What is the most important quality of a wristwatch? Some watch aficionados would say precision. Others would say the looks. Others still, the brand exclusivity.
But there is one characteristic that defines every wristwatch. This is, essentially, the fact that it can be strapped securely around the wrist, using a watch band or bracelet.
The article contains three sections:
– in section one we list a selection of the best watch bands by design type and material – such as traditional two-piece watch bands and one piece NATO straps
– in section two the Groom+Style team provide a list of the best watch bands by brand
– and finally in section three you can find our watch band buying guide
Section One – Best Watch Bands by Material & Type
1. Fullmosa Axus Quick Release Watch Band in Genuine Leather
This company’s products are well-made, very affordable, and come with a quality spring bar remover tool.
This leather watch band is made of 100% Genuine Full Grain Leather. It’s soft and durable, with two cross stitched collars and reinforced lining to ensure optimal wearability and reliability.
The watch bands range from 14 mm to 24 mm in size (lug width), comes in a wide range of colors, and the metal parts come in 316L stainless steel.
Eache watch bands are available in 18, 20 and 22 mm, and wide range of colors.
These excel in providing a gorgeous retro-style at a very affordable price. The bands are high quality. They are full leather that has been wax treated and stitched in a way that offers an almost distressed, suede-like texture.
The leather is thick enough to feel extremely robust yet thin enough to not feel bulky. The stitching is excellent, and the color is deep and natural-looking. The package comes with 4 spring bars and 1 springbar remover tool.
3. Wocci Watch Bands Vintage Leather
The quality of this product is excellent.
We’re not only talking about the material used in the band itself, which is good quality genuine leather with a nice, matte finish and perfect, solid stitching, but also about the quality of the presentation.
The package comes in a stout box with a padded velvet backing, in which the two band halves are each wrapped in clear cellophane. The box includes 4 spring pins of the ordered size, and a well-made spring bar remover tool with a punch pin on the other end.
The sizes are also excellent, ranging from 18 up to 22 mm wide, and 5 different colors.
4. Amband Quick Release Solid Stainless Steel Metal Bracelet Strap
A perfect complement for sporty activities, Amband steel bracelet consists of premium 316L stainless steel that’s been polished and colored by vacuum-plating. Compared to the typical rubber watchband, this stainless steel band has better breathability and prevents allergic reactions.
This bracelet is available in 18, 20 and 22 mm sizes. It features a unique double-button folding clasp, which remains firmly closed, and prevents any accidental loosening.
The band comes with a pin removal tool which makes it possible to adjust the band’s length to your wrist. You can remove up to 6 links. The package includes 4 spring bars, as well as a spring bar remover tool.
5. United Watch Bands Men’s Stainless Steel Stretch Radial Expansion Replacement Strap with No-Clasp
This United Watchbands Men’s stainless steel watch band features a radial-style expansion system to assure a perfect fit of the band to your wrist without any adjustment.
Available in several colors, including a solid gold, solid stainless steel, or gold-steel two-toned combo, this watch band offers the retro inspiration of the Fifties with a modern twist-o-flex technology (no more hair pulling!).
These bands easily attach to the body of your watch, making them simple to wear and use. The adjustable spring end pieces adjust to any watch size between 16-19 millimeters.
They are also quite long, allowing for a good fit on larger wrists.
6. Kai Tian Brushed Stainless Steel Metal Bracelet with Double-Lock Deployment Clasp
Available in two versions, standard and black anodized, this bracelet, available in 18 to 26 mm sizes, is made in industrial quality high grade stainless steel, and comes in a small cushioned box with the links wrapped in plastic to protect against scratches during shipment.
The box gives you a complete kit, with everything you would need, from a small tool to remove links to the springbar remover tools, as well as four spring bars.
It is a nice, heavy bracelet, with a distinctive pleasant design that looks great with any watch.
7. Barton Elite Silicone Quick Release Watch Bands
Barton’s Elite Silicone Quick Release watch straps are decidedly well-made.
They feature a premium textured top, stitched to the sides of the band, a 316L stainless steel buckle, and feature a proprietary locking feature.
Each band purchased also comes standard with two different lengths on the ‘long side’ of the strap to assure they will be a perfect fit for nearly any wrist. They feel strong and robust, without being bulky.
These straps are compatible with any watch (traditional or smart watch) that uses standard 18mm, 19mm, 20mm, 21mm, 22mm, 23mm or 24mm spring bars.
8. Archer Watch Straps Silicone Quick Release Soft Rubber Bands
A perfect strap for the more sporty-minded, Archer Watch Straps’ Silicone Quick Release Straps are crafted from soft, durable, waterproof silicone, with clean lines and classic styling.
These fit perfectly on every smart device or traditional diving watch.
Their sizes range from 16 to 24 mm, fitting wrists from about 5.5″ to 8”. They feature several vibrant colors (the orange looks amazing). They are sure to satisfy even the most demanding users, with their texture, feel, and thickness, which is just right.
9. Carty Quick Release Watch Straps Soft Silicone Rubber
The Carty silicone band is characterized by its extreme comfort. It is soft without needing to be broken in. At the same time, it’s durable and dust-resistant, thanks to the double-layer construction, and it features strong stitching in an accent color.
This strap comes with a premium 304L brushed solid stainless steel buckle. The material is waterproof and perfectly inert, so it stays sweat and stink free. It is also smooth and flexible, and it feels great on your wrist to the point you almost forget you are wearing it.
It is available in sizes 18,20,22 and 24mm and the stitching comes in a choice of 10 colors.
10. Barton NATO Watch Bands in Ballistic Nylon
Barton Watch Bands is an American company located in Austin, Texas, which manufactures quality products that meet the highest standard for fashion, function and fit for the most demanding customers. The Barton NATO straps are made in ballistic nylon and are laser-cut, ultrasonically welded, waterproof and washable.
Barton’s NATO Style straps provide the perfect companion for almost any watch with a 18mm, 20mm, 22mm or 24mm lug width and are available in an amazing array of colors and designs, from the most understated to the boldest. Also, they come in both ‘Standard’ (10″) and ‘Extra Long’ (11″) lengths.
11. Styleover Premium NATO Watch Bands Nylon Strap
Styleover makes some no-nonsense straps at a very affordable price, while still giving you a huge catalog of styles to choose from. These bands are available from 16 to 24 mm sizes. They are adjustable in order to accommodate smaller or larger wrists, making them a perfect fit for everyone.
Even though a NATO strap does not require new spring bars or a remover tool, you will get two of the former and one of the latter with each band, which is nice for your toolbox.
12. ArtStyle Watch Band with Ballistic Nylon Strap & High-End Black Buckle
This ArtStyle watch band is a well-made, flexible and breathable watch band which can be used comfortably in wet or hot weather. It is durable, and because of its dirt and moisture resistant features, you can wear it with no concern while working out, swimming, diving, or climbing. It is made from premium ballistic nylon webbing, which is extremely durable. It can be washed repeatedly and dries easily.
The metal rings with their black matte finish give your watch a rugged look. The finish on the rings has been applied through a vacuum-plating technique, making them scratch resistant, and the color never fades. The holes and material ends are laser heat-sealed to prevent fraying.
Additionally, the package includes a spring bar remover tool and two free spring bars.
Section Two – Choosing the Best Watch Bands by Brand
Next, you will find a list of watch bands arranged by brand. We couldn’t include every brand, it would have been too much (and a bit boring!), so we have opted to give you a vetted list of premium brands.
Note: We have listed multiple options for Apple Watches since they are in such high demand.
Lovleop Bands Compatible with Apple Watch Band
These bands are smartly engineered to offer a watch band, as well as different adapters to update the band to be compatible with every Apple Watch model. These watch bands are made from superior quality genuine top grain leather with fashionable craftsmanship. They are antislip, durable, comfortable, breathable and odorless.
The adapters are processed through CNC-machining to lock into the watch interface precisely and securely. They are easy to install or remove, and are very sturdy. Once set up, they give the watch a truly distinguished look to perfectly complement the style of your Apple Watch.
AdMaster Sport Loop Soft Nylon Wristband for Apple Watch Band
The AdMaster Sport Loop is a replacement wristband compatible with every Apple Watch series. It is made of a double weave premium nylon strap, with dense loops on the skin to provide a soft cushioning effect. It’s durable, fashionable and breathes wonderfully. Perfect for sports!
The Sport loop comes with watch lugs on both ends, which lock onto your Apple Watch precisely and securely. It is easy to install and remove with just one button. The hook-and-loop fastener is quick and easy to adjust to your wrist size for a perfect fit every time.
Inteny Apple Watch Band Soft Silicone with Apple Watch Screen Protector
These Inteny Apple Watch bands are more than just bands, they also feature a handy outer case for the watch, available in matching colors. This can protect the watch completely and avoid the use of connectors or specialized lugs.
The bands are made of high-quality silicone, shaped into a rally design (or a pattern of holes). They come in a huge variety of intriguing color combinations with a stainless steel buckle. Not only does this design choice improve the wearing comfort, but it also protects the watch from accidents. And most importantly, they are compatible with all the watches in the Apple family.
Armitron is an American watch brand manufactured by the E. Gluck Corporation, headquartered in Little Neck, New York. The company hails back to 1956, and manufactures quartz and mechanical watches. During the Eighties it was the brand of choice of several high-performing athletes, including Jerry Rice, Boomer Esiason, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Larry Bird.
The creation of a Bohemian immigrant, Bulova is an American watch brand, founded in 1875 and based in New York City. Today, it’s part of the Japanese Citizen group. The company manufactures watches and clocks, and during the 1940s, it was one of the biggest watch manufacturers worldwide.
Citizen Holdings Co., simply known as Citizen, is one of the top four Japanese manufacturers of wristwatches. They produce precision wristwatches with automatic mechanical movements, quartz movements, and they’re best known for a solar-powered movement patented by the same company, called Eco-drive.
Diesel was originally founded as a fashion company in 1978 by Italian designer Renzo Rosso. The style of Diesel watches, best defined as urban chic, convey personality and creative flair. Their various clothing and accessories products start trends as opposed to following them.
Fitbit is an American company from San Francisco, California, which manufactures activity trackers. These are wireless-enabled wearable technological devices that measure personal fitness metrics. Fitbit is considered the third largest wearable company in the world, behind Xiaomi and Apple.
Fossil is an American fashion designer and manufacturer of watches and accessories founded in 1984 by Tom Kartsotis and based in Richardson, Texas. It is one of the biggest manufacturers of so-called “fashion watches”. As a note, the company name derives from the nickname the brothers Tom and Kostas gave their father.
Garmin is an American technology company founded in 1989 and based in Olathe, Kansas. Since 2010, the company has been incorporated in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. From a professional beginning in GPS technology for automotive, aviation, marine, outdoor, and sport activities, the company has extended its offerings into watches.
The Gizmo is a smartwatch launched by LG, the fourth-largest South Korean multinational conglomerate. It is headquartered in the LG Twin Towers building in Yeouido-dong, Yeongdeungpo District, Seoul, and operates in several fields, including wearable technology.
Gucci is an Italian luxury brand founded by Guccio Gucci in Florence, Tuscany in 1921. It is one of the world’s most successful manufacturers of high-end leather goods, clothing, and other fashion products, including watches.
Hamilton is a Swiss manufacturer of wristwatches based in Bienne, Switzerland. But the company was incorporated in 1892 in the USA. Hamilton manufactures affordable quality watches and now belongs to the Swatch Group.
Invicta is a Swiss watch company that was founded in 1837 by Raphael Picard in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The corporate headquarters for Invicta are located in Hollywood, Florida, in the United States. The company is very globally-minded, and specialized in entry-level watches, manufactured worldwide.
Luminox is a U.S. company founded in 1989 and headquartered in San Rafael, California. Luminox also makes branded watches for various military groups. It is famous for its lume system, which contains tritium inserts that provide strong, long-term luminescence.
Jack Barouh, the son of a Belgian watchmaker, and his wife Rita founded Michele in 1995. They named the company after their eldest daughter, Michele. The couple began designing colorful children’s watches with great success, and then expanded the collection to include other watch kinds. The brand was bought by the Fossil group in 2006.
Founded in 2002, the Philip Stein Company has brought an innovative and glam outlook to the world of luxury products. It has integrated the principles of Frequency Technology in its collection of watches to create a truly remarkable and innovative line.
For galaxy watches, samsung gear s2, and gear s3.
Samsung Gear is a line of wearable computing devices produced by Samsung. Samsung is possibly the biggest Korean group, active in almost every field, and specifically, the largest manufacturer of consumer electronics and semiconductors in the world.
Seiko, short for Seikosha or the ‘house of excellent manufacturing’, is a Japanese holding company founded in 1881. Today Seiko is active in watches, clocks, electronic devices, semiconductors, jewelries, and optical products.
Founded in 2011 in Detroit, Shinola takes its name from the defunct Shinola shoe polish company, which was a very famous product after WWII. It produces high-end goods, including watches, bicycles, and leather goods.
Skagen is a watch manufacturer founded in Denmark in 1989. After its acquisition by the Fossil group, its product lines expanded to include handbags, jewelry, and other durable personal goods. Its minimalistic design is well-appreciated by its public.
The Speidel Company was founded in 1867 in Germany, and became a multinational group in 1928, migrating to the USA. The main claim to fame is the “Twist-O-Flex”, an elastic watch band made of metal which was introduced in 1959 and became a fashion icon.
Swiss Army watches come from the same tradition as the Swiss Army Knife, the world-famous red pen-knife created by Victorinox. The brand also manufactures other outdoor-related products, including sunglasses and compasses.
Timex Group USA, Inc. is an American manufacturing company founded in 1854 as Waterbury Watch Company. They specialize in affordable watches. The company grew so much that in the 1960s, one of every three watches sold in the USA was a Timex.
Section Three – Watch Band Buying Guide
The Evolution of the Wristwatch: Spring Bars and Watch Bands
Before 1880, timepieces were exclusively pocket watches, which were secured to the pocket with a small chain.
So, what happened in 1880?
This is the year when the first Swiss company, namely, Girard Perregaux, launched the first industrially-manufactured wristwatches, which were specialized timepieces made for the German Army.
The reason was very simple. Military tactics had become so sophisticated that there needed to be a way to quickly check the hour without having to take a watch out of a pocket. And so, someone – and we will never know who – had an idea of a quick and effective solution: they strapped the pocket watch onto the wearer’s wrist.
At first, these were old pocket watches that were inserted in a sort of harness, called a “wristlet.” Later, someone thought about integrating the two by securing a watch band directly to the case of the watch.
From that moment onwards, wristwatches become more and more widespread, leaving behind the world of military use and becoming the watch of choice for the modern gentlemen.
For example, around 1910 the amazingly successful Cartier Santos was introduced. This was a watch designed by Louis Cartier for one of his friends and customers, the aviation pioneer Alberto de Santos Dumont, who gave the watch its name. This watch model is still made today, making it possibly the oldest model still in production.
But let’s return back to the wristbands. Wristwatches around that time were equipped with the so-called “wire lugs”, such as this one. These lugs referred to two simple loops that were welded on the case, where the wristband would be sewn or would pass through, like a sort of bracelet. Imagine something similar to the modern NATO straps (NATO style watch bands are explained below). Other solutions were the so-called “open-ended” bands. These are watch bands which feature a metal clip used to secure the band, once it passed through one loop of a wire lugs case.
However, people felt that there should be other, more interesting, solutions. So, some started to research how to create removable loops that would allow a quicker and easier exchange of watch wristbands.
Next, the modern spring bars, that are in use today, came into existence around 1925. It’s not clear who the original inventor was. Nonetheless, the style caught on and watch cases passed gradually from the earlier wire lugs models to the new open lugs with spring bars.
This new system made it easier to fit and refit wristbands, and opened up a huge market. It represented an affordable and easy way to completely change the look of a wristwatch, and adapt it to different kinds of occasions.
We can safely say that the invention of spring bars made it easy for the watch addicts to create a collection of “clothes” designed to dress up their favorite timepieces.
The Savoir-Faire of Watch Bands
Watches double as a fashion accessory. This means they conform to indications of etiquette, such that wearing one wristband instead of another could make a very different social impression.
We will quickly take a look at different kinds of wristbands, and the best applications for each one.
Leather Watch Bands
Leather watch bands and metal bracelets were the first watch bands to be developed. The first leather watch bands were made of a single strip of leather, which was then secured around the wrist with a tang buckle.
However, over time they have become more and more sophisticated. The present form is composed of two layers of leather with an inner core of a soft backing material. These layers are all glued and then stitched together.
The leather used in leather watch bands ranges from cow skin to more precious hides, such as ostrich, lizard, and crocodile. Generally, leather watch bands are more suited to formal events, but some are designed to display a more sporty and adventurous outlook. One such example are those used in Pilot’s watches, which feature steel rivets for reinforcement.
Metal Watch Bands
Also known as metal bracelets, metal watch bands are the counterparts of leather watch bands for more sporty applications, such as diver’s watches. However, when made in precious materials, metal bands can also be the perfect companion to a luxury dress watch.
Speidel watch bands were elastic metal bracelets made for encircling the wrist. These enjoyed popularity for a time, but have since been forgotten, due to their tendency to pull arm hairs. Modern metal watch bands have been designed to eliminate this problem, which is lucky for the more Chewbacca-oriented among us.
Nylon Watch Bands (usually NATO or Zulu style)
Nylon watch bands come in a variety of shapes and styles. Each one is made with modern synthetic materials, which ensure a good fit while also being very resistant. Nylon bands often come in bright, beautiful colors to spice up your watch wearing.
As you can imagine, nylon wristbands are perfect for a quick change, allowing your watch to switch to sportier and more casual applications.
The NATO and ZULU styles are the most popular variety of nylon watch bands.
NATO Style Watch Bands Explained
NATO watch bands have 2 straps that slide underneath the case of the watch. The additional strap prevents the watch from sliding off. This design has 2 advantages; the skin never touches the metal of the watch, and the watch will stay on the wrist even if one of the spring bars breaks.
ZULU Style Watch Bands Explained
ZULU watch bands, are similar to NATO watch bands, except there is only 1 long strap (rather than having the additional strap on the NATO design).
Rubber Watch Bands and Silicone Watch Bands
Rubber and silicone watch bands are very similar in concept. Their only difference is that they are derived from different materials; the first is natural, while the second is mineral. However, the end result is very similar: a comfortable watch band which is elastic and flexible, while firmly gripping the watch to the wrist.
As such, rubber and silicone watch bands are very popular with diving watches. They provide a constant tension even at different depths underwater, but they are mostly destined for the more sporty occasions.
With one notable exception: many designer watches mount silicone watch bands because of their cool aspect, so we can would find them on sporty-chic watches as well.
Eco-Leather and Mixed Material Watch Bands
In most cases, watch bands are made using a layered construction that features several materials. In this case, the predominant material is the most external and the one onlookers see first. For example, in the more economic watch bands, instead of true leather the external layer of the band is covered by a faux-leather layer, which is often printed and embossed to look like real leather.
For wearability, most of them have a true leather inner layer that stays in contact with the skin. This ensures the band does not cause allergic reactions, which is more liable to happen with artificial materials that are in constant skin contact.
Velcro Watch Bands
More than just a bracelet, velcro works as a buckle/closure for the watch band. Velcro makes it easy to secure a watch band to the wrist and to precisely fine tune its fit without the traditional buckle. These bands, however, are used in very few, select cases, as they typically don’t suit the average watch user. One of the most famous uses is the velcro watch band issued in some editions of the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch: a replica of the one used by NASA astronauts to secure their Speedmaster on their EVA suits.
Are the Best Watch Bands Brand-Specific?
This is one of the most common questions we’re asked. And, unfortunately, the answer is “it depends”. It’s necessary to consider both the model of the watch and the kind of lugs it uses.
Watches that use wire lugs, which are, more often than not, vintage watches, work fine with a NATO strap. You just slip it in, and it’s done. Remember that NATO bands can be attached to watches with open lugs as well. Simply set the spring bars into their holes, and there you go.
When it comes to watches with open lugs, the good news is that 90 percent of the watches in production can use “stock” watch bands. However, there are a few exceptions.
There are some watches that are designed to require a specific kind of watch band, that is, a band with a particular ending. In this case, you need to buy that peculiar kind of watch band, whether its original or compatible. Others will not work with your watch model. Among the worst offenders in this field we find the Apple Watch, along with other smart watches and wrist devices. If this is the case, take care to buy the right kind of watch band for your watch. Otherwise you’ll end up stuck with an unusable band.
How to Choose the Best Watch Band for Your Watch
Choosing the best watch band for your timepiece is quite easy, because, as we have said, 90 percent of the time, watches use standard watch bands.
Keep in mind that stock watch bands and spring bars come in a series of standard sizes. This size refers to the distance between the two lugs of the watch.
Among the most common sizes, you will find 18 mm, 20 mm, 22 mm and 24 mm. There are others most often using even numbers. Some sizes will use odd numbers, but these are less common, making them more difficult to find.
How to Care For and Mount the Best Watch Bands
Taking care of your watch band is easy. It requires the same attention as caring for your watch. And, generally speaking, water is your worst enemy.
Leather watch bands are the most affected by water. They become brittle and rough with repeated exposition to liquid, so your best bet is to avoid using them in or near water. Instead, buy a silicone or rubber-based band to use when getting your hands wet.
The other watch band varieties just need thorough rinsing with fresh water and drying, especially after being worn in saltwater. Apart from this, they will continue to perform admirably for many years.
Switching between watch bands is usually easy to do. All that you need is some patience and a little dexterity. In the case of open lugs watches, you will also need a special spring bar remover tool, made like a sort of two-pronged fork, which you can buy online for a small amount of money when you go to purchase your watch bands.
Note: a lot of bands come with the necessary tools you will need.
You simply insert the tool so the springbar lies between the two prongs. Then, twist it a bit so the spring recedes from the hole drilled into the lug, and the band slides out easily. With a bit of attention (you wouldn’t want to scratch your watch) this will become quite easy. To insert a watch band in its place, proceed with these same steps in reverse.
About the Author: Franz Rivoira is a Chartered Journalist and Marcomm Professional operating internationally in the world of high-end and luxury products, mainly watches and design objects.
He lives in Italy, but frequently travels the world, especially to Asia. He is a regular contributor to www.ddnblog.it, a reference for everything design-oriented. He is also very active on Quora, the most read Q&A portal in the world, where he has been nominated as one of the Top Writers for 2018.