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Strap Right In

A BAND OR STRAP ISN’T JUST A FUNCTIONAL COMPONENT TO A TIMEPIECE, BUT OFTEN TIMES ACTS AS A DISTINGUISHING FACTOR FOR TODAY’S MOST ICONIC MODELS

In the past, a strap was viewed as just a component of a watch. But over the course of history, the humble watch strap is now viewed by some as an important accessory that can alter and enhance a look of a timepiece. Designers have utilised straps to great effect, treating them as assets to switch up styles and add a new dimension to models.

Newer materials as well as colours have also come into play, extending the number of combinations and styles for modern timepieces. Today, there are numerous examples available in the market, but some have carved their own path in becoming icons in their own right. Here are some straps that are synonymous with today’s most renowned timepieces.

A BAND OR STRAP ISN’T JUST A FUNCTIONAL COMPONENT TO A TIMEPIECE, BUT OFTEN TIMES ACTS AS A DISTINGUISHING FACTOR FOR TODAY’S MOST ICONIC MODELS

In the past, a strap was viewed as just a component of a watch. But over the course of history, the humble watch strap is now viewed by some as an important accessory that can alter and enhance a look of a timepiece. Designers have utilised straps to great effect, treating them as assets to switch up styles and add a new dimension to models.

Newer materials as well as colours have also come into play, extending the number of combinations and styles for modern timepieces. Today, there are numerous examples available in the market, but some have carved their own path in becoming icons in their own right. Here are some straps that are synonymous with today’s most renowned timepieces.

Steel Bracelet

There are many variations to the steel bracelet as it has been a favourite of watch designers due to its safe and secure design as well as robustness. Over the years there have been several designs, all fitted a variety of clasps, which have been adopted or used extensively in models from the world’s biggest watch brands. The Oyster is synonymous with Rolex since the 1930s as is the Jubilee – first used in the Datejust model in the mid-40s. Other examples include the Ladder and Beads of Rice, both manufactured by renowned designer Gay Frères, which were used in the Zenith El Primero in the late 60s and in several Vacheron Constantin models in the 40s and 50s. Zenith most recently utilised the Beads of Rice design for both its Heritage Lady Ultra Automatic and Captain Ultra-Thin Lady Moonphase models, which added a dose of vintage appeal to these models.

The Nato

Originally developed for the British Army in the 70s, these straps have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, becoming a distinct option for watch fans. The main feature of the NATO is its single-piece construction, which not only makes it tough but also easier to apply and remove within seconds. The appeal of the strap though isn’t just for practicality purposes as the NATO delivers a rugged and stylish throwback to current watch collections. This is evident by timepieces such as the TAG Heuer Formula 1 McLaren Limited Edition and Tissot Quickster Lugano, which has utilised these straps to add a new dimension to their respective designs.

Milanese

The Milanese strap dates back to the 1800s, used exclusively as its name suggests by Italian watchmakers. However, it truly came to the fore in mid-30s and 40s, becoming a favoured option for dress and tool watches. Over the next several decades, various watchmakers have tapped into the design of the Milanese strap and its woven mesh construction using it primarily on vintage dress watches. The most recent example, the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days, certainly comes to mind. Some brands such as Omega have also utilised the design of the Milanese to create variations such as the Shark Mesh bracelet, which is decisively larger. It was used to great effect on Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M.

Aviator

World War II made these bands popular and they have been adopted extensively in modern watchmaking ever since. The design features of this strap are mostly utilitarian – relatively thick and made of sturdy leather as it had to fit over a pilot’s jacket. Designs vary over the years some with double stitching and some with large rivets inserted below the lugs. The Bund strap, a variant, sported an extra layer of padding underneath the watch. Owing to their larger size, they fit best with pilot watches evident by the both the IWC Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Edition “Le Petit Prince” and the Tudor Heritage Ranger.

Rubber

Beyond the 80s, rubber was mostly used as practical straps for dive watches. It was cheap, easily replaced and also resilient enough against the elements. But the advancement in materials such as PVC and Silicone, as well as manufacturing, has made these sturdy straps a firm favourite amongst watchmakers, who now offer rubber strap options as part of their collection. But rubber has certainly moved on from just being a preferred strap for dive watches, in recent years with the popularisation of motorsport-inspired pieces, watchmakers have cleverly used rubber straps to enhance a model. The Graham Silverstone RS Endurance 24HR and Zenith El Primero Bullit for instance incorporates a tyre thread pattern into the design of their respective straps.

Steel Bracelet

There are many variations to the steel bracelet as it has been a favourite of watch designers due to its safe and secure design as well as robustness. Over the years there have been several designs, all fitted a variety of clasps, which have been adopted or used extensively in models from the world’s biggest watch brands. The Oyster is synonymous with Rolex since the 1930s as is the Jubilee – first used in the Datejust model in the mid-40s. Other examples include the Ladder and Beads of Rice, both manufactured by renowned designer Gay Frères, which were used in the Zenith El Primero in the late 60s and in several Vacheron Constantin models in the 40s and 50s. Zenith most recently utilised the Beads of Rice design for both its Heritage Lady Ultra Automatic and Captain Ultra-Thin Lady Moonphase models, which added a dose of vintage appeal to these models.

The Nato

Originally developed for the British Army in the 70s, these straps have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, becoming a distinct option for watch fans. The main feature of the NATO is its single-piece construction, which not only makes it tough but also easier to apply and remove within seconds. The appeal of the strap though isn’t just for practicality purposes as the NATO delivers a rugged and stylish throwback to current watch collections. This is evident by timepieces such as the TAG Heuer Formula 1 McLaren Limited Edition and Tissot Quickster Lugano, which has utilised these straps to add a new dimension to their respective designs.

Milanese

The Milanese strap dates back to the 1800s, used exclusively as its name suggests by Italian watchmakers. However, it truly came to the fore in mid-30s and 40s, becoming a favoured option for dress and tool watches. Over the next several decades, various watchmakers have tapped into the design of the Milanese strap and its woven mesh construction using it primarily on vintage dress watches. The most recent example, the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days, certainly comes to mind. Some brands such as Omega have also utilised the design of the Milanese to create variations such as the Shark Mesh bracelet, which is decisively larger. It was used to great effect on Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M.

Aviator

World War II made these bands popular and they have been adopted extensively in modern watchmaking ever since. The design features of this strap are mostly utilitarian – relatively thick and made of sturdy leather as it had to fit over a pilot’s jacket. Designs vary over the years some with double stitching and some with large rivets inserted below the lugs. The Bund strap, a variant, sported an extra layer of padding underneath the watch. Owing to their larger size, they fit best with pilot watches evident by the both the IWC Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Edition “Le Petit Prince” and the Tudor Heritage Ranger.

Rubber

Beyond the 80s, rubber was mostly used as practical straps for dive watches. It was cheap, easily replaced and also resilient enough against the elements. But the advancement in materials such as PVC and Silicone, as well as manufacturing, has made these sturdy straps a firm favourite amongst watchmakers, who now offer rubber strap options as part of their collection. But rubber has certainly moved on from just being a preferred strap for dive watches, in recent years with the popularisation of motorsport-inspired pieces, watchmakers have cleverly used rubber straps to enhance a model. The Graham Silverstone RS Endurance 24HR and Zenith El Primero Bullit for instance incorporates a tyre thread pattern into the design of their respective straps.