It’s an endless debate among luxury watch aficionados: strap vs. bracelet?
Compared to watch styles, types, and functions, this friendly argument seems more than a little trivial. But don’t be fooled: straps and bracelets can make a timepiece appear sporty, casual, or formal depending on the type of materials used. There are also pros and cons associated with each type.
Ultimately it comes down to personal preference and your lifestyle. To get started with researching luxury watches it is advisable to gather information from reputable retailers within the industry. One such reliable retailer is Watches of Switzerland, who come with a wealth of expertise in helping customers find the perfect timepiece.
The first watch straps were made of leather because it was cheap and readily available. Today, leather straps are popular because they can appear more formal. For a night on the town or a gala event, you can’t go wrong with leather.
Selections range from the exotic, such as lizard, snake, shark, and alligator, to the more mainstream, like smooth or grained leathers. Price depends on the type of leather used as well as the workmanship, treatment method, buckle, and padding.
Thicker leather straps with high-contrast stitching are usually found on robust sports watches, such as the Vacheron Constantin Overseas ladies watch. Thinner straps are still used for high-end dress watches (think the Piaget Possession watch and Lange & Söhne’s Grand Lange 1 Moonphase), since they complement business attire and leather accessories such as a belt or shoes very well.
When choosing a leather strap, pay careful attention to both the quality and stitching. Small imperfections can easily become bigger ones over time, and turn a luxury watch into a casual one instead. Anyone prone to heavy perspiration should also be cautious when opting for a strap, as dampness can cause leather to smell sour.
There are other types of watch straps available. These ones are usually made from fabric, rubber, and different plastics. However, with the exception of high grade rubber, which can create an ultra smooth effect, is that they are not typically used in luxury watchmaking. Rubber straps appear more frequently on high-end watches designed for avid sports enthusiast (see Patek Philippe's Aquanaut). They’re waterproof, durable, and easy to clean. High-quality rubber straps are also used on expensive diving watches and can even cost hundreds on their own. As rubber is not a suitable material for formal settings, people with a more active lifestyle tend to purchase water-resistant watches with two straps - one leather and the other rubber - and interchange them as needed.
Metal bracelets for luxury watches can be made of anything from quality steel to precious metals like silver, gold, platinum, and rhodium. Some bracelets feature different and unique types of closures and clasps, or feature subtle embellishments such as small diamonds or the brand logo.
Lifestyle can play a role on which variety of metal bracelet one should select. If you plan to wear the watch frequently, gold plating and gold filling can wear off over time, which is problematic if the watch is intended as an heirloom.
Another aspect to take into consideration is that untreated metals such as stainless steel or titanium will preserve their lustre for a long time. This is also true of solid gold or platinum bands.
One of the biggest benefits of a metal watch bracelet is that it has a link system, enabling it to be resized to accommodate all wrist dimensions. They also tend to be cooler and more comfortable in hot summer weather.
A potential drawback is that metal bracelets aren’t suitable for watches intended to be worn with a tuxedo. Many argue that metal and formal wear are totally incompatible. It’s also worth considering whether or not you may have an allergy to certain types of metal. Some people can suffer with skin reactions. So if you suffer from an allergy to gold for example, you’ll need to select a bracelet made from a different type of metal.
At the end of the day, there is no real consensus on whether or not luxury watch straps are superior to bracelets, or vice-versa. Occasion, lifestyle, environment, and personal taste all make one preferable to the other under certain circumstances. However, if you’re a beginner, you’ll always need a good starting point and this guide should help you with your initial choices.