The Perfect Sized Watch Strap; is there a Golden Ratio?

Most watch enthusiasts inadvertently (or not) end up with a sizable collection of straps (usually larger than they planned for). This is not surprising given how they almost immediately start hunting for that perfect strap once they have laid hands on that perfect watch. The multitude of design and material options offered in the market today has a large role to play in the ever growing strap collection. Putting aside the market’s extensive offerings, this post zooms in on a fundamental aspect of the watch strap that we believe has made the strap collecting journey for collectors both interesting and challenging at the same time; size. We will be discussing how and why, size matters.

We have narrowed it down to three factors that we think are instrumental in providing that golden fit; (i) Lug to Lug (Watch Case), (ii) effective strap length and of course, (iii) wrist circumference.

(i) Lug to Lug (Watch Case) 

This measurement is the less popular brother of the case diameter but is extremely relevant when it comes to strap sizing. For simplicity, this will be the measurement from one end of the top lug to the other end of the bottom lug.

(ii) Effective strap length

The effective strap length is the total length of strap that actually comes into contact with your skin (wrist). This is usually a shorter length than both the absolute length of both the top and bottom straps combined because (a) a very small amount of strap that overlaps with the watch lug securing the spring bar between the lugs (indicated by “1” in the diagram below) and (b) the tail end of the strap that has to be secured by the keepers.

Taking a pause here, let us define the (i) lug to lug (watch case) + (ii) effective strap length = Wear Circumference. The wear circumference folds into the explanation for wrist circumference below.

(iii) Wrist circumference

The most common way to determine wrist circumference is to take a measuring tape and go round that particular section of your wrist where the watch sits on. On average, wrist circumference ranges from 5 inches (13cm) to 8 inches (20cm). Imagine the blue dotted line above to be your wrist circumference. Depending on the build of the watch case, more often than not, you will find two pockets (indicated by “2” in the diagram above) near the lugs that do not come into contact with your wrist but instead sit ‘above’ your wrist. Simply put, factoring in these two pockets of excess at the lugs would see the wear circumference sizing greater than your wrist circumference. And remember, everyone’s wrist bone structure is unique and this directly affects how much excess at the lugs would sit above one’s wrist thereby equating to varying wear circumferences for the same watch when worn by different individuals.

By now, you would have realised that there is no fixed formula for that Golden Fit, much less one that can be sweepingly applied. To make matters more challenging, determining the length of the strap doesn’t end at understanding your wear circumference. You now have to decide how much of the strap tail you would like to have visible (indicated by “3” in the diagram above) when you look down at your watch. Some like to see just the tip, some like to see nothing at all. Personal preferences.

Are we done? Almost. Below we list a few additional points that actually affect the golden fit of a watch strap we are all after.

  1. What is the ideal fit of a strap. Well, this is subjective, some people prefer their straps really snug and fitting (a good measure would be very faint wear marks when you remove your strap at the end of the day) where the watch does not slide one bit no matter how wildly you swing your arms. Others prefer it just half a link loose to allow for some breathing room later in the day should things heat up (explained in the next point). This would directly affect the wear circumference, and in turn, the size of the strap.
  2. Effects of temperature on strap material and your wrist. This might not be evident on weekdays when you probably spend most of your time in an air-conditioned office but you would have experienced it on a weekend out in the sun and temperatures dropping in the evening/ night time. Simply put, due to the different rate of expansion/ contraction between your strap and your wrist, there is bound to be a difference in wrist experience under different temperature conditions.
  3. Is your wrist size always the same? Effects of personal lifestyle on the size of your wrist. Experienced by myself may times, I pause my tri-weekly weight lifting gym routine for two months and I see my wrist circumference decreasing by one full link. True story.

It is important to remember that most watch strap businesses that offer hand-made products like Telhus are small to medium sized businesses. These businesses are likely to have limited capabilities to mass produce products in every size and take on huge volumes of inventory. Therefore, a good grasp of their customers’ demands is crucial to making informed decisions on manufacturing volume and inventory levels to stock for variants that are lower in demand (e.g. odd-sized straps 19mm/ 21mm and overly short or long length straps). By keeping their costs low, these businesses would be able to price their products at a level that that is in line with consumers’ expectations.

Recall that at the start of this article, we mentioned size being just one of the contributing factors to the ever growing strap collection that many watch collectors take on. We believe that there is a time and place for every watch and every strap; the material and design of the strap matter as well. But that will be an entry for another day.

We hope this entry has provided some food for thought on whether there is really a perfect Golden Fit. However, we at Telhus, believe there is definitely a best fit for you and your time pieces. And we welcome you to look through the offerings we have over at the Telhus shop. Alternatively, have a greater say in the exact size of your strap over at our Made-to-Order straps corner here.

Telhus, M.