As you contemplate buying a new watch, or replacing a broken or damaged watch band, you may want to know some basic information on materials and styles. While there are literally dozens of materials and styles used to create watch bands, we’ve gathered together the top choices, and helpful information to help you decide.

Watch Band Materials and Styles

There are three basic ways to attach a watch to your wrist.

1. Watch Band

watch band

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A watch band is made of rubber, plastic, or other flexible materials. Usually, these are used for sports and active wear watches, liking diving and running watches. Watch bands are more casual than bracelets or straps, and are usually differentiated by the type of buckle used for them.

Typically, you’ll find Apple Watch bands, Fitbit watch bands, and other, similar smartwatches use these rubber or plastic materials.

2. Watch Strap

A watch strap is generally made of leather, or fabrics like nylon. These attachments for watches are versatile for casual to business wear, and are the great foundational timepiece starter strap.

watch strap

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Leather straps are great for wear with business suits, semi-dressy, and casual attire, while the fabric straps are best for jeans casual, beach going, and similar low-key attire venues and affairs.

Watch straps come in a variety of styles, many with interesting histories behind them.

NATO Strap

The NATO strap is made of a nylon material or thinner leather. It was designed to be a durable band for watches, specifically worn by the military. They were originally debuted as the “G10,” and were worn by British army soldiers in the 1970s. This type of strap was originally seen in World War II, but the name NATO strap was attached to them in the 1970s.

After the Cold War ended, NATO straps became available to the public in military surplus stores, and have grown in popularity since then.

Zulu Strap

The Zulu strap is similar to the NATO strap, except that it is made from a thicker material. This makes them slightly stronger and little bit more durable.

Because Zulu straps are thicker, they also have heftier hardware to accommodate the size and weight of the materials. They’re still easy to attach to your watch, and switch out as the occasion demands.

Zulu straps are best for larger faced watches, as the bulk of each will work better together than more delicate options.

Rally Strap

Old style racing gloves inspired the rally straps. These leather straps are easily identified by the large holes punched into the material on either side of the watch.

Race cars in the old days were perforated in various locations to decrease the amount of metal, and therefore weight, on the machine. This helped with racing speeds. These perforations on cars translated to racing gloves with their perforations, and eventually to the rally straps used for racing watches.

Others claim the holes in the rally strap are there for ventilation. Either way, this type of strap adds a certain class and unique personality to a great watch.

Aviator

This watch strap also has a military background. The Aviator strap was made popular through usage by the German air force during World War II. They were originally designed with extra-long straps, in order to be worn under the pilot’s jacket, to avoid them flying off.

3. Watch Bracelet

Watch bracelets are typically made of metal materials. These might include steel, rose gold, platinum, rhodium, or silver. These are generally considered the elegant, or formal, watch attachments, and often can run into the excessively expensive realm.

Oyster

The Oyster bracelet was introduced by Rolex in the 1930s. It has a long, thick, three-piece link design, and is probably the most easily recognizable classic watch bracelet style. This particular style of bracelet is highly durable, as well as attractive, so makes a great option for anyone who wears their watch nearly constantly, but wants to appear dressier most of the time.

President

The President bracelet receives its name from its close association with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. One such bracelet was given to the President as a gift by Rolex, and has been called by this name ever since.

Shark Mesh

The Shark Mesh bracelet was originated by Omega watches, on their innovative diving watch, the Ploprof 600. The bracelet and watch were designed to withstand severe pressure beneath the water. The design on the Shark Mesh makes it more durable than nearly any other watch bracelet or strap.

Choosing Your Watch Band

Now that you’ve gotten a hint of the types of watch bands, straps, and bracelets available, you can go out and find the right one for you. Most bracelets and straps are easy to remove and switch out for varied occasions, so you may wish to consider a few options to bring home at once.

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