There are many different types of straps and bracelets that come on watches. At the end of the day it simply comes down to preference. Some people like the durability of a metal while others prefer the comfort of a leather strap. There are others who believe that rubber offers a hybrid of durability and comfort. As I mention before it all comes down to individual preference and I will discuss the pros and cons of each of the individual options.
Metal bracelets are great for folks who prefer not to worry about their watch bands for 20 years at a time. Of all the options metal is the most durable. Over the years the links will start to soften and give way and you will need to replace your bracelet. In terms of lifespan, you can expect a steel, platinum, or titanium bracelet to last 15-20 years. A gold bracelet will only last about half of that because it is a softer metal.
Metal bracelets are great because they are versatile. You can dress a watch with a metal bracelet up or down. They look great with a 3 button suit or a one button bathing suit. Over time your do need to clean your bracelet. Occasionally clean your bracelet with warm soapy water and an old toothbrush. Simply do that and rinse. They dry it with a soft cloth.
NOTE: If you watch is not water resistant, do not do attempt to clean it, take it to a jeweler.
Leather straps can be like an old pair of jeans. Once you break them in, they are incredibly comfortable. They to can be dressed up or down. You can get a nice alligator strap if you want to dress up the watch or a Kodiak strap if you want a more durable look to your watch.
Unfortunately if you wear your watch everyday, you can go through a new strap in about a year before you have to replace it. A deployant buckle can add significant life to your leather strap since it eliminates the tugging and pulling aspect of taking your watch off and putting it back on. Heavy perspiring can wash out all the natural oils from your watch strap too. To preserve the strap, get the moisture off with a soft cloth. Another hint to preserve your strap is not wearing it tightly. Always leave enough space so that you can fit your pinky finger between the watch strap and your skin. This helps air circulation and lets moisture evaporate more effectively. Finally, remember that while your watch says it’s water resistant to 30, that does not mean your strap is too, so take care of that leather strap.
Rubber straps are great because they give you the comfort of a leather strap plus some extra durability. Rubber straps are not as durable as metal straps, but they tend to last around 5 year longer then leather straps. The downside of rubber straps is that they are not as versatile as leather and steel bracelets. You will find yourself hard pressed to dress up a watch with a rubber strap.
Rubber straps also need to be maintained to some extent. Salt and oil will start to deteriorate a rubber strap if you do not clean it. How do you clean them? They same way you would clean a leather or steel bracelet, with a little warm soapy water and a soft cloth. If you are wearing your rubber bracelet at the beach with suntan lotion on and happen to go in the water, make sure to rinse the strap at minimum when you get home if not the full cleaning. This will help keep extend the life of your watch strap and keep it looking good.
There are a few other types of watch straps out there that I don’t need to comment on too extensively. Some women’s watches come with synthetic or sink bracelets. These are very delicate straps and are meant for dressing up. They also do not agree with salt, perspiration, or water of any kind. The aforementioned elements will only stain and take away the straps luster away quickly if they are not looked after meticulously.
The good news is that most watches enable you to use different strap/bracelet combinations. I personally metal bracelets and leather straps for all the watches I own. This allows me to dress my watches up or down. It also makes me feel like I got a new watch after I swap out a bracelet for a strap. As I mentioned in the beginning, its all about individual preference so if you feel strongly about one of the other, go with it!