Brett and I are watch guys. Although I don’t feel like we can call ourselves collectors just yet, between the two of us, we certainly have a nice collection of pieces. And being the well dressed men that we are, we carefully select our watches according to what we are wearing. There are casual and elegant watches – and everything in between – just as there are casual and elegant bespoke suits and shirts. Recently, we came across a very cool company that played directly into our addiction – Barton Watch Bands.

The company manufactures a range of silicone, nylon, and leather bands that work with almost any standard watch with a spring bar. This is great news for anyone who needs to replace a worn out watchband, but especially great news for watch geeks like Brett and I because we can now artificially amplify our collection! The Barton bands are so easy to swap out that we can do so in less than a minute.

For instance, if I’m dressing to impress with my French cuff white dress shirt and dark peaked lapel suit, I can grab the black and ivory band. Or, if I’m going a bit more casual on a warm October day in Denver, I can grab something a little more fall inspired, like this one. Two different styles, but with the same watch.

I got in touch with Zach Steen, of Barton Watch Bands, to learn a little bit more about the company and how it all started.

nato style watch band

[Ryan] How did Barton Watch Bands come to be? What was the inspiration behind the brand?

[Zach] Our founder was a longtime fan of NATO straps (nylon one-piece watch bands) and liked them not only for their comfort and durability, but also for how quickly they could be swapped in and out to match a particular outfit or occasion. He was never able to find straps that were designed quite the way he thought they should. They were all too long, the hardware was bulky and the selection of colors was limited. He knew there must be other watch enthusiasts that felt the same way and went ahead and designed our initial collection of straps.

Around the same time, smart watches like the Pebble and Samsung Gear S2 were starting to build in popularity and they helped the general public grasp the idea of switching out your watch band for different activities. So, we have definitely benefitted somewhat from not only the smart watch craze but also from the realization that it created for owners of traditional timepieces…particularly, that you don’t have to marry yourself to a single watch band for each timepiece.

nato style watch band

Some of the bands you offer are “NATO Style.” What does this really mean?

Nylon “NATO Straps” actually have a history that dates back to the late 60s or early 70s. The British Ministry of Defense was the first to use them as standard issues for their soldiers and later they were more broadly adopted by NATO troops. So the idea has been around for quite a while. However, our straps are somewhat different than those original NATO Straps. For example, traditional NATO straps commonly have two metal rings to secure the free end of the strap, whereas ours have a nylon loop to secure the loose end. As a result, our straps have a cleaner look that’s more appropriate for the office or a night on the town than it is for the battlefield.

nato style watch band

What type of watches work with your bands?

Our bands are designed to work with any watch that uses standard spring bars that are between 18mm and 24mm in width. This accounts for thousands of makes/models of both traditional and smart watches. It takes less than a minute to remove a band from a watch and less than 15 seconds to attach any of our bands or to switch from one of our bands to another. All of our silicone and leather bands have integrated quick release spring bars that require no tools to attach or remove. We also sell those same quick release spring bars for use with our NATO Style Straps. Thus, you can switch between the nylon, leather and silicone effortlessly.

nato style watch band-barton-watch-bands

What guidance can you offer on selecting the right band?

There are basically three considerations that come into play – the watch, the outfit and the activity. First, it’s important to determine the lug width of your watch, so you know what width band to purchase. Lug widths of most watches can be found online or you can take a metric ruler and measure the width of the watch at the point where the band attaches.  We offer bands in widths of 18mm, 20mm, 22mm and 24mm, all of which are very common. Thus, there’s a fairly good chance we’ll have a band that will fit your watch perfectly.

Next, you need to consider the activity.  Leather and nylon tends to be more popular and appropriate for the workplace and formal occasions, while the silicone is great for a workout or active lifestyle. From golfers to ER nurses and everything in between, our watch straps cater to endless occasions. Most of our customers own between three and four bands for each watch they own and like to switch back and forth between them. As mentioned previously, it only takes a few seconds to swap between them!

Once you know what type of material you’re after, you can move on to picking out colors. If your watch does not have any vibrant colors (for example, if it is some combination of white, black and silver) then almost any color combination will look good on it. Instead, consider your wardrobe as a whole as well as what other accessories you may be wearing in combination with a specific watch on a given day. Choosing a color that is present, but underrepresented in the rest of your outfit can really help pull the whole deal together. If you are wearing neutral colors, consider adding a little kick to the ensemble with something bright like red, pink or green.

On the other hand, if your watch has a couple of colors worked into the design of the dial or casing, we recommend including at least one of those colors in the band. For example, a watch that has tiny highlights of red on the hour hands will typically look great with some red in the band. On the other hand, if the watch has a lot of red in the design itself, you may want a little less red present in the band – just enough to complement it.

Wrap up

Brett and I have both been very impressed with the quality and affordability of these bands. You can also pick up some buckles in different finishes – something that appeals to our affinity for all things custom :).

Visit Barton at their website to view their full collection.

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