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Are There Fashion Rules To Matching Watch Straps To Watches?

Arkady G. from Tel Aviv, Israel asks:

In the fashion world, wearing a black belt with brown shoes is usually a big no-no.

Are there any similar fashion restrictions about after-market watch straps being matched with watches? For example, is it OK to wear a brown strap on a watch with a black dial?

Arkady, this is a good question, and one that doesn’t have a simple straight-forward answer. The simple truth is that it really depends on the watch. In some instances, a black dial looks great with a brown strap, and at other times it looks terrible. The best watch brands are clever at combining watches and watch straps for pleasant results, but when they don’t, you’ll have to use your good taste in order to choose a look that is right for you. Here are some great thoughts from some of our writers.

From the aBlogtoWatch team:

Patrick Kansa says:

As with most things, the answer is “it depends.” First off, if this is the sort of question you’re asking yourself, then you’re on the path of it mattering. Past that, the first question would be the color of the watch strap you’re talking about. If it’s something of a lighter (or very dark nature), and if it perhaps has black stitching on it, then you can pretty easily pull it off. Now, if it’s a richer sort of brown, it could be hit or miss.

Next, you’ll want to consider what the dial is like. Is it totally “blacked out” with stealthier indices and hands, or does it have some other sort of coloration included? If there’s orange in there, then perhaps you could get away with a more orange-leaning brown strap, for example.

In the end, it’s ultimately up to you and your own preferences. That is really where the custom watch strap market can shine, as you can often find a particular leather color, combined with stitching colors, to make something that works well for your watches (and tastes).

Victor Marks says:

I would suggest that material, finish and color (hue) matter. For example, a black dial with silver markers in a stainless case with a medium-to-light brown leather, leather NATO, or baseball glove strap is just fine. A dark brown leather with a high gloss finish is probably not.

A black dial in a gold case with black or dark brown high gloss watch strap could work well, because gold and brown are complementary. Especially so, if the dial has gold markers.

The most important thing about watch straps is wearing one that matches the occasion and style of dress. The nylon NATO on stainless case doesn’t go nearly as well with dress attire as a gloss finished leather strap. The velcro strap astronauts wore on their Speedmasters isn’t something we should wear to fine dining on Earth. The rough, worn-in leather works better with jeans. Green hornback needs to go with gold and preferably something green in the dial or bezel. Black with accent stitching (orange, etc.) works well on chronographs, especially where the accent color is repeated somewhere on the dial.

Follow the usual rules about color, looking for things that are complementary and fit with the occasion and clothing you intend to wear, and you won’t go too far wrong.

Matt Smith-Johnson says:

Ah yes, the rules of fashion. Nuts to those! They are meant to be broken and challenged by style.

Assuming this watch is either black and white or black and silver, you can pretty much do whatever you want in terms of color. As long as the watch and dial are entirely comprised of neutral colours, there is nothing to “clash,” so have at it.

For me, it all boils down to contrast and texture. For example, a dark brown calf leather is more subtle, and since the tone is closer to that of the dial, it keeps everything looking a bit more sober. In contrast, a cognac/caramel alligator leather has more “pop,” as well as an interesting texture, so it livens everything up.

As a strap maker, I typically try to encourage people to try new things. For a watch with a black dial and a steel case, you could go with a black DLC buckle to compliment the dial, rather than simply matching the steel of the case. As for color… Push the boundaries! There are many delightful combinations to be had. If there is an accent color on the watch, you can either try to match it, or go bold and try a complimentary color.

If you want to get a sure match, Google “color wheel” and look at what hues sit opposite each other — those are the “sure bet” complimentary colors. However, doing that is just “following the rules” again, so just go with what puts a smile on your face.

James Stacey says:

My personal taste is more about matching like materials.

I would wear a brown leather strap with brown leather shoes and a brown leather belt. They don’t have to be the exact same color, but tone (light vs medium vs dark) is helpful.

Other than that, I’m with Matt in trying other combos, and I often wear one of his lighter brown straps on my black dialed steel watches with a black buckle. I dig the contrast it adds to the watch strap.

Outside of matching your materials, and perhaps wearing a watch that could be described as complementary and appropriate, I’m not sure the rest matters to anything other than the wearer.

Also see these related Ask Us Anything articles:

How Big Should My Watch Be?

Are There Watch-Wearing Style Rules?

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  • BigMike213

    I think it has to do with someone’s personal taste and sense of style. If the person thinks they can pull it off, then what the hell, do it. It’s your property, you can do whatever you please with it. You might even start a new trend if it’s a good enough idea.

  • DG Cayse

    I have found that metal or silicone/rubber watchbands tend to not soak up beer and wine whereas the nylon/natural fiber bands tend to not only absorb liquids, they smell terrible afterwards.
    Just a note from the field. (Always rinse off bands with clean water and dry with a micro-fiber cloth)

  • PeteNice

    Obsessively matching belt, shoes and strap borders on the douchey. That’s the type of stuff you see on, typically accompanied by a forest of arm hair.

    Matching a strap with a dial has its advantages. I find a black strap with a black-faced watch looks good, but then I like the “blacked-out” look and you might not. But the only “rule” I try to follow is to match the buckle with the case. Regardless of the face/strap combo, matching a buckle makes everything look far more intentional.