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Watch Straps 101 (Part 1)

by Dana Li

Looking to switch up the look on your watch? One of the easiest ways to refresh your look and give your watch a brand new feel is to get a new strap. There are so many leathers and materials out there to choose from, each with a different aesthetic and wearability. If you’re like me and also have smaller wrists, straps can be a great way to wear your watch more comfortably and fitted as well. Here are 6 types of straps that you can choose from for your next watch to instantly elevate your piece.

(Part 2 coming soon with some exotic leather strap options as well!)


Calfskin is probably one of the most versatile and universally flattering leathers out there for just about any watch. It’s incredibly easy to wear and comfortable on the wrist. Calfskin straps can be either textured or smooth and can be made in almost any color. Pair it easily with either a dressy piece or a sports watch for a classic look.

Source: Hodinkee Shop (Left - Holland Calfskin Watch Strap In Saddle with smooth finish, Right - McBride Watch Strap in Taupe with textured finish)


Similar to calfskin, goatskin is also a versatile and durable leather that can be made into a number of colors. Goatskin has a slightly pebbled finish, is extremely wearable, and can be paired with just about any piece, dressy or casual.

Source: Hodinkee Shop (Reid Goatskin Watch Strap In Orchid)

Shell Cordovan

Though Shell Cordovan is more commonly used in shoes, it also makes for a wonderful watch strap. Made from horsehide, the strap can either have a glazed or unglazed, matte finish. Shell Cordovan will also patina and age beautifully, often taking on a new look and even color as you continue to wear it. The most well-known Shell Cordovan leathers come from the Horween tannery in Chicago, a company that has produced these high-quality leathers for over a century.

Suede or Nubuck

Suede or Nubuck is a great leather choice for a strap if you’re looking to bring a more casual look to your watch. The leather looks especially great in earthy tones such as brown, green, red, and even yellow. Because Nubuck is made from the outer layer of hide, it can be slightly more durable than Suede, which has a similar properties but is instead made from the inner layer. Both leathers are a bit more temperamental and require some additional care and caution around water and moisture. Spraying your strap with a suede/nubuck treatment can help prevent damage to the leather.

Suede strap by NOS Time on a Root Beer GMT

Nylon (NATO)

Although NATO straps were originally intended for military issue, this nylon fabric strap is a great way to liven up your watches and works incredibly well with sports and tool watches. Throw on a NATO strap for a comfortable, adventure ready look. Bonus - they are also very wallet-friendly!

Source: Hodinkee Straps (UTE Watch Co. Nylon Watch Strap In Black)


Rubber straps may be the perfect answer to get your watches beach ready this summer. The straps pair well with a number of pieces, especially for sporty models and look fantastic in bright colors such as blue, green, and even white. If you’re an active person who likes to wear their watches during hikes, workouts, or other adventures, rubber straps can be a great choice since the material is waterproof and incredibly durable.

Barton Rubber Strap on a Longines Hydroconquest


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