Watch straps are like the frame on a masterpiece painting: they compliment and add to the beauty. Figure out how to perfectly frame any watch in our post “Strapped!”. Use #frameyourwatch for a chance to win $100 in straps.
To start this post off, I want to make sure all readers understand that this post is the result of a collaboration between StrapsCo and Watch Ponder. None of us have ever met each other before; we felt we shared a similar vision so I reached out to them to collaborate with us on showing how the same watch can take on a whole new look and feel just by changing the bands. This post is not an endorsement of StrapsCo (there are tons of companies out there), but I will say that I have found them to be the best in the business for secondary-straps.
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I love watches. To me they are like artwork; I frequently refer to them as “art for the wrist”. Have you ever been to an art museum? They have a wonderful collection of beautiful paintings and sculptures, but not every piece speaks to every person. When my wife and I go to a museum, we both go to different sections to enjoy. I like medieval art while my wife likes impressionist paintings. It occurred to me that watches are somewhat the same. While you might like the modern look of Hublot or Audemars Piguet, I like the simplicity and classicism offered by A Lange & Sohne or Patek Philippe. Yet with a painting, the painting itself is only part of the artwork, the frame is the rest. Each painting has a frame that defines its character, its era, and vision (even if you aren’t an art person, you have to admit some of the frames really complete the painting). Just as a painting has its frame, so does a watch have its straps.
Some watches have iconic bands/bracelets. Rolex has the much-copied Oyster and Jubilee bands. Omega’s Seamaster & Speedmaster bands are equally recognizable. There are purists who want to wear their watch with everything from the original stock band to Rolex-made spring-bars. If you are one of these people, please bear with me — I am not one of these people. I call myself a pragmatist, but I am ok if you view me as an iconoclast. I view the band as the frame on a painting; it may require a new “frame” with each new environment. (If you completely disagree, please send me an email as I’d love to do a post giving the purist point of view — or leave comments).
I got my start with straps defining a watch when I met Shashi Mara, who started the Mara Watch & Company. He created bespoke pieces for the University of Michigan and his pieces are on the wrists of some of the most famous former U of M athletes and graduates. He showed me how a different band changes the whole watch. It can turn a watch from formal jewelry to a casual accessory, all with the same watch. His watches are all equipped with the Patek Philippe quick-release pins that allow you to change your bands out in less than 30 seconds. He provides all of his watches with at least 2-3 individually tailored, hand-made bands from genuine football leather to ostrich skin to luxury Cayman Crocodile. I was inspired by his vision and reached out to someone who seemed to have the right ingredients.
The person I reached out to was Martin at StrapsCo. I have never met Martin, nor had I ever talked to him prior to this project. I had been following StrapsCo on Instragram and saw that they had a vision for straps and how they (literally) framed the watch. I reached out to him and we discovered we share the same ideas and decided to collaborate. With the exception of 2 bands, all the bands pictured today were provided by StrapsCo. While the bands were provided to me free of charge, I want to emphasize that I reached out to StrapsCo because of the company and the vision they present; we both shared a vision for watches and bands/straps and decided to collaborate on this post. I will emphasize that this is not a paid post (I am a nobody except someone who loves watches — anyone paying me would be losing money!). I will (and have been) the first to tell you when I try something out and hate it (i.e. Breitling warranty servicing of watches) but I will also tell you when I love something (i.e. Breitling Navitimers). And don’t forget, Luxury Buyers frequently writes within my postings that I am off my rocker when it comes to endorsing eBay buying and selling of watches — but I love that they provide well-informed dissent to my writing. Therefore, know that I am only endorsing StrapsCo because I think they get it right.
My theory is that almost any watch can work in any environment with the right band. We all have varying outfits; sometimes we have the suit for a meeting, business casual for events, and casual when we go to the Red Sox game. Some people buy multiple watches while others have the watch they love and would rather change the strap or band. Others have the watch they love but hate the band that came with it. I think this ok; while some purists would never put an off-brand strap on their watch, most of us are ok with the pragmatic approach of a new band for a new look. The hardest part of the new look is finding a band that looks good but also fits your personal brand (see our post on personal brand).
The highest barrier to putting on a new strap is that it can be hard to do by yourself. How many of you go to a jewelry store just to get a band changed out? Surprisingly, it’s not that hard to change a band; all you need is a small $8 tool and then see how to do it on youtube. If you have a leather strap, watch this video on how to take off a leather strap. If you have a metal band, watch this video. Once you practice it a few times, you can change a band out in 2 minutes or less. Some bands are even starting to integrate the quick-release pins that make it so you can change out a band with no more than your fingers and it takes about 30 seconds. If you commit to learning how to change your bands, you open yourself to a whole new world of options to express or “frame” your watch experience.
When I contacted StrapsCo, I told them my goal was to take an easy example and a difficult example and show how each watch could take on multiple great looks just by changing the bands. The “easy” watch I chose is the IWC Pilot Watch 3777-01, which if you’ve followed Watch Ponder on our website or Instagram, you know it’s a personal favorite. For the “hard” watch, Martin picked a challenge for us: the Rolex Submariner in Green (a.k.a. The Hulk). We debated multiple different styles and options for each and then settled on three bands for each in addition to a few random bands I had lying around from previous watches.
The IWC was easy. The 3777-01 is the perfect size watch at 43mm, and it looks good with just about anything. You can put on a nice black croc strap and wear it with a suit, or swap in a brown calfskin strap for a more casual feel. I normally wear the watch with a brown calfskin strap, so I made my first move to a nylon olive-drab green with stainless steel rivets. This strap is designed for the larger IWC 48mm watch, so the strap fits a bit on the small side, but with my deployment clasp, it still works great. If you want to use IWC 48mm straps on a 43mm watch, make sure to ask StrapsCo (or your strap provider) for recommendations so you can make sure they fit as not all will work (this is true anytime you deviate from what is designed for the watch). The olive nylon strap looked awesome and harkened back to my days in the military. Though I never had a strap like this on a watch, I wish I would have. The strap gives it the characteristic vintage military issue look, which is quite popular these days (don’t believe me? Watch for all your friends wearing clothes that have some made-up military symbols on them).
Next came my personal favorite. I asked Martin for a beige croc strap, which I have on another watch I own. The strap was designed for Panerai, so the style is different than IWC straps, but I love the look of beige croc straps so I wanted to try. I had to trim it down from 22mm to 21mm to fit the IWC. This can be an unforgiving process; if you ever do it, start with a single micro adjustment (<.3mm) and test fit, then repeat it necessary. However, once it was done, it looked awesome. One of the comments on Instagram was “sick!!”. It truly looks awesome. If I was StrapsCo CEO for a day, I’d make beige or white croc straps in every size for every watch because I think they make the perfect look for summer. Just like a light beer for a hot summer day is perfect, so is a light-colored croc strap to match casual and loose fitting summer outfits. This color is also not very common, so it is an eye-catcher and helps send the message: you care about what’s on your wrist.
Finally came the most popular offering on Instagram: the brown suede leather with white stitching and stainless rivets. I am not surprised this was so popular; it’s the quintessential pilot strap. When I describe it in words (brown leather with white stitching) it doesn’t sound much different than the IWC calfskin strap I have, yet it is a much more casual look and classic feel. The stainless steel rivets really add to its curb appeal. This is another combo I wish I would have had back in my military pilot days as it expresses the classic aviator look and feel. Again, this is a strap intended for a 48mm IWC, so it fit a bit on the small side, but as you can see, it looks awesome.
Overall, I have 5 straps for the IWC 3777-01 that all look great with the watch but each give it a feel and an image that is unique to the strap. The “frame” literally helps create the picture. The beige is my favorite for summer, while the olive nylon is great for casual days where I want the retro-military look (I say retro because olive drab-colored camouflage went away years ago for most militaries). Lastly, the brown leather straps give the watch a perfect business casual feel, but also perfect for straight casual days. With a the simple tool, you can change out your band daily or weekly, depending on how often you want to change and what your watch rotation looks like. However, with bands being this easy to change and making the watch look drastically different, you don’t need multiple watches for different occasions — the same watch can work for any “gallery” — just change the “frame”. Martin and I both came to love the different looks we could achieve with the same watch. This led to the idea of selling bands/straps in a “wardrobe” i.e. buy 2-3 additional straps for your watch to fit your wardrobe. StrapsCo decided to create (and to my knowledge, they are the only ones) the concept of selling straps in packages that include the tools you need to change the straps and extra spring bars. The best part of all is that they will actually help you pick out the right straps if you email them a picture of your watch. Through this process, I realized that Martin and his team have a great eye for matching watches to meet your personal brand, so I recommend taking them up on this service.
Now, the difficult one — the Rolex Hulk (in fairness, Martin wasn’t skeptical at all). I submitted a few ideas, but in all honesty, my ideas were not that great and the team at StrapsCo recommended some changes. They sent 3 bands for the Hulk (@ 20mm). To start them off, I tried the vintage-style distressed brown leather. I was skeptical this would be a good look until I wore it the first day (I wore each band for 2 days to get a feel for it and test the quality). I had a friend tell me it looked awesome. I think my skepticism arose because I am a Rolex purist at heart; I don’t want anything except the stock Oyster band. Yet, the distressed leather looked good. It made an eye-catching watch into an unassuming yet elegant piece for casual environments. The quality of the leather was very high and was surprisingly soft. I was skeptical because the list price was only $30, but the leather was a high quality and the stitching was very well done. I wondered at first if I had inadvertently been sent a premium strap until I realized all the straps had this level of quality. I checked on the StrapsCo website and sure enough — the straps I had were the $30 model; the quality was better than any other I’d bought before in this price range.
Next, I tried the black kevlar strap. I will start this off by saying that I have bought kevlar straps before and they all suck. I hate them because they are too stiff and very uncomfortable. This one was better than others (softer), but still not my favorite strap. Kevlar is a difficult material and is very coarse by nature (after all, enough of it in layers will stop bullets). This band probably looked the most natural of the straps I tried on the Hulk, but it looked too natural; it didn’t add any character. The black band with this watch looks great. But, if I wanted that look, I would rather wear the stock oyster band (like I said, I’m a purist at heart when it comes to Rolex). With that, I decided I didn’t want to keep the kevlar as a long-term look.
Finally, I tried a forest green leather strap with white stitching. This is where I will say that StrapsCo straps are better than any secondary straps I have bought. I mentioned before but will say again, I am not being paid for this post, but StrapsCo straps are better than others I have tried. I asked Martin if he is just a supplier or a designer? He started out as a supplier, yet because he is passionate about straps, he has transitioned to becoming a designer of straps and now features a combination of stock straps and custom straps. His passion shows in the quality. The forest green strap is my favorite of the hulk straps and I intend to leave it on the watch for the long term. It draws out the beautiful green of the watch without being too overwhelming.
Overall, I think the Hulk is harder. A lot of people that buy Rolex want to show their Rolex and don’t want to take away from it in any way (read my previous post on this). However, for those willing to add a new “frame” to help create your personal brand, there is a lot of room. I strongly recommend checking out the distressed leather strap and the forest green strap (also, a brown or black croc strap would look great). Beyond that, unless others have better ideas, I think the Oyster bracelet is hard to beat.
I’ll close out this post by giving you my conclusion. It is very easy to transform a watch to meet any environment with a new band or strap. I am a strong proponent for keeping multiple watch straps in your arsenal. As I finish writing this post, I am wearing my IWC with olive-drab canvas strap with my blue polo shirt and khaki shorts — and it looks awesome. It has the perfect look that I want. While a brown leather strap is also casual, the brown leather strap is like brown leather shoes: everyone wears them these days. The olive strap is the perfect casual strap because it communicates my personal brand but is also different than the other averages joes. Yet, tomorrow when I go to work, it takes 2-3 minutes to change out my strap to a nice brown calfskin with white stitching or a black croc strap. I encourage you to take a look. Try it. Check out StrapsCo or any of the other companies out there. If you don’t like the new look, at worst, you are out $30-$40. Remember, it’s like art — but you need more than paint on a canvas; you need the perfect frame to create the full picture.
All photos for this post were taken by the Watch Ponderer.