When I first started buying aftermarket watch straps to complement my growing watch collection, I assumed it would be a straightforward task. However, after years of trial and error, I've come to realize that choosing the right watch strap is a bit of an art, often overlooked in this hobby. In this article, I will share my top five tips for maximizing your strap collection. Feel free to leave a comment with any additional tips you might have!
1 - Buy a Variety of Straps
While I would love to purchase every new watch that catches my eye, the reality is that new watch acquisitions are infrequent for many watch enthusiasts. So, how do you make a modest collection feel like a dream collection? The answer lies in accumulating a diverse range of watch straps.
Octopod Collection - Credit Zuludiver
Changing a watch's strap can drastically enhance its versatility. With the vast selection of straps available, and a booming market for third-party options, it's easier than ever to keep your collection fresh without breaking the bank. I, for instance, own a Seiko Land Tortoise, a timepiece I cherish. The provided stock strap is less impressive than the actual watch (more on this below), but that hasn't stopped me from enjoying this watch in a variety of settings. Thanks to my versatile strap collection, I can wear it on a nylon strap for hikes, a silicone strap for beach outings when I don't feel like dealing with wet nylon, and a leather strap for formal occasions.
Most watches have a standard lug width of 18, 20, or 22 mm, which makes it even more convenient to rotate your straps. Sometimes I buy a strap with a specific watch in mind, only to later learn it looks even better on a different watch. The key here is being open to experimenting. When I stumble upon a good deal for a 20 mm strap, I grab it with confidence, knowing it will fit almost my entire collection. And for a fraction of the cost of a new watch, I can enjoy my existing timepieces with a fresh look.
2 - Look for Pops of Color on Your Watch to Compliment
Tropical Rubber Watch Straps - Credit Zuludiver
Watches often incorporate pops of color to infuse excitement into otherwise understated designs. Think of the blue rehaut on the Nodus GMT Sector GMT Metro or the vibrant orange minute hand on the NTH DevilRay. While the obvious choice might be pairing the dial color of these watches with a color matched strap (which does look great), there's an even better option – finding a strap that accentuates those eye-catching accents. Visualize the Nodus on a striking blue strap, drawing attention to the captivating rehaut, or the NTH on an orange Tropical Rubber strap that truly makes the second hand leap out.
This is precisely the experience I had with my Islander Southold, which I've cherished for about a year. After experimenting with all the "safe" straps in my collection, I felt that I wasn't doing justice to the watch's limited red accents. So, I decided to take a gamble on a 22 mm red strap I stumbled upon online. I'll admit I was initially skeptical when it arrived in the mail. It was hard to imagine how this crimson slab of silicone would complement my watch's appearance. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a shot, and I'm thrilled that I did. The crimson strap made the red accents on the dial come to life like never before, transforming my black dive watch into a joyful daily companion.
3 - Don't Feel Obligated to Use the Provided Strap
ZULUDIVER LUNAR Watch Strap on Tudor Black Bay GMT - Credit Zuludiver
It's easy to assume that watch brands are dedicated to ensuring their watches are as comfortable as they are stylish. Unfortunately, especially in the sub-$500 range, I've learned that this isn't always the case. Take, for example, my beloved Land Tortoise that I mentioned above. Its stock strap, almost impressively stiff, was far from comfortable and wearable.
Rather than agonizing over brands cutting corners when I've just spent my hard-earned money, I've come to accept that third-party straps are an integral part of watch collecting. My advice is simple: don't force yourself to wear an uncomfortable strap just because it came with the watch. Instead, invest in the right strap to enhance your watch's aesthetics and comfort.
4 - Wear It Like No One Is Watching
1973 British Military Watch Strap: 328 MARINE on Omega Seamaster - Credit Zuludiver
As watch enthusiasts, we invest a lot of time and effort into selecting the perfect watches for ourselves. We research brands, delve into watch history, and scrutinize dimensions and specifications to align with our personal preferences. However, it's crucial to remember that this effort is primarily for our own personal satisfaction. Apart from watch meetups and Instagram, most people aren't scrutinizing our wrist choices.
Accepting that we wear watches for ourselves, I firmly advocate for complete freedom in how we choose to adorn our wrists, even if it means defying some conventions along the way. If you think divers look great on leather (which they do), I say go for it! Always wanted to try a nylon strap on your Patek? Don't hesitate. Wear your watches as if no one is watching because, in most cases, they aren't.
5 - Regularly Clean Your Straps
Zuludiver Cleaning Cloths - Credit Zuludiver
Sometimes, I look at an old photo of my favorite gray nylon strap and think, "I don't remember this strap being so vibrant." Then I recall that I missed strap laundry day… again. Just like anything else you wear regularly, watch straps benefit from regular cleaning to stay fresh and to expand their longevity. Be sure to check the cleaning instructions for your specific strap to avoid damage, but I’ve never gone wrong with a little cold water and mild soap to wash away dirt and restore my favorite straps back to like-new condition. When a deep clean is needed, a scrub with toothbrush can go a long way.
I hope these tips help you maximize your watch strap collection and enhance your overall watch-wearing experience. Now, I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences with watch strap collections. Share your own tips or tell us about your favorite strap combinations in the comments below and include some photos of your favorite watch and strap combinations.