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Leather watch straps vs. everything else

Orient Tri Star and Timex Weekender

I've been bitten by the analog watch bug again, and for the first time I've actually come to appreciate leather watch straps.

Above are two analog watches I own, the Timex Weekender (white dial) and Orient Tri Star (black dial). The Weekender has a quartz movement and the Tri Star an all-mechanical automatic movement.

As seen, both of these watches now have leather straps on them. The Weekender has a light brown leather strap with deployment clasp on it, and the Tri Star a standard black strap with regular buckle.

I do own the "four biggies" in watch straps from the various timepieces I own, that being resin, metal bracelet, fabric and leather. The Weekender originally came with a fabric strap and the Tri Star a metal bracelet. Over time, I've been experimenting with different straps/bands/bracelets to see which agreed with me best.

Here's what I've come to know about each material.

Resin

The best application of a resin strap is when used on a sport watch. The Casio F-91W for example (which I do own) is a sport watch that is very inexpensive, works and it's light as a feather...

...but there's no way to make its strap look upscale. Resin is functional, but that's about it because it will never win points for style.

Other than its light weight, a big selling point of resin is that it is the easiest to clean. Wash with water and mild dish soap, dry with paper towel and that's it.

The worst part about resin is that out of all strap materials, it's the first to fail as it will literally crumble apart.

Fabric

The most common fabric straps are NATO style or Zulu style. They come in every possible color and color combo you can think of and are ridiculously easy to swap out as no tools are required.

Fabric straps are very durable, but there are some things about them I find very annoying.

First, they develop frayed edges real fast. True, they don't break, but they start looking bad in less than 3 months.

Second, they lose their fit real fast unless you specifically buy one that has eyelets in the strap holes. They vast majority of fabric straps have open holes with no eyelets that stretch and that's what causes the strap to lose its fit.

This is an example of a fabric strap with eyelets:

Bertucci DX3 #5 Olive Nylon Watch Band

Note the "ring" in each strap hole. That's an eyelet.

Some of you out there may be saying, "No, that's a grommet." Trust me, it's an eyelet. The grommet uses a washer and is not suitable for a fabric watch strap because it has no flex to it. The eyelet uses no washer and allows more movement with the fabric; that's the difference.

The only fabric watch straps worth owning have eyelets installed in the holes. But if you shop around, you'll quickly notice almost none of the fabric straps have them.

What to do? The only solution is to install the eyelets yourself (there are plenty of YouTube video tutorials on it).

Installing eyelets in fabric straps isn't totally annoying, but it is inconvenient that you have to do it just to make a fabric strap last.

If you are a fan of the fabric watch strap, I strongly suggest buying some eyelets and eyelet pliers. You will be giving any fabric watch strap you own an instant upgrade by installing eyelets in them.

What size eyelet should you use? I don't know. You may have to visit a craft or hobby store to see what sizes are available and just take your best guess. You should also be willing to destroy at least 1 fabric watch strap while learning to install eyelets. Given that fabric watch straps are so cheap, that shouldn't be a problem.

Metal bracelet

I will admit the metal bracelet looks good. It's shiny, people notice it even on cheap timepieces like the Casio A158, it is the most durable, fairly easy to clean and lasts for years...

...but there are certain things about metal bracelets that are just terrible.

First, the noise. There is no such thing as a 100% silent metal bracelet. They jingle, they jangle, they sometimes click, they sometimes creak... all of which is annoying.

Second, the sliding. Whether the bracelet is thick or thin, sliding happens. Up and down the wrist it goes throughout the day. Most of the time I can deal with it, but other times it just really bothers me.

Third, a metal bracelet sometimes gets in the way, such as when typing on a laptop or washing dishes.

Enter the leather

The best part about leather is that it's the only watch strap material you actually have to break in, and it's that above all else that makes it so attractive to the wearer.

For most leather straps, it will be stiff and slightly uncomfortable at first. But after a short period of time with regular wear, the material shapes itself to your wrist. Once the fit is made, it pretty much feels better than any other watch strap you could wear.

There are however a few drawbacks with leather.

The holes do stretch. Not as bad a fabric would, but stretching still happens. Stitching does come apart over time. It is not a hot-weather-friendly material. It doesn't handle sweat well. It's not recommended to get it wet (don't go swimming with it). Cleaning it can be a bit of a chore.

There is however a second best part to leather. Out of all the strap materials, it looks the best when worn down. Patina, if you will. Worn leather has a very cool look to it. It's such a cool look that people readily pay for "distressed" leather.

A simple stainless steel analog with a brown leather strap is a great look

As of this writing I have a cheap brown leather strap for my Orient Tri Star on order. The black one works fine but the brown really looks good on the Timex and I want to match that on my Orient.

Stainless steel + brown leather is in fact a very classic pilot watch look. If you search for type b pilot watch on Amazon you will see several examples of this.

Now of course, to be a true type b, there has to be an outer ring showing minutes and an inner ring showing hours, but I don't follow those rules. My Weekender is a white dial and it rocks the leather just fine, as does my Tri Star which has nothing but blocks for indices.

The point is that stainless steel + brown leather really works nicely. It's classy while not being ostentatious.

Dare I say, it's a "can't go wrong" look where men's timepieces are concerned.

Maybe Timex has it totally right with their T20041 and T2P133 models? 🙂

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