When it comes to watches, the question of “which strap” is one of the hardest to answer.
There are advantages to all strap types, which is why they were invented. But, not all straps are created equal. And in this post I am going to explore both leather and metal watch straps for watches, to see which is the perfect one for you!
We all know and love leather. The natural and soft feel of tanned cowhide is almost pleasing to the touch. It’s far more comfortable to wear than metal, comes in a lot more different styles and adapts/stretches a little with time to fit us more perfectly.
If you are using a watch for more formal occasions, leather is often the way to go. It looks far more stylish and often matches your outfit’s leather belt, which as any stylist will tell you, it’s all about matching accessories! That is not to say that metal bands do not work for formal wear, but leather just has that extra style!
Leather straps are also less prone to coming undone because of the buckle system they normally use. The pin can almost never come undone, unless the hole in the leather becomes stretched.
Which brings us to one of the big downsides of leather bands. They tend to wear out over time.
Sure, you can take care of them – by not getting them wet, or do sweaty sports in them. You can also clean and care for them once a year or more, to help keep them supple and avoid cracking. But ultimately, they will wear out and have to be replaced. That does not happen so often with metal, of course.
I have replaced many a leather strap in my time, but never a metal one. In fact, with the leather, it is often the small strap holders that break first, which you can live without for a while, but it usually gets annoying pretty fast once they are both gone (if you have two to start with).
Metal straps are a great alternative to leather. They look somehow more expensive, especially when you see them on high-end watches like Rolex and Omega.
Metal straps are obviously almost bulletproof. They are unlikely to break, can get wet and sweaty with no problem, and the material will not noticeably stretch.
However, fitting them is a little more complex, because you often have to remove links to get them to the optimum length. If you buy a watch at a shop, this is usually done there, but if you buy online, it’s up to you to adjust the strap.
The clasps on metal bands are also more prone to coming undone if they get caught on, or hit against something suddenly. The more expensive brands have tried to counter this problem with more elaborate and better-designed clasps – such as the deployment clasp with safety.
Image courtesy of Matti Airaksinen
In terms of keeping the strap clean, metal bands are far more resilient. They will not stain like leather, or suffer from your sweaty wrist if you happen to do sport with them on, or just head out on a hot day. They do, however, have a tendency to accumulate dirt and other fun stuff in the corners of the clasp, and the metal loses its sheen a little over time. So, it is also wise to clean them thoroughly once a year.
Another small downside to metal straps is that they are metal. So, they can be very cold or hot to the touch if you leave them in a place with more extreme temperatures. I have waking up on a cold morning and having that initial jolt of putting on a cold metal watch. That is where leather can be so much more pleasant!
Pros & Cons – Metal vs Leather
To sum it all up and save you a little bit of time, here is a quick repeat of all the pros and cons I mentioned above:
- Often works better with formal wear, especially matching your belt/shoes
- Easier to fit yourself using the holes in the strap
- Softer and more pleasant to wear
- Unlikely to come undone suddenly
- Is not a great strap for getting wet or sweaty
- Wears out over time
- The color of the band may not work on all outfits
- Long lasting and unlikely to wear out over the life of the watch
- Can get it wet and use during sports without a problem
- Easier to clean and maintain over time
- Has a more luxurious look due to use in many high-end watches (Rolex for example)
- Not as easy to fit on your own
- Prone to coming undone (unless you have a really expensive watch)
- Retains temperatures so can be hot/cold in extreme temperatures
Other Strap Options
Of course, with so much innovation going on these days, you are no longer limited to just leather vs metal straps!
You have a whole lot of choice today with simple, colorful and relatively cheap bands such as – Perlon, Nato and Zulu straps.
These kinds of straps are great because you can buy a lot of them (due to their low price) and match them to any outfit you are wearing. They are also easy to remove and clean.
The trick is tough, you first have to get the normal strap off, which can be a little bit more painful, but easier once you get the hang of it.
So, there you have it. Watch straps are never an easy thing to choose, but knowing the pros and cons will definitely help.