Holiday Gift Guide | WATCH COUTURE EDITION
It's that time of year again, and if you're thinking of buying a new watch strap for yourself or a watch lover in your life, you've come to the right place. When shopping for watch straps, it's important to keep two things in mind: 1) make sure you know what size you need, and 2) figure out what style of strap the person would like.
The sizing part is easy 60% of the time - all you need to do is flip over the strap that is on the watch you're buying for and it will say on the inside of the strap. If that fails, measure the width of the strap (in millimeters) right where it connects to the watch head. Usually, it’s held between two metal protrusions on the watch head called "lugs". If you need to know a measurement without access to the watch itself, a quick google search of the name of the watch and "lug width" can usually answer that for you.
Figuring out what kind of strap to buy, however, is more complicated as there are literally thousands of options out there, and it all depends on the style of watch and the style of the person you're buying for. Below I have come up with a few suggestions for several different people in the hopes that one or more of these will help you narrow down your search. There are straps for all budgets as well (from $10-$200), and even a few exclusive discounts that might save you a bit of money this holiday season. Warm up your scrolling finger, and your cocoa, and I hope you enjoy this curated list of straps.
For the vegan watch collector
First off, not everyone loves or buys or wears leather. It's definitely not as easy to find great looking straps for the vegan watch collector in your life, but this Hodinkee strap is such a beautiful shade of blue and the fibrous texture reminds me of handmade paper or a well-worn denim in the best possible way. The Amagoh Vegan Pineapple Leather Strap In Glacier Bay is available in 18, 19, 20 and 22mm widths and costs $85 on hodinkee.com. (Images Courtesy of Hodinkee)
I have seen a lot of straps in my time, both in person and online, but while researching 100% vegan options for this list I came across something I had never seen before. This Wood strap from Colareb immediately caught my eye, and while it's probably not for everyone, at €36 it might just be that stocking stuffer you're looking for. These straps are available in 18, 20, and 22mm and in tan, black, and dark brown (straps further down that are vegan will be marked with a [v]). (Image Courtesy of Colareb)
For those that love a pop of color
Color in, on, and around watches is a divisive topic. Some people fully embrace the Technicolor dream and others live their watch collecting lives in black, white, and brown. For those looking for a bit of rich sophisticated color that won't shout louder than their watch (or outfit), this Bordeaux Round Scale Alligator strap from Molequin might be for you. This strap is made in France and at €175 is available with an impressive amount of customization at 18, 19, 20, and 21mm widths, short or long lengths, and without or with quick release spring bars for an extra €10. (Images Courtesy of Molequin)
Delugs is a name that carries a lot of respect in the watch collecting community, and for good reason. Their straps are hand-made using some of the finest quality leathers available, and always at a fair price. The above straps are made from Epsom leather which is tanned and dyed at Tanneries Du Puy, a French tannery owned by Hermes. The processes they use are renowned for creating hard-wearing luxurious-feeling leather that accept color extremely well and won't show its age or fade over time. Currently Delugs offers the above colors, as well as two additional blues, and a British racing green that looks stunning. They are available in 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22mm, as well as in three different lengths. The Epsom straps are $95 but Ken at Delugs has offered an extra special holiday gift for the Complecto community. Use the code COMPLECTO10 at checkout from now until December 31st 2022 for 10% off any ready-made strap on the website (pro tip, they usually get a lot of orders around the holiday so don't wait or the strap you want might be out of stock/not come in time). (Image Courtesy of Delugs)
The lover of the outdoors
The Tropic strap was synonymous with diving throughout the 60s and 70s, and while the official tropic brand took a bit of a hiatus over the past couple of decades the real deal is back and just as good, if not better than ever. These are made from Italian Vulcanized Rubber, which means they are soft, breathable, and flexible with the perfect amount of stretch right out of the box. They are a bit on the long side which makes them perfect for diving, but they would feel equally at home on a hike or even a day at the beach. These straps are available in nine colors in 20mm and six in 22mm at $79 from Synchronwatches.com. [Should be vegan, but I couldn't find details about the manufacturing process)] (Image Courtesy of Synchron)
There are plenty of manufacturers out there making seat belt style nylon straps. These premium NATOs from Zuludiver are some of the best. They are incredibly soft, the perfect thickness so your watch won't stick up off your wrist, and they hold up quite well. They also dry very fast (no one likes a soggy strap) and are plenty long to fit over a wetsuit but might not be ideal for those with a small wrist. They are a steal at $25, especially considering some of the more expensive straps out there that don't feel nearly as good. They are currently available in 18, 20, and 22mm, with seven striped options and five solid options as well. [v] (Image Courtesy of Zuludiver)
The quirky strap lover
I hesitate to call this strap quirky, as it's reversible nature (gray on one side, blue on the other) is more functional than anything, however this is also a very unique strap as it's made from woven silk. It also means that one strap can work across two different watches, making four looks in total. As a self-proclaimed strap nerd, I really love this idea. I also really enjoy the fact that this is woven silk and not just another nylon NATO. The strap comes in only 20mm for now and a few color combinations including blue and grey, orange and green, burgundy and black, and bronze and champagne. The price does reflect a two-in-one woven silk strap as it comes in at $178, however RSM have generously offered the Complecto community a 15% discount on these straps until the end of the year if you use the coupon code "Complectoholiday22" at checkout. (Images Courtesy of RSM)
This strap from Zuludiver comes in a variety of color combinations, but the most interesting (and my personal choice) is this white luminous version with red and blue pin stripes. It's such a fun strap to look at, is a fun party trick at watch meet-ups (don't forget your UV flashlight), but also comes with a cool story as well. These Velcro (or hook-and-loop) straps are actually modern recreations of the straps the astronauts used from project Gemini to Skylab, and were produced using the extremely detailed schematics that NASA created for the originals (these are shorter however, as most of us don't wear our watch over a space suit). You can read more about that here, or you can order this Zuludiver Lunar Strap here. At the time of writing, this strap is marked down from $30 to $12 and comes in 20 or 22mm. [v] (Image Courtesy of Zuludiver)
The ones with classic style
If I have several watches with the same lug width, occasionally I will splurge on a strap that will not only work across several of my watches, but will remain timeless. This is one of those straps. Theo and Harris have teamed up with Jean Rousseau to curate a beautiful selection of straps hand made in France to the highest quality and with the best materials. This Rover strap features a teal green Saffiano top shell, which is calf leather embossed with a cross hatch pattern that is designed to resist scuffing and handle every day wear with ease, and is famously used by Prada for their bags. The Rover strap is $169 and is available in 18, 19, and 20mm widths and regular or large lengths. (Image Courtesy of Theo & Harris)
For something even more classic we look next to, believe it or not, a strap from a watch brand. You read that correctly. I have yet to find a simple shell cordovan strap that competes with the straps Nomos offers. The leather Nomos uses is without question top tier and while some shell cordovan can feel rubbery and synthetic, these straps start out and remain over time soft, semi-gloss, and timeless. Some may not know this but shell cordovan is horse leather and is famous for being one of the hardest wearing leathers. The area of the hide that is usable as "shell cordovan" leather is fairly small and after tanning the leather is naturally water resistant, has great natural stretch, and is extremely hard to scratch or wear out, which makes it perfect for shoes and watch straps. Just swap the buckle with the branded buckle that came with your old strap and no one has to know this one came from Nomos. These shell cordovan straps are $110 and come in 17, 18, 19, and 20mm, with up to five length options for each width. (Images Courtesy of Nomos Glashhütte)
The vintage collectors
Among vintage collectors, the brand Forstner has become quite popular as they are one of the best when it comes to faithful reproductions of vintage watch bracelets, and offer bracelet options in odd sizes that fit vintage watches. One of my favorites among them is this Klip bracelet. The ladder style design is pure vintage and due to the way the buckle engages into the gaps on the bracelet, it's almost impossible not to get a comfortable fit (unless your wrist is smaller than 6 inches according to their website). The Klip is $125 and comes in 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22mm. I would recommend sticking to the smaller end especially when pairing it with a modern watch as the bracelet itself is 18mm wide, but the end links are what changes depending on the size you choose. A big watch might look a bit out of place with an 18mm bracelet. [v] (Image Courtesy of Forstner)
A popular racing and all around sporty strap from the 60s and 70s was the Rallye strap. It was featured on many popular models at the time and this particular reproduction of the strap is as period correct as they come. The Ralistra Driving strap comes in a few fantastic vintage inspired colors, but my choice of the bunch is this beautiful golden mustard yellow that will work with almost any dial color. The Driver Strap is $149 and comes in 18, 19, 20, and 22mm. While the Rallye style straps are not currently on sale, Analog:Shift has extended a promo for buy two get one free A:S straps until the end of December. (Images Courtesy of Analog:Shift)
The Secret Santa (read budget-friendly) options
If you find yourself wondering, what about the straps for the budget conscious buyer? You've hit the right section. The straps from Crown & Buckle are really great and definitely won't break the bank. They have almost every style, size, color, and hardware finish you can imagine, and a majority of their straps are between the price of $10-$30. When choosing between the two, I usually go for the premium NATO over the standard equivalent as they are only $2.50 more, the fabric is sewn instead of ultra-sonically welded (in my experience that accounts for a bit more durability), and you get more options for hardware finishing. The Person and Chevron straps are adjustable and tend to be on the short side, so are perfect for those with smaller wrists! The HD NATO are thick but they come in single pass, although from my experience they were a bit rough and needed more breaking-in than the others before they were as comfortable. [v] (for the nylon straps) (Images Courtesy of Crown & Buckle)
Many watch collectors will recognize the name "Strap Habit", as just a few months ago they, along with Brodinkee, raised over $10k for breast cancer research through the sale of their eye-catching pink sail cloth straps. I was, and still am a big supporter of this fundraiser, but if you missed out on that pink strap, or are looking for a color that isn't as vibrant, definitely check out their non-limited sail cloth straps. They are nylon, thin but still feel like great quality, and are easily some of the nicest I have handled. The contrast leather lining and pinhole keeper is a nice touch and adds to the comfort and wearability of these premium straps. The Sail Cloth Straps are available in five colors, and 19, 20, 21, and 22mm widths. Strap Habit is also offering the Complecto community 10% off site-wide this holiday season if you use the code COMPLECTO10 at checkout. (Images Courtesy of Strap Habit)
Those that love interesting texture
Some watch collectors love texture on their watch. If you or someone in your life finds themselves reaching for their watches with textured dials more often than their simpler pieces, maybe they need one of these to spice things up. This mesmerizing icy blue strap from Jean Rousseau could be the wild texture your simple watch needs! The cherry on top is that this strap is made of salmon leather. That's right, salmon leather. This one isn't for everyone, but if it's screaming your name, it's available for $205 on Jean Rousseau's website in 14, 16, 18, 19, or 20mm width and medium or large lengths. (Image Courtesy of Jean Rousseau)
When looking at fabric straps, most think of the NATO, canvas, or sail cloth straps first, but this piece bucks the casual trend in favor of a beautifully textured and traditionally woven fabric top and a high-quality leather lining that you won't find anywhere else. The wool and linen fabric used for this strap comes from Höfer weaving mill in Bavaria which has been in operation for three generations. The "Paul" Höfer edition strap is available from Weltmann for €150 in either 18, 20, or 22mm width. The strap is also available as part of a gift set that includes a keychain, pocket square, and soft glasses case using the same fabric and leather as the strap for €500. (Images Courtesy of Weltmann Munich)
Maxwell L.B. Thorn has been collecting watches for almost 15 years with no plans on slowing down any time soon. What started with a pair of Seiko monsters evolved into an instagram account dedicated to watch straps, a true passion for the industry, and the uncanny (read frustrating) ability to steer any conversation back to watches.