The essential guide to four classic watch straps

One of the pivotal choices you will make when you build your own watch is what type of strap to opt for. Along with the clock face, the strap of your watch is the most visually obvious and impactful feature. The type of strap you choose will completely change the nature of your new watch, so it's important to get it right. Here's a run down of four classic types of watch strap to help you in the decision-making process...

The NATO Strap

Designed for soldiers in the British Army during the 1970s, the NATO strap is similar in style to watch straps that have been around since World War II. This is a classic, military-style strap, highly practical, and very popular. Perhaps its best feature is that it's of single-piece construction, while the majority of straps come in two pieces, making them time-consuming to swap. The NATO strap can be easily swapped in a few short seconds. 


Zulu straps have an intriguing name but humble beginnings. Inspired by the NATO strap, they are thicker than their NATO counterparts and as a result stronger and more durable. This can be a downside, however, as the increased thickness sometimes prevents them fitting between spring bars on certain watches. In addition, while NATO straps are small with squared buckles and rings, the Zulu has larger, rounded hardware.


This kooky strap was inspired by old school style racing gloves, and is easily identified by the presence of at least three large perforations beneath the lugs. Rally racing is for the most part all about speed, and a major factor in this is weight, which directly affects your maximum achievable velocity. Because of this, early rally cars had holes drilled in pretty much every metal component they had, to decrease the weight of the car. For as much aesthetic consistency as possible, racing gloves also bore holes. The Rally strap's holes are a call back to this fine racing tradition, while also acting as ventilation for the strap.


First rolled out during the 1930s by Rolex, the Oyster is a bracelet watch strap and a total classic in every possible way. The characteristic long, thick, three-piece linked design is perhaps the first image that most people conjure when they think of a watch strap. The Oyster is, hands down, the most popular type of bracelet strap available.

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