Everything is just a bit more casual come summertime, both for the sake of style and comfort. We don our shorts, our hats, our sunglasses. A watch fits into the mix as well and should keep the same relaxed look and comfort. And for that, you’ll want to find the right strap.
Nylon and rubber are the obvious choices here — they’re lightweight, soft, breathable and can be washed free of any sand, saltwater and sweat. Leather and metal bands are also acceptable, but opt for something perforated or mesh for enhanced airflow. With that utility comes a dose of effortless, casual cool. Any of these 15 straps will transform any watch into a heat-beating timekeeping companion.
The NATO has its roots in the military and is characterized by a nylon construction that slides through a watch’s spring bars, with a smaller secondary strap looping around the back to create a stronghold on the timepiece. As such, the NATO is a durable option, and the nylon construction is easy to clean. They’re also one of the cheapest strap options out there and look good on virtually any kind of tool or sports watch.
Like a NATO, a perlon is made from nylon but is formed from a braided patterning of the material as opposed to being cut from one dense strip. This, obviously, opens the strap up a bit and aids in airflow, but it also has a less tactical look that’s more suited for dressier pieces. Perlons come as both one-piece and two-piece straps, but we have a preference for the latter because it slips through the back of the watch like a NATO, making swaps quick and easy.
Rubber straps are most associated with dive watches and come in a variety of different styles. “Tropical” straps have a weave pattern and perforations, while other styles have larger holes in them like the iconic ISOfrane strap. Not all rubber straps are created equally: you’ll pay a higher premium for vulcanized and natural rubber, but the price is usually worth it for something that’ll ultimately be more durable and more comfortable.
Steel mesh straps were particularly popular back in the early days of wristwatches and appeared to have resurgences during the 1930s and ’40s and again in the ’60s and ’70s. There are two main varieties: “Milanese,” which is characterized by a tighter, finer metal weave and “Shark Mesh” which is chunkier and looser. The former is ideal for slimmer, dressier pieces and the latter is most at home on a dive watch.
The leather “rally strap” is a style of strap plucked from the racing heyday of the mid-20th century and is characterized by its many holes and perforations. They add a little bit of ventilation, though since sweat can still do damage to the underside of your leather it's best to reserve this kind of strap for cooler nights out, rather than daytime activities.