Usually the first thing a guy notices when picking out a new watch is the face. With so many different displays, colors, designs, etc.—and now the option of smart watches—the face offers the most variety and will be the most noticeable component of any time piece. But somewhat subtly, the number of choices you have in your watch strap has also increased in recent years, and there are a lot of popular styles today that might have been considered slightly unconventional just a decade ago. So forget about traditional clunky leather straps and the boring, ordinary chain link bracelets. Here are four edgier strap options that any thorough watch collector (or just stylish guy) should consider snatching up.
The Milanese Loop is my favorite alternative to regular chain metal straps, in that it serves some of the same basic functions (namely, it can be dressed up or dressed down, and it's metal), without all the chunkiness. Reviewing the Apple Watch Milanese Loop (which is largely responsible for bringing the strap back to the mainstream), Apple Vis called it "a pleasure to wear" and compared its feel to that of "a soft bath towel." If that doesn't intrigue you, then you must just not prioritize comfort! Milanese Loops do tend to feel almost liquid-like due to their delicate, woven mesh designs. They're lightweight and easily adjustable, which makes them very convenient as well. One tip: don't wear one too tightly. It can be less comfortable and also looks a little too formal.
Most ordinary leather watch straps have stitching along their edges, and in many cases (I'd argue most), it can make the center of the strap appear somewhat puffed up. This problem is completely avoided in what I like to call simplified leather straps: lighter, more casual leather bands that are increasingly popular of late. These straps are more uniform, less bulky, and absolutely ideal for casual wear. Lyst's section on men's watches demonstrates that they can also cater to a number of different styles of watch face, and they can be more formal as well (as in the case of a chic Shore Projects watch with a white face and simplified black leather strap).
Nylon & Canvas Straps
This is a style I borrowed from Gear Patrol, which did a really cool write-up on some custom watch strap designers, including one who specializes in "tool" watches designed with military grade, fabric straps. Specifically, this refers to the kind of tightly woven nylon and canvas straps (often pale brown or army green in color) that have long been popular in various military divisions and NASA. If you're looking for a more rugged option to have around, this carries a very masculine fashion appeal along with it.
Rubber Sport Bands
Apple has also made this watch strap popular in the past year or so, with iPhone DJ calling it "incredibly comfortable" (and noting that it's actually made out of something called fluoroelastomer, not rubber). But Apple isn't the only brand producing this strap. The truth is that rubber, silicone, and similar materials have long been a great choice for those with athletic concerns, and lately they're more necessary than ever given the trend toward watch use in workout routines. If you're active, one of these belongs in your collection.
Adding these four options to your standard leather and chain link straps will give you a perfectly diversified watch strap collection. It's a great way to make sure you always have a watch for any given occasion or use.