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Changing Straps Can Make Your Watch New Again


Many of us have a watch, two or three in our collection that doesn’t excite us like they once did. You might see them every day, looking back at you from your BlumSafe, and you pass over them to grab another watch to start your day. Or maybe their straps don’t fit your current lifestyle or clothing color palettes, limiting their wearability. You loved them once, but not so much anymore. You may even be thinking about putting them up for sale.

Wait, don’t do it – switching out the strap can deliver you a new watch experience, for a small fraction of the cost of a new watch.

I have several watches that had fallen out of favor in my eyes. For a while, I have been watching Instagram with interest as collectors and watch strap companies “show off” unique watch-strap combinations. Some of them really made an impression on me, things I wouldn’t think of, like changing the iconic bracelet on a Rolex Pepsi GMT to a red, white, and blue striped NATO strap.

I am not terribly confident in my fashion creativity in this area, so when my wife asked me what I wanted for my holiday gift, I identified several otherwise beautiful watches that I thought could benefit from a band change.

So my wife went to work. The first candidate was my beautiful Sinn 903 St B E, a tool watch with an interesting background. Closely resembling the iconic Breitling Navitimer chronograph, this slide rule watch came to life after the owners of Sinn bailed out Breitling when it was on the verge of failure during the 70’s quartz watch assault. Sinn received a perpetual license to the design but made it better (in my opinion) by adding a crown at 10 o’clock to control the circular slide rule under the crystal. The dark blue dial with ivory luminous indices and chronograph movement is beautiful. The standard alligator embossed dark brown leather strap is attractive, but after a while, the watch just started looking uninteresting. I felt the dark leather strap was a bit too “dressed up” for a super-tool watch, and wasn’t wearing it when I felt I could have.

My wife found a light blue/gray nylon strap from Crown and Buckle that perfectly complements the dark navy blue dial. The strap is almost blue jeans-like in texture. This changed the watch’s personality completely, opening it up to many more uses, enabling it to be more of a T-shirt watch than exclusively for dress shirts. This was the biggest “win” in my watch band replacement exercise. A bonus is that this strap uses quick release spring bars, making them super easy to switch (the old strap uses traditional spring bars, so I had to buy a Bergeon spring bar tool with several replacement tips of various sizes). The only negative when switching a traditional leather band to a pass-through or NATO strap is that if your watch has a display back, the window will be blocked by the strap.

The second experiment was my Tutima Grand Classic Havana 80th anniversary Valjoux 7754 Chrono with GMT complication. This beautiful watch has a unique, brick-red face and the coin-edge rotating bezel. The Tutima is finished off with a very attractive brushed stainless seven link bracelet with a butterfly clasp. Nevertheless, as my lifestyle has become more casual and less “dressed up” over the past several years, I desired a textile band for this watch to give it more range and to pick up more shirt colors. My wife’s choice, an “army” green Barton sailcloth strap with leather backing, wonderfully complements the brick red dial. The only tricky thing I have learned on both this watch and my Rolex GMT Master II Pepsi is that it is VERY DIFFICULT to re-install a steel bracelet that fits flush around the circular body of a watch, so be warned – unlike most watch band swap outs, this is not as easy and requires the perfectly-sized fork tips for your Bergeon tool. Fortunately, this challenge is only “one way”, as Barton uses quick release spring bars.

Next up was a very attractive and formal Grand Seiko stainless steel case Skyflake spring drive with a dark blue alligator-embossed leather band.   Few watches look as good as this “dress watch” when I am wearing a suit.  The Japanese paper-textured light blue dial is gorgeous and unique, and, again, I have no problem with this strap when I am dressed for a meeting, but I wanted the ability to wear – and look at – this watches all the time. My wife picked up the same sailcloth Barton model she got for the Tutima, but this time in a brilliant royal blue strap that is really fun and not only broadens the range of this watch dramatically but seems to impact the shade of the light blue paper dial. The best part about a gift is that it can be something you would not usually get for yourself, and this strap is that – bolder and brighter blue than I would have bought myself, providing real pop that totally transforms this watch and its perfectly simple Zaratsu-polished steel case.

The last watch-transformative experience was probably the least necessary, but it added fun to an already perfect watch-strap combination. My Rolex Daytona white gold beauty with Oysterflex rubber strap was my 30th-anniversary gift. It has that distinctive silver sunburst face surrounded by the black ceramic bezel that stands out in a crowd. The Oysterflex is a great black rubber strap that goes with every color shirt sleeve, and while it is best worn informally, it also looks great at the office — so it really did not need supplementing. Well, my wife couldn’t leave good enough alone, and the orange textured Rubber B strap with black outlines that she purchased is a stunner (I think my wife felt bad at having spent a total of about $80 for the first three watch straps and wanted to “make it up to me” with this last one, which cost approximately $230). This strap uses the Oysterflex hardware, which swaps out thankfully easily, and makes an incredible watch stand out even more. This combination, when it appears in the wild (like in the “French” section on a Tel Aviv beach), definitely gets a doubletake from watch aficionados who are accustomed to seeing this watch on the Oysterflex. Superb.

So renew your love for an under-worn timepiece today. It is relatively inexpensive and will get your creative juices flowing.