Types of Watch Band Straps & Clasps Explained
A watch's band is an accessory in itself. While there is an obvious practical aspect — keeping it attached to your body — it's the style factor that leads people to explore multiple types of watch bands.
Like a good pair of shoes, the right watch strap can completely change a timepiece's vibe and aesthetic. Before you go freewheeling into your first foray with replacement bands, let's catch you up to speed with the different designs and materials available.
This guide will cover the many different watch band styles that Nixon offers, the materials they come in, and each's functionality. By the end, you should have a good idea of how you're going to personalize your watch with a second — or third — band. It's time to strap in.
Different Types of Watch Straps
The type of replacement watch strap you choose depends on a few factors. Stylistically, each type sends a different message, while functionally, each has its own strengths.
Choosing a watch band for looks is totally cool, as is picking one to meet a specific function. This is about making your watch as yours as can be.
Here are the main types of watch bands you're likely to encounter on your search. Though there may be more niche styles available, watch straps will usually fall into one of these categories.
A band initially created for military use in the 1970s, the NATO or "G10" strap gained prominence in the 1980s among watch enthusiasts for its simple and functional design. It has minimal components, meaning fewer failure points, and the design keeps your watch in place on your wrist under vigorous movement.
A NATO watch strap consists of a single piece of material and weaves under the watch case's spring bars to secure it. By eliminating the need to remove the spring bars, you can swap out a NATO band in a matter of seconds. It's one of the most convenient replacement strap options available.
While a NATO strap can convey a more casual look on a watch, one famous, martini-drinking, superspy is known for rocking a NATO banded watch from time to time. Ultimately, the NATO strap adds a classic sportiness to any timepiece, and the comfortable, lightweight design makes it an ideal style to wear in almost any condition.
Two-Piece Watch Bands
Unlike the NATO strap, which is a single piece of material, a two-piece replacement band is just that. The separate parts of the band are attached to either side of the watch case and secured with spring bars.
Two-piece watch bands come in different categories, too, so you have many styles within this type. Here are a few examples of the most common two-piece watch straps to choose from:
Quick Release Watch Bands
A two-piece band with a retractable spring bar to save you time and to eliminate the need for a spring bar tool. Quick release watch bands are incredibly convenient and easy to use.
Metal Link Watch Bands
Interconnected metal pieces that make up a patterned design. The number of links in a metal link band usually range from 1-6 and change the band's appearance and flexibility. The size and configuration of the links determine the style. Some models can remove the excess links, while others have the excess lay flat against the wrist.
Milanese Watch Bands
The Milanese band uses small metal links to weave together a smooth and flexible mesh that slips effortlessly over the wrist. Like chain mail armor, a Milanese strap is sturdy for how delicate it appears. This type of watch band is a favorite among dressy women's watches and look stunning on smaller-faced watches for men, as well.
Watch Strap Material Guide
Different types of watch straps come in many distinct materials. These include stainless steel, precious metals, leather, rubber, and nylon, to name a few. Recently, there have been various sustainable materials making their way into the Nixon watch band line like Pinatex Pineapple Leather and composites made from recycled ocean plastics.
Here's a brief rundown of watch band materials to further personalize your watch:
Stainless Steel Straps
Rugged, refined, and almost universally loved. Stainless steel is likely the most popular metal used in watch bands. It is an alloy of iron and carbon capable of being polished, coated, or brushed, making it incredibly durable. It's ideal for dress, dive, and sport watches for those attributes. When in doubt, you can't miss with a stainless steel watch band.
Dive watches used to be the only styles where rubber watch straps were appropriate. But lightweight construction and utilitarian look of rubber straps make them ideal for casual watches too.
While it isn't technically a rubber, silicone is a near cousin, thanks to its molecular makeup. It's soft, pliable, and supremely comfortable. Sports and fitness watches are making more use of silicone in their watch bands, thanks to their comfort and durability.
The texture, the feel, the smell — leather just can't be beat when it comes to giving your watch band natural appeal. There are so many ways to treat, color, and finish leather, making it one of the most versatile materials for watch straps.
The quality and source of the leather also make a huge difference in style and price. There's the beauty of a rustic leather strap, which breaks in and ages uniquely to the wearer. Or, there's the high-polish refinement of a patent leather band, which pops with flashy confidence.
Nylon is moisture-wicking, light, and durable, making it indispensable for sporty watches and "daily drivers." If a watch will be on your wrist around moisture for an extended period, a nylon watch strap is your play. NATO straps are most often found in nylon, though some nylon bands are a two-piece design.
Pineapple Leather Straps
The discarded leaves from the pineapple plant make up this beautiful, sustainable alternative leather. Almost any leather treatment can be applied to pineapple leather, making it challenging to tell the difference between it and the real thing. As transitioning to a more sustainable sourcing model becomes imperative for companies, innovative materials like pineapple leather will undoubtedly gain popularity in the watch band market.
Recycled Ocean Plastics Straps
By sourcing plastic garbage from coastal areas to use as the base material for composites, recycled ocean plastic bands keep waste out of our water. There is no sacrifice in structural or performance attributes by using ocean plastics for watch bands, so buying one of these straps lets you protect marine life while looking stylish. Aesthetically, it looks no different from other plastic-based strap material.
Shop Nixon’s sustainable watch bands.
Once you've chosen your band material, the final piece is how to secure it to your wrist. It's time to go to clasps.
Watch Band Clasp Types
Keeping your watch secure on your wrist is not an insignificant detail. A watch's clasp does exactly that, though, don't overlook your options in that department. Here are the different clasp types Nixon offers:
The t-shirt and jeans of watch clasps. Classic, versatile, impossible to screw up, the buckle clasp works on leather, rubber, silicone, nylon, and sustainable bands. Also known as a tang buckle, it consists of a pin that fits through sizing holes on the opposite strap. Buckle clasps offer near-universal fitment, too, so you don't have to worry if it's going to be the right size.
Several of Nixon’s sport-specific buckle bands feature our patented Double-Locking Looper, which keeps the strap secured, even during rigorous movement.
Featured on: The Porter Leather, The Kensington Leather
The double-locking clasp consists of a push-button deployment clasp with an additional locking latch to secure the clasp even more. This style of clasp looks sophisticated, with a utilitarian edge. The double-locking mechanism accentuates the clasp, turning it into a design detail to celebrate rather than conceal.
Featured on: The Sentry Stainless Steel, The 51-30 Chrono
Adjustable Fold Clasp
This style adjusts up and down the band and provides a precise fitment. It features a metal bar on one side and a hooked latch on the other. The hook of the latch grabs the bar, and the closure snaps down to secure it. It is more minimalistic than the double-locking clasp.
Featured on: The Time Teller, The Clique
Two buttons on either side of the closure release the butterfly clasp and allow the watch band to open. The double-pusher clasp has a more seamless look because there is no locking latch. It's best suited for dress watches, as it is easier to release than a double-locking clasp.
Featured on: The Porter, The Kensington
Now you've got all the information to "clasp" the concept of this crucial component of watch bands.
Watch straps and bands are an essential part of any timepiece. Besides function, they serve as an "accessory within an accessory," giving watches added personality and style. The choices can be overwhelming, though.
But, armed with your newfound knowledge of all things band and strap related, you can get to work picking out the perfect look for all types of watch.
Nixon features a wide range of watch and band combinations in our line and now offers replacement bands in various colors and materials. It's never been easier to personalize your watch, so put your creativity to work and start customizing!