The market for vintage and pre-owned watches is thriving, offering a diverse range of timepieces with charm, character, quality and historical allure. Riding right alongside this upward trend is the demand for stylish new watch straps for vintage watches. Here we detail some of the best watch straps for vintage watches and how to choose the right watch strap for you.

Understanding Vintage Watches and Their Strap Compatibility

Selecting the appropriate watch strap for your vintage watch adds a whole new dimension to its appearance.

In enhancing the overall appearance of vintage timepieces, the strap not only complements the watch’s design but also evokes a sense of historical context and personal style. A well-chosen strap adds to the watch’s character and expresses the wearer’s individuality. It frames the watch’s unique charm and craftsmanship.

Whether it’s a distressed leather band to evoke a bygone era or a retro-inspired metal bracelet to maintain authenticity, the strap serves as a conduit between past and present.

Before we discuss watch straps, let’s first review the various types of vintage watches for which straps are required.

Dress Watches

Dress watches are characterised by their refined, clean, good looks and minimalist dials. Their timeless elegance makes them suitable for formal occasions and executive office wear. These understated pieces often feature slender profiles and precious materials, reflecting a bygone era’s sophistication. Some will have sub-dials or complications such as a moon phase, date window or even a tourbillon.

Diver’s Watches

Diver’s watches are noted for their robustness and water resistance. Diver’s watches come with bold, easily readable dials, rotating bezels, and luminescent markers. These vintage treasures were designed for underwater exploration and adventure, combining style with functionality.

Pilot’s Watches

As for Pilot watches, these hark back to aviation’s golden age. They emphasise legibility and utility. Large, clear numerals and oversized crowns catered to aviators’ needs in the early days when thick gloves were needed to ward off the cold. Anti-glare coatings and rugged construction were also vital to withstand cockpit conditions.

Know Your Lug Widths

Lug widths and styles in vintage watches vary widely, influencing strap compatibility. Classic lug designs such as straight, curved, or integrated dictate strap choices.

Measuring the width of the lug helps to select suitable straps, ensuring a harmonious fit that enhances a vintage watch’s appeal, while respecting its original design intent. Lug widths vary from timepiece to timepiece, but the distance is usually in the region of 18–26mm, with 20mm being the most common size for men’s watches.

How to Choose the Right Strap for You

Comfort and Durability

Choose high-quality materials like leather, canvas, or nylon that offer comfort for everyday wear. Always opt for durable stitching and hardware to withstand the test of time and ensure longevity.

Personal Style and Choice

Select a strap that aligns with your taste and complements your wardrobe, whether it’s a classic leather strap for a timeless look or a NATO strap for a more casual or military vibe. Consider the texture, colour, and finish of the strap to harmonise with your vintage watch’s character.

Authenticity and Watch Model Match

It always pays to research historical references to find the type of strap on which the watch originally came. Match the strap to find a style that maintains the watch’s authenticity.

You can carefully match the strap’s era and design to the chosen watch model’s production period for a smart and traditional appearance.

Watch Straps for Vintage Watches

Classic Leather Straps: Timeless Elegance

It will come as no surprise that countries such as the USA, Germany, the UK, Spain and Italy excel in the production of a wide range of leather straps that harmonise with different vintage watch styles: calf for refined classics, alligator for luxury, and suede for a relaxed vibe.

Leather straps offer remarkable versatility for vintage watches, catering to diverse styles and occasions. They transition seamlessly between environments, adapting effortlessly from office to casual outings, making them an ideal choice for vintage watch enthusiasts seeking adaptable, stylish options.

Calf leather has a timeless elegance and comes in a wide range of tones and finishes including flat leather and leathers with vegetable oils to give them suppleness.  They’re ideal for dress watches and formal settings.

Alligator leather is a luxury choice, enhancing high-end vintage pieces.

Suede lends a casual touch, complementing a more laid-back feel.

But whichever leather strap you choose, the vast majority of them do not take well to water or sweat. Wear them in situations where you won’t be at risk of staining or compromising the material.

Vintage-inspired Bund Straps: A Nostalgic Touch

The Bund watch strap consists of two components: a standard strap and an accompanying “American plate.” Their origins date back to World War II. They were first created for the German Air Force by the Bundesrepublik, also known as the Federal Republic of Germany.

Bund straps lend a distinct charm to pilot’s watches and have seen a resurgence in popularity. These straps enhance vintage aviator watches with a rugged and authentic appeal, mirroring their historical context.

Their double-layer design provides added comfort and protection, making them well-suited for active lifestyles. Their durability and distinctive style make them an excellent choice for outdoor activities and casual settings while paying homage to the heroic past of aviation pioneers.

Metal Bracelets: Retro Sportiness

The right metal bracelet can offer a sporty and retro charm to vintage watches, as well as looking business smart. They combine durability with nostalgic charm. Stainless steel bracelets come in various styles from divers to dress watches. For vintage dress watches a gold bracelet adds a luxury touch, complementing high-end vintage pieces.

The robustness of stainless steel or gold ensures longevity, making it ideal for comfortable and carefree daily wear. Metal bracelets beautifully capture the essence of vintage watches, marrying functionality with a timeless, classic appearance. There are various types of metal bracelets to consider. There’s the classic H-Link, the sophisticated mesh of a Milanese, and the undeniable beauty of a rice bead bracelet. Take your time to decide what works best for your watch.

Watch Straps for Vintage Watches

NATO and Perlon Straps: Casual Comfort

NATO watch straps, originating from military use, feature a single-piece design threading through the watch’s spring bars. They’re loved for their durability, versatility, and wide range of colours, including several regimental and old-school stripes.

NATO straps provide a causal and functional option. They work beautifully to offer both vintage and modern watches a distinctive look and a secure fit even in challenging conditions.

Perlon is an easy clean material developed in Germany that enables you to fasten your watch wherever it feels most comfortable. Hard wearing and soft to the touch it comes in a variety of colours. The Perlon watch strap has established itself as a lightweight, comfortable, and budget-friendly option, well-suited for an extensive range of sports and diving watches. Perlon has quickly become a popular choice among watch enthusiasts.

Rubber and Silicone Straps: Seaworthy Style

Rubber and silicone watch straps offer durability, waterproofing and versatility. Resistant to water and sweat, they’re perfect for sports and outdoor activities, especially diving. Their flexibility ensures a comfortable fit, while a range of colours and designs caters to diverse styles. Rubber straps seamlessly blend functionality with fashion, making them ideal companions for both casual and active lifestyles.

Beads of Rice Bracelets: Vintage Chic

Beads of rice bracelets are a mid-century favourite. Their vintage charm is down to their intricate, rounded links which resemble grains of rice, hence the name. Revered by vintage watch enthusiasts, these bracelets evoke a nostalgic elegance and enhance the look of classic timepieces.

Rice bead bracelets have become desirable options for both formal occasions and everyday wear, seamlessly complementing mid-century watch styles while providing comfort and a touch of timeless flair.

Watch Straps for Vintage Watches

Exotic Skin Straps: Luxurious Flair

Exotic skin straps can include skins such as ostrich, lizard, crocodile and pigskin. These leathers can infuse vintage timepieces with an aura of luxury and exclusivity. Their unique textures and rich colours elevate the watch’s elegance.

Without saying a word they make an elegant statement in formal settings and high-end functions where there’s a chance to show off a little. Consider exotic leather straps to enhance vintage watches with a touch of opulence and individuality.

Custom-made Straps: Made to Measure Pleasure

Have you looked into all the options we have mentioned and still can’t find what you want? Then you might want to opt for a custom-made strap. These are specifically tailored for vintage watches and can offer irresistible appeal.

Custom-made straps enable watch collectors to select materials, colours, and designs that precisely complement the watch’s character. This personalised touch ensures seamless integration of the strap with the vintage timepiece, adding to its vintage charm.

Custom options empower collectors to revive their watches’ original look or explore innovative combinations, resulting in a bespoke and captivating accessory.

Deployant Watch Straps: Secure Fitting Every Time

Deployant watch straps feature a folding clasp mechanism. They offer practicality and refinement. Although they can be a bit challenging to clip on the first time, they ensure a secure fit with convenient wearability. A deployment strap also minimises wear.

They complement various watch styles, from vintage to modern, adding a touch of sophistication while ensuring comfort and ease of use for watch enthusiasts on any occasion.

Caring for Your Watch Strap

Proper watch strap care is essential to preserve the life of your watch strap, whatever the material.

Regularly wipe down leather and exotic skin straps with a soft cloth to prevent moisture damage, and avoid exposing them to water or sweat.

Remember to rinse rubber and silicone watch straps in fresh water after exposure to salt water.

Metal and rubber straps can be cleaned with mild soap and water. Rotate between multiple straps to reduce wear. NATO and Perlon straps just require a quick wash with soapy water.

Keep your watch straps stored in a drawer and don’t expose them to heat or moisture.

Free Straps at Vintage Gold Watches

At Vintage Gold Watches, we always fit our vintage watches with suitably elegant leather straps, but often one strap is never enough. Take time to choose at least a couple of other straps for your watch and acquire the simple tools to easily swap your straps at home.

If you buy a vintage watch from us, and you would prefer a different strap than the one that is currently fitted, we will happily fit a strap of your choice free of charge. We are partnered with Watch Obsession, who stock the full range of Hirsch straps which are made in Austria and are excellent quality. Buy a watch from us you can choose any strap from the Watch Obsession range free of charge.

If there’s anything we can help you with, regarding straps or vintage watches, get in touch with us today. And don’t forget to sign up for our informative weekly newsletter so you can receive vintage watch news straight into your inbox.

Alan Wood
Alan Wood, founder of Vintage Gold Watches, is a trusted vintage watch dealer with 35+ years of experience. His passion and expertise have earned him a respected reputation in the industry. Vintage Gold Watches, established in 2011, is known for Alan's knowledge and skilled restoration team. With a love for vintage watches since his youth, Alan is thrilled to share the finest timepieces from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s with others, fueling his obsession.