Sweat-Proof: Our Picks for the Best Watch Strap for Summer

IMAGE Breitling

Global warming and El Niño take temperatures to unprecedented heights, and your wrists are also, no doubt, feeling the heat—so what is the stylish man to do but swap out his usual favorites for the best watch strap for summer?  

Don’t worry, as always, we did the research for you. Here, for your consideration, is a list of some of the watch bands that will keep your skin comfortable, despite the heat. If you’re going to end up with a telltale tan line around your wrist, you might as well get it from sporting one of these.  

1| NATO 

The classic nylon NATO strap is a summer go-to as it’s breathable, washable, and can be handily slipped through a watch’s spring bars, so replacing the strap can be done in a snap. Plus, it comes in a range of colors so you can really have fun with it, totally changing the look of your timepiece and giving it renewed life each time. It’s also relatively affordable, so you can collect one to complement every outfit or occasion. 



Of course, knowing the history behind this particular strap can only serve to make it even cooler. The NATO strap has military roots, as it was initially distributed to British troops in the ’70s. Standard Military of Defense-issued straps only came in one color, “Admiralty Gray,” but other military regiments soon began wearing straps featuring their specific stripes and color schemes.  

But you can always count on one Brit to give the strap its own legend: that would be the famous Bond NATO strap looped through Sean Connery’s Rolex Submariner in 1964’s Goldfinger. Fun fact: His actually predates the MoD-issued straps by nine years and comes in a three-tone colorway of navy blue, red, and green. But the second it’s on Bond, you know it’s destined to be an icon.   

2| Perlon 

This is another strap that comes in nylon, but is distinct from the NATO in that it has a braided, interwoven pattern. This gives it a more classic appearance that’s perfect for the preppy, country club set. The woven synthetic fiber construction allows for a little bit more airflow, something that could make all the difference in this scorching heat.  

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Another advantage is that Perlon straps don’t come with the usual dedicated sizing holes that would indicate where you are supposed to lock it around your wrist, so you can adjust it based on your own preferences entirely. As skin and other materials can expand in the heat, you might find that your old straps fit a bit more snugly than they used to or that you have to allow for an extra hole or two. With a Perlon strap, you can always loosen the fit to give you more room to breathe, though you might find that these kinds of straps tend to stretch and naturally show signs of wear with age.

No matter—they’re available at such an accessible price point that you can definitely afford to replace them and keep a few extras in your regular rotation to spare.    

3| Rubber 

This water-friendly material is pretty much synonymous with dive watches, and with good reason—rubber is flexible, durable, and lightweight. Plus, drying it out is as easy as giving it a rubdown with a towel, just as you would the rest of your body.  


Is rubber arguably the best watch strap for summer? That depends, as you have to remember that not all rubber straps are created equal. Vulcanized and natural rubber tend to be on the pricier side, but these are also of a higher, sturdier quality. You might want to keep an eye out as well for other features like being non-toxic and hypo-allergenic; some even prefer theirs to come with a mild, pleasant scent.     

On the plus side: Rubber straps are colorful, sporty, eye-catching, and add a touch of personality. If you’re in the market for one that’s extra-hardcore, be on the lookout for a tropic rubber strap. It comes in a woven pattern design and perforations that allows it to be more breathable. Originally released in the ’60s, it’s proven to be more enduring than many of the rubber straps that came out during the dive watch boom and has stood the test of time.    

4| Leather

Yes, you read that right. Leather can have a place in your summer watch strap rotation—but not just every and any kind of leather strap, mind you. In this heat, try and stick to the rally strap, a perforated design that’s associated with racing. Similar to driving gloves, the extra holes add a bit of ventilation, and sometimes, that’s all you really need. If you prefer the elegant look and feel of a leather strap, this would be the ideal compromise.  

The design also allows it to be more lightweight—another reason why it was necessary for racing, where every ounce counts. This might not be the best choice for a day under the sun, but for evening to nighttime, it should work just fine.     

5| Mesh

If you’re a traditionalist who prefers to stick with a metal band at all costs, this would be the best option. Of all the metal bracelets, steel mesh is the most flexible and lightweight. You can choose to go with the Milanese style, named for the Italian city of Milan with a history that can be traced back to the 13th century. It almost looks like chain mail armor, allowing it to lie flat and smooth against the wrist. It’s also lighter and thinner, as far as metal straps go.   


If the best watch strap for summer, in your opinion, is one that’s on the chunkier side, there’s the vividly named Shark Mesh strap that first gained popularity in the ’70s and was a prominent feature of the Omega Seamaster Ploproof 600m. Originally advertised to be “shark-proof,” the robust design lends itself well to a dive watch while the spacing in the links and loops adds comfort and breathability. But is it really shark-proof? Only a true adventurer would know.   

How To Prevent Your Watch Strap From Smelling

Scorching summer days, city grime, and everyday wear-and-tear will eventually lead to funky smelling watch straps. Fortunately, there is this thing you can do that can alleviate the stink. It is called cleaning. We refer you to this informative guide from our New York HQ.

Here's it is in brief: Wipe gently with baking soda (mixed with water) for silicone and rubber bands, leather cleaner for leather bands, and dish soap for those Apple Watch Sports Band. Cleaning with a damp cloth will also do, but will not be as effective. Do these regularly and your watch strap won't smell like a dead cat.

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Nana Caragay
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