[5 min. read]
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The first wristwatches were no more than basic pocket watches fixed onto a leather strap. Since then, the different types of materials used in watch straps has expanded greatly – including bands of stainless steel links, nylon straps, and stainless steel mesh. But with so many straps to choose from, is there one definitive strap that is the most comfortable watch band material out there?
Wristwatches have long been a symbol of style and class in modern fashion. Since the 19th century when military men began wearing them and skyrocketed their presence in men’s fashion, wristwatches have quickly grown in popularity – and they’re still growing!
Over time, they’ve changed from basic time telling machines to complex designs that have evolved drastically over the years. Generally, when you think of a watch, the focus is on the casing and face, but not many people acknowledge or appreciate the band holding the case to their wrist.
The 3 Most Comfortable Watch Bands & Why:
There are several comfortable watch band materials out there, but by far our favorites are NATO straps, Milanese / Stainless Steel Mesh bands, and Genuine Leather straps.
Of course, how a strap feels to you is subjective and comes down to personal preference, but I’m confident that by the end of this article, you’ll have a better idea of which strap will work best for you. So let’s get into the details…
NATO bands are a fairly new military born watch strap that is not only stylish, but practical in its attachment to the timepiece. They were first introduced in the 1970s and brought to fruition by British Ministry of Defence Standard.
The main attraction to these nylon straps comes from their durability in harsh climates (hot or cold), weather capabilities, and quick drying material. Unlike other watch bands, NATO straps attach separately to each spring bar on your watch case to ensure that, in the event one spring pops, the watch will still stay intact.
They’re also adjustable so you don’t have to worry about burning your money on an incorrectly sized strap – your watch will fit perfect every single time!
On top of its practicality and durability, a NATO band is extremely comfortable to wear! One gripe I have about my metal watches is that on days when it’s cold, they’re uncomfortable to put on because they’re freezing!
NATO straps are designed to fit in underneath the watch case so that the case never touches this skin. This is great for cold climates for that very reason.
They’re also great for warmer climates as well. As stated before, nylon is a quick drying material meaning the strap won’t hold a lot of moisture and, as a result is a lot more breathable than you average strap. The separation of the casing from your wrist also provides breathability and prevents sweat build up which also makes it more comfortable.
To summarize, NATO straps are:
- Weather Resistant
- Breathable (Best for warmer temperatures)
- Quick Drying
- Perfect for the Outdoors
Stainless Steel Mesh Bands
The presence of stainless steel mesh band material is nothing new; however, its design has undergone steady improvements over time. The make up of the material can be traced back to its application in chain mail, but its use in watch bands has grown in popularity over time.
The main comfort point here is that, unlike regular stainless steel straps that feature gaps in every single link, mesh bands are tightly woven together. This design prevents the uncomfortable catching and yanking of arm hair when slid across your wrist. On top of that, they are also very smooth to the touch.
Mesh straps are also ideal versus leather straps in warmer climates for the same reason that NATO straps are – they have excellent breathability because, although the steel is woven together, there are still tiny holes that line the strap. This allows for air to flow freely which means no more sweaty wrists during the summer months!
As far as durability goes, mesh straps are among the most efficient. When compared again to leather straps, they are much more durable and longer lasting. Leather tends to scuff easy and may also show wear and tear down the road from years of bending and movement.
Like the NATO strap, mesh bands are easily adjustable and can fit nearly perfectly to any wrist. I say nearly only because the clasp is designed to fit into grooves on the strap and, believe it or not, some people have larger or smaller than average wrists that may fall out of the range set on the watch. Other than that, the sizing will fit almost anyone!
Mesh straps will also keep their shape no matter how many times they are worn and are also generally resistant to scratches. If taken care of, you can expect most decent mesh bands to last anywhere between 18-24 months before noticing wear or discoloration from usage.
To summarize, Mesh bands are:
- Smooth on wrist
- Perfect for dressy occasions
Genuine Leather Bands
Genuine Leather straps are some of the most durable and cost-effective materials you can have on your wrist. The material is naturally soft but has an outer coating for protection and durability.
The comfort of genuine leather can be felt instantly when you touch it. These straps have a bit of a ‘suede’ feel to them making them the smoothest of the 3 while also being durable enough to withstand daily wear and tear.
Although the band material is durable and resistant to ripping and tearing, the softness of the material makes it susceptible to scuffing easily. Simply brushing up against a rough surface such as a concrete wall a few too many times would be enough to notice some scratching.
Despite this, actual deterioration of a genuine leather strap is unlikely. These straps are built to last and should not begin to show signs of aging from daily use before 12-18 months down the road.
As stated before, one issue that may impact the comfortability of a genuine leather strap is its breathability. Unlike the NATO or mesh straps, genuine leather bands leave very little room for airflow. Because of this, they are less ideal to wear during warming months because of sweat build up.
Although it may not be the #1 most comfortable strap in the world, genuine leather is still definitely among our favorites because of its flexibility, durability and softness. Despite its lack of breathability, the material still feels amazing on wrist and is definitely a cost saver when shopping for stylish straps.
To summarize, Genuine Leather straps are:
- Extremely durable
- Suede level comfort
- Can scuff easily
- Not very breathable
So, What’s the Overall Most Comfortable Watch Band for You?
In my humble opinion, I would say the nylon material of a NATO is a cut above the rest. Being able to adjust it to fit perfectly to your wrist, the spacing between the case and your wrist, and the smoothness / softness of the actual material is what led me to this definitive decision.
Although NATO seems to be the best option for comfort, don’t disregard genuine leather and mesh bands. Both provide high quality comfort and can be found at some fairly reasonable prices. Overall, it’s very difficult to go wrong with choosing either of these three watch band materials!
About Black Tie Watch Co.
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Black Tie Watch Co. is an American minimalist watch brand providing modern styles at affordable prices. We began operations in August 2019 out of Houston, TX and have been growing rapidly ever since. As of today, we have shipped our pieces to 27 countries across the world and look to continue to expand our global presence!
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