I’m officially over silicone watch straps.
Don’t get me wrong, they have their good points. They’re cheap, they’re soft, lightweight, come in a rainbow of colors, and can be molded into an endless variety of shapes. I actually have a few that I like. They have their place…and it’s usually on a lightweight, inexpensive watch.
But their durability is sketchy, especially in thinner gauges, and I can’t tell you how many strap keepers I’ve shorn clean off after a minimal amount of wear. Every new silicone strap should include a half-dozen spare keepers. And their ultra-light weight can feel disconcertingly unbalanced when attached to a substantial tool watch.
But my biggest peeve is the amount of lint they attract. The material must generate a power plant’s worth of static electricity. Maybe silicone is what they make suction cups from, because I’m sure it would have no problem attracting Tom Cruise to the side of a skyscraper. My God, you could make a strap out of the double-sided roller tape that takes cat hair off your cardigan, and honestly, it would not be any different than silicone. The material is a Death Star tractor beam when it comes to attracting debris.
So what’s a guy or gal to do, now that summer’s around the corner?
You could go with a fabric strap…NATO, Zulu, and the like. But not everyone likes the feel of the nylon, or the extra bulk of two layers of material. But I do admit having a thing for the soft hand of a good quality seatbelt strap.
For me, summer heat is ideal for a sports watch on a quality rubber strap. Now, lots of watches (especially divers) come on ‘rubber’ straps, but they’re often made of something called thermoplastic polyurethane, or TPU. It’s durable, and not too expensive, but it can be stiff and plasticky. Personally, I think the best rubber straps offer a blend of performance and comfort, and for me, that balance is best achieved with natural vulcanized rubber. It’s durable, softer than TPU, resistant to heat, UV rays, salt water, and chemicals, it’s non-allergenic, and not liable to tear as easily as silicone. A good quality rubber strap can last for many years. They generally have higher-spec buckle hardware. Most importantly, they’re not lint magnets.
And if you’re looking for the best, the brand mentioned most often as the gold standard is Isofrane. They’ve been a dive watch staple for years. Yes, they’re great, but pricey at (gulp) over $100.
And, if you order a factory accessory rubber strap for your several-thousand dollar Swiss watch, brace yourself. They can run hundreds of dollars, just for the privilege of having that brand name emblazoned on the buckle. Whether that’s worth the price is your call.
Fortunately, when it comes to high quality vulcanized straps, you have options. And one of the best I’ve found is from the Italian maker Bonetto Cinturini. They’re to watch bands what Pirelli is to high-performance tires. They’re, in a word, awesome. In addition to Bonetto Cinturini’s own vast catalog, they’re an OEM supplier for several high-end Swiss houses. I myself have a strap from another brand that I’m 99% sure was made by BC. They manufacture a staggering array of rubber straps, in more than 50 styles (including deployant and NATO), 40 colors, and several lengths. I mean, they make seven different shades of blue. Best of all, they retail from around $30 to $50 dollars (and occasionally go on sale). I’m going to highlight two popular models here, but you can expect a similar level of quality throughout the line.
Think of this one as the evolution of the iconic Seiko dive strap. It’s got a very similar look, including the wave-like expansion ridges, but the material, in my opinion, is an improvement. It’s an absolute unit, a stout 6mm thick at the lug ends, tapering down to 3mm. Solid polished stainless buckle, extra ventilation holes, yada yada. And yes, the fat Seiko diver spring bars fit! As an added bonus, all Bonetto Cinturini straps have a subtle, but not overpowering vanilla scent, which is a huge improvement over your wrist smelling like a tire. It’s the perfect strap for any burly dive watch, but especially classic Seikos. I might replace the broken strap on my first-generation ‘Monster’ with one of these. Here, you can see it modeled on my ‘Batman’ Turtle (ref.# SRP787K1).
This one took me a little off guard, with its 60s good looks, Isofrane-type
wide buckle pin, funky embossed pattern, and asymmetrical
It has a slimmer profile, tapering from 4mm at the lugs to just 2mm. It’s
softer and more flexible than some of the thicker models, and just
supremely comfortable. And it’s absolutely smashing on vintage-styled
divers. Just look at it on a Vostok Amphibia (ref.# 150486).
Below, you can see some of their other unique designs. And if your style runs a bit more to the conservative, they have you covered. Keep in mind that all these models are available in a full range of sizes and colors, too.
So step away from silicone this summer, and get strapped with the genuine article. You’ll notice the difference.
More info at: https://www.bonettocinturini.it/en/home
D.C. Hannay is a writer, commercial producer, voiceover artist, musician, and advertising copywriter from New York, writing professionally for over 20 years. He’s been fascinated with watches his whole life, beginning with his father’s 1970 Breitling Navitimer, and will always have a soft spot for anything Casio.