It’s frequently said that you can tell a lot about a person by the type of watch that they choose to wear, and it's rather obvious why this is the case. Watches can be very personal items, and when a person chooses to wear a vintage stainless steel dress watch, it sends a very different message than if they were to opt for the latest solid-gold sports watch that is encrusted in diamonds and rainbow-colored gemstones.
Similarly, the type of watch strap that a person chooses to attach to their timepiece can also tell you a lot about them. Additionally, the various connotations attached to the different types of watch straps can differ from one country or region to the next, and they can also differ depending on the type of watch that the person happens to be wearing. So, what does your watch strap material say about you?
Leather Watch Straps
Leather is the original material for watch straps, and it was actually a discussion about leather straps with a friend of mine who lives in South East Asia that resulted in the idea for this article. As someone who lives in the warm and dry climate of Southern California, I’ve never paid too much attention to leather watch straps. While they certainly aren’t ideal for our hot summers, there isn’t ever enough humidity to the point where it becomes flat-out impossible to wear one, and you will see countless different types of people wearing leather straps during all months of the year. Until recently, I always focused on the particular style of leather strap and figured that it being made from leather was of little importance (unless you happen to be vegan).
However, my friend from South East Asia explained to me that due to the heat and humidity where he lives, wearing a watch with a nice leather strap can often be viewed as a subtle sign that the person has a good job. The simple fact that their leather watch strap remains in good condition typically means that they work in an office rather than outdoors, and that their office is also nice enough to be climate controlled with air conditioning. Additionally, wearing a fresh-looking leather strap can also mean that the person has enough disposable income to replace their watch straps whenever they wear out or get funky due to active use and prolonged moisture exposure.
Rubber Watch Straps
When it comes to rubber watch straps, the impressions that they give can often gravitate towards two polar opposites of the spectrum. Rubber is lightweight, flexible, and completely waterproof, making it the ideal material for performance-oriented watch straps. It is the go-to strap material for sports watches and fitness trackers, and this can often give rubber watch straps casual connotations, since you are most likely to see a rubber strap being worn by someone working out, playing sports, or doing various other outdoor activities.
With that in mind, rubber straps have been increasing in popularity among luxury watches and for some brands, it is even viewed as a premium option (for example, Rolex’s Oysterflex bracelet is exclusively fitted to solid gold models). Consequently, when I see a person wearing a suit or business attire and they also happen to be wearing a watch with a rubber strap, I almost automatically assume that their watch is a fairly nice or expensive one. Given that a leather strap is the de facto choice for formal attire, if a person is intentionally pairing a rubber strap with a more formal outfit, there is usually a very specific reason why they are choosing to do it. While rubber straps are historically some of the most casual options available, they are also now found on some of the world’s most expensive timepieces, which gives them a quique versatility when paired with luxury watches.
Nylon / NATO Straps
Lastly, nylon straps (regardless of whether that is single-piece, two-piece, RAF-style, NATO-style, or other) are typically very casual in their overall style, and rarely do you see them featured as the standard factory-fitted option on luxury watches, although there certainly are a few notable exceptions. With that in mind, regardless of the type of watch that a person happens to be wearing, if you see someone wearing a colorful nylon/NATO strap (or one that features some unconventional pattern on it), then there is a fairly decent chance that person is a watch enthusiast.
Only people who are seriously into watches bother to switch up the straps on them. If you doubt this fact, then just ask yourself this question: how often do you change up the laces in your shoes or swap out the rims that are on your car? If you see someone wearing a luxury watch and they have gone through the trouble of swapping out its factory-fitted strap or bracelet and replaced it with a nylon strap - let alone one with bright colors or patterns - there is a pretty good chance that they are into watches. Additionally, where there’s smoke, there’s fire; and if they own one NATO strap, then they likely own several others, along with a collection of (at least) a few other watches.