You may have thought a few times you’d like to change the strap or bracelet on your watch. It might have broken, or you want a different colour or material to go with your watch. You might have a watch on a bracelet and be interested in seeing if you could get a strap for it. You might be worried that your strap is valuable and want to replace it with something more practical for all round uses.
This blog post will examine watch straps. Next week we will examine bracelets.
To make absolutely sure you change your strap or bracelet properly, it is best to watch a couple of tutorial videos on YouTube. This will ensure you don’t accidentally damage either the strap bracelet or case, or worse, put it on incorrectly and then have your watch fall off your wrist! Here at The Watch Collectors’ Club we are only interested in providing you with the very best advice, so we have curated the following three videos to help:
A Very short and thorough video covering traditional strap replacement:
A very short video covering NATO strap replacement:
A Longer but very thorough overview of changing from a bracelet to a strap:
Changing a Watch Strap- Why Do It?
Almost all watches today have either a bracelet, made of metal and closed using a clasp, or a strap, which is closed using a clasp or a buckle. These two options have been around as long as the wrist watch, and the story of the first Men’s wrist watch is a good one. It had a leather strap.
Both bracelets and straps can break, wear out, get dirty, be the wrong length, or just fall out of fashion. You might have a nice tough digital watch that survives everything you can throw at it, but one day the clasp breaks apart. You might have a beautiful gold watch you inherited, however the strap needs updating so you can feel safe wearing it out to a nice dinner or party. Or of course, you might just be bored of the current strap and want a new colour or material.
The Main Types of Watch Strap, Band or Bracelet
A watch strap is also known as a band. These can be made of leather, plastic, rubber, or woven materials such as nylon or Kevlar. There is an almost infinite number of available options, allowing you to be as conservative or as crazy as you want! Today you can find a huge variety of colours materials and designs. A large number of watch enthusiasts get great pleasure experimenting putting different straps on different watches depending on use, fashion, or just their mood!
There is a whole category of straps referred to as “NATO” straps. They are specified as the watch strap for military service, and are issued by NATO member armed forces. They are made of woven nylon, and are specifically designed to be extremely durable. Crucially, they have a double layer of material, so that a section is behind the watch, between the wearer’s wrist and the watch case. The idea is that even if the strap were to catch on something, there is additional security from the double layered effect. There are a huge number of designs available.
A watch bracelet is usually made from metal of some kind and is formed of a set of links connected at one end to the watch case, and at the other to a clasp. The clasp usually has a folding mechanism. When it is open you can slip your hand through, then fold it up to securely clasp it around the wrist. Since these clasps are usually made of the same metal as the bracelet, and the folding section can be designed to hold tight at multiple points, clasps are widely regarded as more secure than a traditional buckle.
A Nato strap
What to Look For In A New Watch Strap
Watch straps are widely available, with a huge range of sellers online. Very simply, you will get what you pay for. If you buy the cheapest you can find on Amazon, don’t be surprised when it wears out within a few months or the buckle breaks easily. Research price levels, look at reviews, and choose a quality supplier. This goes for straps of any material and type.
You should note however, that the straps from the watch brands themselves, Omega, Breitling, etc. are usually expensive, as you pay a “Brand Premium”. It is perfectly possible to put a very cheap strap on an expensive watch and wear it. The most important benefit from buying from a brand is quality materials, potentially with a very sturdy clasp. It is not the case that if you own an Omega you need a £150 strap from Omega to go with it.
Spring Bars and Quick Release Straps
A Spring bar is a small bar that goes between the lugs of the watch and through the end of the strap. It is a simple solution to connect the strap to the watch. They are removed using Springbar Tools (see above).
One option available on modern watches is a “Quick Release” strap. Medium to High quality straps available from strap companies now include this option. This removes the need to use a Springbar tool to change the strap and makes the process of changing the strap much easier. Regardless of whether a new strap has this function, if the strap currently on your watch does not, you will need a Spring bar tool to make the change, and as mentioned, please follow a video tutorial very carefully.
Here are the different options:
Watch clasps were invented to go with bracelets from the start, as it made little sense to have a small buckle on a supposedly-tough bracelet. That being said early clasps were very simple one-fold affairs. The photo below shows you how a modern clasp works.
High quality modern clasps can now be added to bracelets. These are widely available but are more expensive than traditional straps. They are more secure than a simple buckle, and are worth investing in if you feel your watch is valuable. Some people feel they are more secure against theft while you are wearing the watch.
Changing Vintage Watch Straps and Bracelets
Most people change vintage straps and bracelets for safety reasons. While there is a lot of joy to be had from owning a complete vintage watch with original period straps or bracelets, modern options are much stronger and safer. It is also easy to replace the original buckle onto a new strap using a Springbar tool. This is also recommended if you are going to wear the watch regularly, for the same reasons.
Many historical buckles are valuable in their own right. Vintage bracelets are valuable in their own right, but vintage straps are not, as they are seen as unreliable and likely to weak out quickly due to their age. At The Watch Collectors’ Club we recommend putting all your watches onto safe and secure modern straps, and storing the vintage versions for later sale or for wearing in very short intervals.
We hope that this blog post will help you understand what’s possible, and how simple it can be to change a watch strap. Here at The Watch Collectors’ Club we do not believe there is a best strap for each watch. Part of the joy of watch wearing can be found by experimenting with straps and bracelets. There are a huge number of different strap companies, to suit all budgets, so we recommend you explore widely. We also recommend taking great care during the strap changing process, to ensure you don’t damage anything and can be confident in your watch strap when you are done. For more information on the watch world follow us here: