This idea changed when I bought a Seiko. It came in such a crappy bracelet (as most Seikos) that I had to find an aftermarket solution. At the same time it gave me the opportunity to explore quality options, but it also made me aware of the endless choice available, from cheap plastic-leather rubbish to overpriced exotic komodo dragon skin.
Having said that, I must admit aftermarket straps are a great alternative to OEM straps and a great solution to enhancing the look of the watch and upgrade its aesthetic. After trying a few straps, I have even considered changing the oyster on the Explorer I for a leather alligator. Ultimately decided not to, there's something about Rolex where I draw the line.
Before buying a watch strap you should set the look you want and start from there.
- search for online pictures of your watch (and watch style) with that type of strap
- search for video reviews that show the strap in play to see how it would wear
- look for pictures of both sides of the strap for built quality and material
Consider the strap thickness for comfort. Thickness doesn't mean the strap is not malleable, this depends on the material it is made, but it can make a difference in aesthetic (too thin, too bulky) and on how it fits the watch case. For lug width higher that 20mm I like the strap to tapper down to at least 18mm on the buckle end.
Make sure the strap length is the right fit. Most straps have a regular length of 120mm/80mm but there are shorter and longer options. I prefer the 110mm/70mm to avoid the tail side overhang. When choosing the length you should consider the size of the case from lug tip to lug tip. Long Island Watch explains it here.
Grain - calf, alligator, crocodile, lizard, buffalo, suede, ostrich, pigskin.
Style - smooth, distressed, racing, rallye, aviator, carbon, canvas leather.
There are the trending vintage style straps to consider.
Material - Cautchouc, rubber, silicone.
Style - mostly related with rubber patterns - diver extension, tropical, racing.
Material - Most straps are made from 316L steel.
Style - oyster, jubilee, mesh, shark, solid straight.
When buying metal straps make sure the end links are solid and fit the watch case.
The description speaks for itself.
SNPR (not listed) has a few edgy designs (high price)
I'm not a fan of Nato/Zulu straps, thus can't recommend brands.
All the strap manufacturers listed below have Nato options I would trust for quality.
Phenomenato (not listed) is considered the higher end brand for Nato straps.
To help narrow your search
There are many strap manufacturers, from mainstream to boutique.
The goal here is to present the most versatile and revise the list from time to time.
1. B&R Bands
Excellent quality with a wide variety of styles for standard grain leather straps.
They have almost all straps in different lengths (thumbs up) to fit all wears.
The deployant clasp is comfortable and sturdily made.
2. Crown and Buckle
Excellent quality. Not a great variety of choice on styles and colors.
The Black Label Collection (90USD) is one of the finest looking straps in the market.
3. Fin Watch Straps
A boutique manufacturer from Finland, with excellent quality vintage straps.
Their straps (like many) are made from the famous Horween Chromexcel leather.
The leather is the smoothest and most conformable I have tried.
Great quality straps, with plenty of options for leather grains and styles.
Their straps are comfortable and well built, only a few designs have short options.
Price varies a lot according to material and finishing.
Probably the most recommended vintage style straps in the market.
They have the option of smaller lengths but with limited styles and colors.
Can be found in online watch band stores.
Great quality for leather and canvas straps.
Their elite silicone band is considered one of the best in the market and comes in two sizes.
Leather and canvas only come in one size.
Incredible variety of styles, for all materials, with unique looks.
It's definitely a brand to consider.
7. Cheapest Nato Straps
Also a youtube favorite, with great price/quality offerings.
Not exclusive to Nato Straps.
8. Clock Work Synergy
Popular website, with great price/quality offerings.
9. Everest bands
Exclusive for Rolex watches.
Great quality but high prices for the offering.
Their plus is that the end links and buckle/clasp ends fit Rolex cases and hardware.
Beautiful handmade leather straps.
Great quality / high prices.
Quality straps from different manufacturers.
Aside from the brands listed above I recommend the Isofrane and Crafterblue rubber straps.
A youtube favorite. Well organized store with plenty of choice.
Aside from the brands listed above I recommend the Hadley-Roma straps.
Other regularly featured stores