Bands types

Watch bands come in many different types, ranging from the traditional leather bands and stainless-steel bracelets to synthetic and composite bands. Watch bands can be exchanged to alter the look and personality of the timepiece. Watch bands also can update, or enhance, the masculinity of an older, smaller watch dial.


The traditional leather watch band remains a hugely popular strap for its simplicity, comfort and looks. Sports-style leather bands feature contrasting white stitching to black and brown color. Sizes ranges from vintage-era 12-mm to contemporary, if not trendy, 22-mm and 24-mm widths. Similar bands come in ostrich and calfskin. These three types of bands are perennial favorites because replacements are inexpensive and comfortable against the skin.


Debates over watch bands have divided collectors into two camps: leather bands versus stainless-steel bracelets enthusiasts. Proponents of the bracelets argue that stainless-steel bracelets are durable, last longer and are easier to put on and take off. Bracelet-style bands also reduce the risk of having the watch fall off the wrist. Regardless of the practicalities of the stainless-steel bracelet, the steel band can be worn as an outdoor or dress watch.


Military-style bands offer an aviator look that includes leather, rubber/synthetic or the nylon NATO straps commonly used by military personnel. The rubber/synthetic bands are impervious to water. NATO bands can be washed and never rot due to moisture. A crossover strap that can pass for military style is the wide multi-buckle "Mod" band that can beef up vintage military watches with smaller lug sizes of 16 mm to 18 mm.


Ceramic bands look similar to stainless-steel bracelets, but are made of non-metallic materials that better resist scratching and weigh less than the traditional stainless steel. Further, ceramic bands are less irritable to wear when the skin perspires. Rado has been producing ceramic bands since the mid-1980s and the luxury brands, such as those from the International Watch Co., also use ceramic composites to manufacture bands.


More sports-style watches, especially men's professional dive watches, are turning to titanium construction for watch bands/bracelets. Titanium can scratch, but it's lighter and 50 percent stronger than steel. Titanium also does not rust, making it a versatile outdoor watch accessory.


Exotic watch bands are made of crocodile, alligator, shark, pigskin and cashmere sheepskin. Most watch band makers take care that their bands are not made from endangered animals. These bands, along with leather versions, often feature different color variations, including beige, red, blue and brown. Some models also are braided.