hard to get right. Unless of course it’s all you do. Case in point, Artem, whose satin-sheen sailcloth straps are comfortable from the first wear. The attention to detail behind each strap is superlative, especially in the case of their red contrast stitching number. Think of it like a Fifty Fathoms strap with a twist.
Available at Artem Straps.
ISOFrane Rubber Strap, from $109 (approx. £78)
Another name from the 60s and 70s revived, if you’re looking for a reassuringly chunky piece of rubber to keep your oversized diver testing its water resistance, try an ISOFrane. They’re available in a few versions but if you want a serious performance strap it should be in a performance colour – like this bright yellow that you can see through even the darkest waters.
Available at ISOFrane.
Crown & Buckle Supreme NATO Black & Desert Strap, $34 (approx. £24)
It might be surprising to hear that not all NATO straps are created equal. While the concept’s the same across the board – a strip of canvas slipped through the lugs and under the watch – Crown & Buckle offers some of the highest quality around by using ballistic nylon. This black and desert-coloured version is also one of the more handsome NATO straps we’ve come across.
Available at Crown & Buckle.
A watch says a lot about you but then again so does your strap – or at least, it can do. Forget restrained or practical, these are the straps where style is the only thing that matters. Subtlety? Where’s the fun in that? Restraint? Forget about it. These straps are statements, and they know it.
Visconti Milano Japanese Denim Strap, €155 (approx. £133)
Italian craftsmen know their leather and Visconti Milano has leveraged that ingrained expertise to create some of the most luxurious straps. Yet what sets the brand apart more than other artisans is their willingness to have fun with the formula. Hence, we have this funky Japanese denim piece complete with contrast green stitching, perfectly suited to helping your Daytona stand out from the crowd.
Available at Visconti Milano.
Horus Straps Audemars Piguet Camo, £195
Colours are cool. Camo is cool. Coloured camo? That’s what Horus Straps does best. Sure, they do some solid rubber options in less eye-watering combinations, but if you’re looking to make a statement (ideally attached to a Royal Oak) then look no further than this searing orange number.
Available at Horus Straps.
Paulin Stingray Leather Strap, £85
There’s nothing quite like Shagreen. The scaled pattern is instantly recognisable with its granulated surface and not exactly a subtle addition to your watch. In fact, it’s a solid way to liven up an otherwise minimal piece and this version from Glasgow-based accessible watch brand Paulin proves that you don’t need colour to stand out.
Available at Paulin Watches.
ColaReb Wooden Strap, €49 (approx. £42)
Looking for a sense of ethical superiority from your strap? Then drop your vegan latte and pay attention. Forget faux leather, the truly eco-conscious opt instead for responsibly sourced wood. Well, wooden fibres to be precise but the look and feel are much the same. This cool, gridwork strap is from philosophically feel-good ColaReb combining Italian craftsmanship with innovative materials and comfy microfibre lining.
Available at ColaReb.