The holy trinity of watches means many different things to different enthusiasts. In high horology it means Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, and Audemars Piguet. If you are a member of that trinity, please also add Visa, MasterCard, and Amex… the trinity of credit card companies that most people max out on to join that exclusive club.
For the majority of watch collectors, a trinity (or three watch collection) is something more approachable and realistic. Maybe a diver, a chronograph, and a dress watch. But what if your personal holy trinity of watches wasn’t a trinity at all? What if the trinity was only one watch? It’s not uncommon for a someone to own only one watch. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s the truth! Sometimes it’s a sentimental family heirloom. Sometimes it’s a metaphor for reaching a milestone in life… Or a more simple explanation, “I bought this because I needed a decent watch… and this is what I could afford.” Truth be told, we somehow all eventually ended up here.
Let’s assume that you’re someone with one watch in your collection and you’re ready to wear the hell out it. That’s great! But be prepared for the hardcore version of the The Two Broke Watch Snobs #watchfast. Chances are it won’t last and you will make a mistake buying another watch quickly out of boredom (Editor’s Note: the #watchfast is the incongruous act of metaphorically self flagellating oneself by only wearing one watch for an entire calendar month – standard #watchfast allows for strap changes while the hardcore #watchfast holds that the strap cannot be changed).
That’s why this article will show you how to diversify a one-watch collection and multiply it with the power of changing straps. Now I know it’s easy to get lost in the strap game. Where does one start? What’s the right strap for the right occasion? Nobody wants drawer full of stink bug straps that will never see the light of day again. First thing’s first – let’s start with a watch.
Enter Seiko Sea Urchin SNZF17: The Strap Monster:
Choosing the right watch as starting point isn’t critical. If the watch was received as a gift, you don’t really have a choice. Work with what you have. Not against it. Don’t try to turn your watch into something that it’s not.
For the sake of convenience, I chose the Seiko Sea Urchin SNZF17 for this article. I chose it because it was simple and easily identifiable. Best of all, it was a stainless steel sports watch. Stainless steel sport watches are great sellers for one reason, their versatility.
Black vs blue colored watches are a toss-up. If you’re stuck trying to decide, go black. It’s neutral enough to get away with anything. Another good compromise is to look for a black dial and blue bezel for great combination of both colors.
The lugs are also important. Ideally you want a watch that does have not unique lugs and will only fit the bracelet that it came with. A safe bet for men‘s watches is a traditional lug design with a 20 or 22mm width. The variety of available straps in those lug widths is staggering. This Seiko Sea Urchin has 22mm lugs.
NOTE: Most watch bands are easily changed with the help of a spring bar tool. There are plenty of online tutorials and videos on how to do it, so Google away!
The Dress Watch
Either a steel bracelet or black leather strap work great here. If you do prefer leather with this look, make sure that it has a little shine and/ or texture in order to dress it up. Another option is a leather band with a contrast stitch down both sides. Crocodile patterns are also very common. Save the matte single stitch leather for something a little more casual. If you are wearing brown shoes, make sure it’s a similar in hue brown leather strap. If you are wearing black shoes, make sure that the leather strap is black. Simple!
How often do you really wear a suit or a sports coat? If the answers is “seldom at most,” don’t feel the need to over spend here.
Leather is a great option here. It pairs well with chinos and a button down shirt. Don’t think that you need to spend over $100 here either. There is a plethora of good leather straps available for around $40. The colors and styles are endless. Try a vintage looking racing strap for a little more excitement. Not all leather straps are equal. Again, make sure your leathers match; watch, belt, and shoes. I can’t stress this enough. I’ve seen too many good people mess it up and ruin an otherwise perfect ensemble.
For an easy switch to date night, take business casual and roll the sleeves up to your forearms. Swap the leather for a nylon NATO style strap for a little extra “pop.” Try a Zulu style nylon strap with a single-pass if you want to keep the watch’s profile a bit lower to your wrist.
On a date, pick a fun strap with a little color. If you can imagine a color or print, chance are a quick web search will find a NATO and Zulu strap to match you imagination. Get out of your shell! Even the “Bond” NATO had a splash of color (contrary to popular belief).
Rolling up your sleeves will draw more attention to you watch. If your date says, “nice watch,” be gracious. Thank them for the compliment, then add no more than one additional follow-up sentence about the watch. “Thank you, it was a gift from my parents when I got a job as a K-9 acupuncture consultant and moved out of their basement.” Then defer, and ask your date a question about them. Under no circumstances are you to use the compliment as an excuse to mansplain the intricacies of a coaxial escapement to your date. They really meant, “I noticed your watch’s strap.”
One drawback of NATOs is the way that they elevate the watch on your wrist. The hardware also can extend the overall dimensions. Keep the sleeves up with these.
Jeans and a solid color t-shirt describes many of us on the weekend. Despite their popularity, I’m not a huge nylon NATO style strap fan. Sometimes it’s too obvious of a chocie. However, it’s hard to go wrong with one if it suits you. It took me a little while to find something different that I liked. This example is a single-pass combination fabric weave and leather strap matches with denim very well.
If racing a toy car on the weekend is your thing, wear the leather rally strap. Just don’t pair with running sneakers. Try a casual loafer or boot instead.
Vacations for me usually means some sort of water element; lake, pool, ocean, etc. I figured out that last summer I spent an average of 3.5 days a week in water. My favorite watch band of all time is the Rolex Oyster with Glidelock. It’s a 99/100 in my book and I still say, ditch the steel band on vacation.
Aquatic activities are hard on watches. Where there are pools, there’s concrete. Concrete is very hard and abrasive. Climbing in and out of the pool can cause accidental damage to the steel bracelet very easily. So can climbing up rocks at the lake. Sand at the beach is also very abrasive. If you dig with you kids at the beach a steel bracelet is out of the question, even if it’s 904L steel. It will get scratched. Scuba divers get away with metal bracelets because the usually jump straight into the ocean off of a boat. They don’t bury beach umbrella anchors and fight with stubborn folding chairs on their way into the water.
My recommendation for these vacation activities is a rubber strap. They are not expensive at all (with the exception of the Oysterflex). They are at home in and around water. Unlike NATOs, sunscreen getting into the fabric is not an issue. At the end of the day use a little dish soap to rinse it off. Done.
Rubber straps work well at dinner in a vacation environment as well. Most vacation destinations near water are extremely casual, despite the $35 lobster rolls and $10 beers. Besides, everyone will be too drunk and sunburned to care.
The right watch can give you confidence. The right watched paired with the appropriate strap takes that confidence to the next level. That versatility is the reason that the watch still remains the ultimate accessory. It is a fantastic platform for you to add your personal style through customization. Watch straps are easy to change and are now more accessible than ever. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. You’ll find out more about yourself and your watch preferences in the process. And the best part is; you don’t have to break the bank to do it.
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Greg is a long-time watch lover based in upstate New York. Greg is a supply chain professional by day and private watch consultant by night. Greg brings his own style to the TBWS website as a contributor by blending bits of humor into technical assessments. You can follow his cycling and snowboarding adventures on Instagram as he pursues the perfect 3-watch collection.