Anyone with an interest in watches who even occasionally visits the various blogs or forums will have almost certainly encountered the term “strap monster” before. Personally, I don't particularly love the term and I can’t help but feel as though it sounds a bit goofy. However, regardless of my personal opinions about the general vernacular of watch collectors, we all understand that a “strap monster” is a timepiece that can easily be fitted to a wide variety of different watch straps and look great on pretty much all of them.
Although I’m not the biggest fan of the “strap monster” moniker, the term certainly isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and I honestly can’t come up with a better alternative, so (at least for the time being) “strap monster” is here to stay. Therefore, I thought it might be worth breaking down what features actually make a watch a strap monster, and explaining their importance when it comes to being able to allow it to work well with a wide variety of different watch straps.
Image: Watch Obsession
This one sounds obvious, but it is easily the single most important feature when it comes to determining whether or not a watch is a strap monster. In order for a timepiece to be worn with a wide variety of different straps, it must first have standard lugs, preferably in a width of either 20mm or 22mm, as these are the most common sizes. Any type of integrated design that requires a proprietary strap or bracelet immediately cuts down the number of compatible options to a tiny fraction of what is available for watches that have standard lugs. Therefore, in order for a watch to be able to work with a wide variety of different straps, it must first actually be capable of being attached to them, and the key to that is standard lugs and spring-bars.
Shown Above: Everest Universal Rubber Strap
Sporty yet Versatile Design
When looking at watches that are widely regarded as strap monsters, one of the things you’ll notice is that the vast majority of them are sports models, yet none of them are so sports-forward in their design that they would look odd if paired with a nice leather strap. Sports watches are generally most likely to be strap monsters simply because it is often easier to pair them with more refined strap designs compared to making an elegant dress watch look natural on a rubber dive strap. As a brand, Panerai has a huge strap culture attached to it, and a big part of the reason why models like the Luminor work well on a variety of different watch straps is because they offer a sporty yet versatile overall aesthetic.
Image: Time + Tide
For the most part, watches with classic dial colors such as black, white, silver, and gray generally have the greatest chance of being strap monsters since they run very little risk of clashing with the colors on a given strap. Similarly, watches with white metal cases typically have more strap options available to them, simply because a greater number of aftermarket straps are produced with stainless steel hardware compared to other material options such as gold, carbon fiber, or bronze. If you start running through the list of watches that are typically considered to be strap monsters, you will find that most will be stainless steel models and a significant portion of them will be fitted with classic black dials.
Lug Hole Placement
The placement of the lug holes relative to their distance away from the side of the case is something that’s easy to overlook, but it can actually have a huge impact on the type of straps that can be fitted to a watch. If they are located too close to the case, there simply won’t be enough clearance for the strap and the tips of the lugs run the risk of sticking out or poking into your wrist. Alternatively, if the holes are placed too far towards the end of the lugs, there will be a large gap visible between the edge of the strap and the side of the case, which can sometimes result in a bit of an awkward overall appearance, particularly when the lugs themselves are rather long compared to the case diameter of the watch.
Beyond having a sporty aesthetic that isn’t overtly tool-like, it’s also important that the overall design of the watch itself be somewhat timeless. Certain straps can either look decidedly modern or vintage, and the overall appearance of the watch cannot be so committed in either one direction or the other that it would look out of place when paired with a strap that embraces the opposite aesthetic. Many of the industry’s most famous strap monsters such as the Omega Speedmaster and Rolex Submariner feature designs that have remained largely the same over the years, and this is hardly a coincidence. Simply put, in order for a watch design to remain relevant for multiple consecutive decades, there must be an inherent amount of timeless versatility to it, and this often lends itself to being able to work on a wide variety of different watch straps.