A right watchband lends beauty to your timepiece, a wrong one, on the other hand, would do nothing but deteriorate it. Thus, if you are in need of a watchband replacement, choose it with caution!
As each wristwatch has its own distinct design that suits well with a specific type of band, I cannot recommend you “the best choice”. In this buyer’s guide, I just want to list out a few common criteria for choosing a watchband, so that you can pick up the most suitable one for your beloved watch.
Band width (or lug width)
This is the band’s maximum length by width. It is usually measured by the distance between 2 lugs of your watch. The most common lug widths of men’s watches are 22mm, 20mm, 18mm. When you choose a watchband replacement, bandwidth is the first thing you have to notice, because the new band must have the same width with your previous one, or else, it would be useless to your watch.
Some watchbands taper down from the lug to the clasp/buckle, others do not. An elegant-looking watch should go with a tapered-down band, while a sport-style piece would look much cooler on a total straight one.
Similarly, a watch with large band often looks heftier , while a small watchband would give your timepiece an exquisite appearance. In case you go shopping online, take a look at your target watch’s specifications list to know its band width, so you can imagine how well the watchband fits your wrist. Don’t be fooled by the images!
Another factor that determines whether you like a watch or not, is the case-band transition. I personally don’t like watches with boxy shape, their case-band transition is rather sharp, making the whole watch visually disproportionate. It’s just a matter of personal taste that I’m in favor of smooth-transition watches, others prefer boxy-shaped pieces (the new Rolex Submariner, for example).
When you choose a watchband replacement, pay attention to your watch’s case, if it’s boxy-shaped, it might not fit in well with a tapered-down band because the band would look like a thin tail hanging to the case. A total straight one is a better choice as it would help your watch look more proportionate.
However, this rule can only be applied to round-face watches, square-face pieces should go with taper-down bands to increase exquisiteness because their lug width is usually much larger than that of round watches.A 38mm square watch can have a lug width of 28mm, imagine what your piece would look like if you put it on a straight 28mm band that hardly tapers down?
Producers usually already determined their watches’ style when they designed them. However, there’re some watches that totally change their appearance depending on which type of band you put them on.
A change in band material often leads to the change of your watch’s overall look, so this is the most important criterion that you have to consider carefully when choosing a replacement band. Following are the most common band materials:
Metal watchbands are often made of stainless steel due to its high stability & low cost. Other high-end watches use titanium alloys for better corrosion resistance. Some luxury Swiss brands even produce wristwatches with 100% platinum body which cost hundreds thousands of dollars.
In general, metal watchbands are much more durable than other materials. They can get hits and bumps, accumulate scratches overtime, but still look brand-new after a thorough polish, in other words, they’re recoverable, unlike leather or rubber straps. The real problem of a metal band is the clasp, as it will loosen up soon before the bracelet wears out. Fortunately, clasp replacements are not rare in the market.
Despite having superior toughness and longevity, metal bracelets still have some shortcomings compared to other materials, and the most obvious is the lack of comfort. A metal bracelet gives you a solid feel, but it doesn’t have the softness that you can experience with leather, rubber or fabric straps.
There are 3 most common types of metal bracelets that you’re likely to stumble across in the market:
This is a classic style that you can find on many wristwatches, from budget to luxury (Rolex Oyster, for example). This type of bracelet is often quite thick, so it may not suitable with small-wrist users. Its angularity is another thing you should take into consideration.
This type is more complex than the triple-row. In addition to the 2 outer links, the inner part consists of 3 interstratified small link rows. More links means more flexibility, this is its biggest advantage over the simple triple-row bracelet. Jubilee bracelet is not recommended for users with hairy wrists due to its gappy structure.
This is the dressiest among the 3 types of metal bands. In my aesthetic view, it’s not appropriate for sport watches which usually have thick cases. Its exquisite style is more suitable with dress watches. Obaku, Danish Design and Skagen are known for combining super-thin cases with mesh bracelets to create such attractive dress watches.
Enough for talking about metal bracelets, now we continue to the second watchband material…
In case you want to know more about the differences between genuine & faux leather, read my article here!
When it comes to wristwatches, leather is the most fashionable band material. It lends elegance to your timepiece (especially vintage watch). Softness is another advantage of leather. At first your watchstrap may be too loose or tight, but after a few days, it would comfortably mold around you wrist, that feeling you would never find on a metal bracelet. Watchstraps are often made of 2 leather types:
Any watch would look very nice on an appropriate calfskin strap. It’s suitable with most timepieces, from dress watches to sport watches. Calfskin straps are available in a wide range of styles and forms, my taste runs into NATO/Zulu straps as they make perfect combination with sport-style watches, very cool indeed.
However, it’s worth noting that genuine calfskin is very absorbent, so you shouldn’t wear a watch with calfskin strap when playing sport as your sweat would soak through the strap and damage it from the inside. Thus, when you put a sport watch on a calfskin trap, it’s no longer a “real” sporting piece!
Alligator, crocodile & caiman
This type of reptile leather is more expensive than calfskin. That’s the main reason why it is often used for dress watches to increase the classy look. Alligator/crocodile skin is more expensive than caiman’s due to its superior longevity, therefore, when you stumble across a budget aftermarket alligator/crocodile strap, chances are it’s made of caiman leather.
In general, this type of leather is more durable and dressier-looking than calfskin. But unlike calfskin straps, crocodile leather bands are only available in a few standard styles.
The third most common material is rubber. This type of band is ideal for sport watches as it is unabsorbed and extremely flexible. Rubber is among the kinds of synthetic materials that can sustain most of external impacts.
Rubber strap is the best choice for dive watches because it’s ideal for underwater use!
Despite being so serviceable, rubber straps cannot be used for standard dress watches like metal or leather bands, they’re designed for sporting pieces with practical use!
I am mentioning military-inspired NATO/Zulu straps. In my aesthetic view, they’re very…very cool & stylish. Aviation & diving watches are very suitable with this type of band. It would give your watch a total different appearance, more often than not, much more beautiful.
However, there’re some shortcomings that make it not the most user friendly material:
- Bad smell: your sweat would soak through the strap and make it fusty, so you have to clean your fabric watchstrap frequently.
- Skin irritation: your wrist would feel itchy under the strap after a few hours, it’s almost inevitable, especially in hot days. But don’t worry, you will soon get used to it!
Perhaps some information in this article can be of help to you in your searching for a watchband replacement. A new band would change nearly 50% of your watch’s appearance, and a high-quality one is usually not cheap, so you should try to visualize what your piece looks like on the new watchband before making the purchase!