The Compass  /  AccessoriesStyle  /  How to Rock a Budget Watch With Your Custom Suit

How to Rock a Budget Watch With Your Custom Suit

“A timepiece is the final say to any man’s outfit.” 

Timeless Role as a Statement Piece

These days, the functional value of a wristwatch is waning with the ubiquitous use of cell phones for time-keeping. However, the aesthetic value of a watch can’t quite be replicated (yet) by an iPhone no matter how well designed. A classy and well-coordinated timepiece will get noticed, so use your wrist real estate wisely.

And while an elegant Patek Phillipe, vintage Rolex, or an sleek IWC will surely get their share of compliments, they’re priced out of reach for most wrists (unless, of course, you’re Chris Paul). Fortunately, there are dozens of very respectable brands priced from the low hundreds to the low thousands, but today, we’re only going to focus on one uber affordable combination that will allow you to elevate your look while spending less than $50.

Here’s how:

Watch straps. Buying a single watch and rotating watch straps has been a well-known secret of the sartorially imaginative.

For the absolute extreme in value, you can’t beat the value of a Timex Easy Reader or Weekender which you can pick up for just $20-35. The simple face allows for endless alternative strap possibilities to pair with just about any look you’re going for whether it’s that dressy look for the boardroom to the laid-back ensemble for the weekend escape to the shore. Got some more change you can throw into your wrist candy? Here are a few more watches to consider from less to more expensive: Seiko 5, Triwa Nevil, Uniform WaresMougin & Piquard, Junghans x Max Bill or the Georg Jensen Koppel.

The NATO strap

NATO Straps on Martenero Watches

NATO Straps on custom watches by Martenero.

One of our favorites is the “NATO” watch strap, a traditionally nylon watch strap of British military origins that was popularized for its pairings with dive watches a la James Bond. We agree it looks fantastic with classic dive watches (like the classic Rolex Submariner), but they also work extremely well with a basic budget watch like the aforementioned Easy Reader/Weekender or on a custom Martenero watch, like the ones featured in the photo above.

Where to Get Them:

You can either pick them up for as little as $10 at JcrewP&B, or Amazon.  By taking a $30 timex and adding a few interchangeable NATO straps to the mix you turn a budget watch into a versatile statement piece that’ll stretch across your entire wardrobe.

Looking to dress up your look even more? Swap out that nylon strap for a leather one for something that’ll make your look a little more boardroom appropriate. 

Removing and Changing the Watch Strap:

To remove the original watch strap of your watch, you can either visit any watch store/repair shop to have them quickly removed or do it yourself with a spring bar tool. Here’s an excellent video that guides you through the process.

If your watch strap is too long on your wrist, check out this video of a clever method for cutting and shortening any nylon strap.

Don’t be afraid to go bold. Whereas the rules for an attractive tailored suit are well-defined, the watch strap is an area where you can have a lot more freedom to take some chances. Go for that fresh orange color nylon strap with your serious dark suit–break some rules, show some color, maybe offend some watch snobs and have some fun. In the end, that’s what style’s about.

Got any questions or comments on watch straps, budget watches, custom suits, or all of the above? Leave a comment below or email us at concierge@blacklapel.com and we’d be happy to chat!

(Featured Illustration by Ivan Kasaj)

Like What You See? There's More.

We'll send you style advice and intel for the modern man.

49 thoughts on “How to Rock a Budget Watch With Your Custom Suit”

  1. Robert Donat says:

    Matching a watch with an outfit can be as simple as one, two, three. But, it can also be nerve-wracking if you lack the basic knowledge to do it. Very useful & interesting tips. Thank you a lot!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad this piece was useful, Robert. As you said, matching a watch (or clothes, for that matter) can be nerve-wracking, but it doesn’t have to be.

  2. whatever-watch says:

    The pocket watches can be found at any random stores at a variety of
    prices and designs.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      I think this can be said about a lot of material items. Have any personal favorites or budget-friendly suggestions?

  3. rahul says:

    i am going to buy timex 03hg05 analog watch.the watch originally comes with a stainless steel bracelet.is it possibly to use straps on that watch.

    will it be suitable for changing straps

    1. Black Lapel says:

      That’s a watch question, Rahul, and we’re clothing guys. We wouldn’t want to steer you wrong. It’s better to ask the folks at Timex or in the store where you plan to get the watch.

      Sorry we couldn’t be more helpful, but if you want information on how to wear that watch, we’re your guys.

  4. Alex says:

    Are you sure about the Nato strap and custom suit combination? The traditional view is that a nylon watch strap, regardless of the color, does not go well with a suit, even if the watch is analog. Is that wrong?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      There is no “wrong” when it comes to style, Alex. Okay, there is. This is wrong. But all the little nitpicky “rules” about what watch band you can wear with what clothes are really just guidelines. Some guys wear suits with sneakers. It’s all about what you’re comfortable with.

    2. Dane says:

      James Bond wore/wears the finest watches with the finest suits with a nylon NATO strap. From Connery to Craig. Have a look at some pictures from the films. Very suave, bold and sophisticated.

  5. Alexandru says:


    I just bought this version of Timex Easy reader. I am a recent graduate and plan on wearing it with a suit for a whole bunch of grad interviews coming up. Can you please tell me if you think this is appropriate for the occasion. Thank you.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Yes, it’s appropriate, Alexandru. Its modest, not gaudy, style is perfect for a job interview.

      For more on interview style, check out our piece on what suit to wear.

      Knock ’em dead!

  6. Josh says:

    Hello, first of all let me just say that this is a great article and I want to congratulate you for that.
    I have a Timex Men’s Indiglo Easy Reader T2N370 (black back and white numbers) and want to buy some nylon straps for it, what’s the size of the strap that I should buy? 18mm right? And do you think that the straps that I would buy should have always a black stripe or do you think that the watch will look good with other colour straps?

    Sorry for the long comment

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks for the Kudos, Josh.

      As for the sizing, we’re won’t purport to know the correct measurements for your watch. Timex recommends measuring the millimeters on your watch with a measuring tape (you can use your Black Lapel tape if you’ve gotten one from us).

      As for the color, don’t worry too much about matching. Nylon straps are already sporty so going with a little bit of color won’t hurt and (as you can see from the NATO straps on the Martenero watches pictured above) a dark watch face doesn’t mean you HAVE TO attach a black watch band. Feel free to experiment with color combos, Josh.

  7. Chuck says:

    Thanks a lot, but do you know the style/name of the silver faced watch with numbers on the bezel. Thanks

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Sorry we can’t be of more assistance, Chuck. It was a Mougin & Piquard brand but we don’t have the model name.

  8. Chuck says:

    What is the silver watch in the third picture, with the navy and red nato strap. Thanks

    1. Black Lapel says:

      That is a watch that Mougin & Piquard sold when this piece was published, Chuck, but their collection has changed some since then.

      We have updated this story to include some watches that ARE available (from Martenero).

  9. Keith says:

    I want to get a new strap for my Easy Reader. Can it accommodate a 20mm strap?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Sorry to be the bearers if bad news, Keith, but you should stick with 18 mm for the Easy Reader.

  10. jc says:

    I was really wondering what type of watch the one to the far left is with the black and grey stripped nato strap. I love it and would love to know what brand it is.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      That is a watch that Mougin & Piquard sold when this piece was published. Unfortunately, it appears that particular watch is no longer in their collection, but there are some great alternatives in the collection.

  11. dR says:

    I’d really prefer to buy a bunch of passable looking 10$ watches in a street market than buying ugly straps and going through the hassle of changing them before leaving the house.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      True, DR, you could go that route, but if your only choices are “passable looking” and “ugly” you might want to consider just not wearing a watch at all. Better to go without than to wear something you don’t feel good about.

  12. Trevor says:

    Hello. Is the last watch shown the Easy Reader T2H281 with the strap changed? What is the manufacturer and model of the band shown in that photo? I really like the look! Thanks

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hey Trevor, if you search “NATO Leather Strap Timex” you should see a whole page of sellers offering that exact style and color.

  13. Roland says:

    Hello again,

    Now I bet you guys are getting annoyed, I’m just going through every article you guys have.

    But this one strikes me because I thought since I will soon have a fancy suit, I would have to grab a fancy watch to go with it. Now I still have my eyes set on a good dive watch, that Timex Easy Reader will more than fit for the moment, pitted with a nice blue colored NATO strap.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Annoyed? Never! We LOVE it when people take the time to comment.

      That Timex with the NATO strap will serve you well. We love them. You can’t throw a hanger in the Black Lapel office without hitting somebody who owns a Timex with a NATO strap (on a side note, to all the Black Lapel staff reading this, please stop throwing hangers!).

  14. BLaw says:

    I picked up the Weekender for its simple, no frills style to accompany my casual clothes. Unfortunately, the (p)leather strap is so thin and flimsy, the two loops don’t hold down the excess band. Are the nylon straps as bad?

    Nothing worse for your style than having to maintain it in public.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Agreed, it’s always worth investing that extra upfront to go for quality and durability. The last thing you want is your watch falling apart during a date or an important interview. Try Crown and Buckle. They make some heavy duty NATO straps that are known for their durability.

  15. matt says:

    Can I use the same strap on both a weekender and easy reader?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Absolutely. Both watches can accommodate 18mm wide straps!

  16. Jacob says:

    How do you avoid getting your watch caught on your cuff. I have a very nice solid black analog, but it’s too thick for my cuffs.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Jacob, a few solutions for ya:

      1) Get a thinner dress watch
      2) Wear your watch a bit higher on your wrist
      3) Get your shirt cuffs made with about an extra 1/4″ to 1/2″ in the circumference of the cuffs (or just the side where you wear your watch)

  17. feiz says:

    Is the one of the left (the brown strap) NATO wrist straps too? Been trying to find a good leather-one but boy its a pain trying to find good price-good quality leather brown wriststrap


    1. Black Lapel says:

      Yup, it is. Try Ebay. If you do a little searching you’ll come across some high quality brown leather wrist straps at very fair prices. Hope that helps with your search!

  18. James Duffy says:

    Ah, one more thing — for the Weekender and the Easy Reader, which is a better fit, 18mm or 20mm nato bands? I can’t seem to find a definitive answer online.

    1. James Duffy says:

      Ah, just found the product specs on Amazon — looks to be 18mm for the Easy Reader, and 20mm for the Weekender.

  19. Bill says:

    Would you mind identifying the two large faced watches in the picture of the NATO watch bands, the one most to the left and more importantly, the lowest one in picture (with the black face and the second markings on the outer circumference instead of the hours) I really like that black watch.

    1. Stephane says:

      I’d be really eager to find that out too (especially the bottom one). The nearest I could find was am Archimede http://www.archimede-uhren.de/archimede-uhren-kollektion-pilot-deckwatch-klassik-taucher-outdoor-automatik-handaufzug-chronograph-2824-6498-7750/pilot-automatik-2824-handaufzug-6498-chronograph-7750-b-uhr-fliegeruhr/pilot-42-b-automatic-b-watch.html but it differs. The one on this article is much more elegant I find.

      1. Black Lapel says:

        Hey Stephane, we found ours on Ebay. If you search “NATO Leather Strap Timex” you should see multiple listings from various sellers selling that exact style and color.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks Chuck! Definitely will add this one to the list!

  20. AB says:

    Does anyone know where you can find the longer NATO watch straps (like those on the left side in the second picture)? Thanks!

  21. James Duffy says:

    This is great! Would love to see a similar article on sunglasses. Any good budget options out there?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks James! We definitely have an article on sunglasses planned for the near future. As for budget sunglasses, we’d say it’s worth investing in a higher quality pair (such as Raybans) as the mileage you’ll get out of it will pay off in the long-term. We also suggest checking out warbyparker.com. They are known for their eyeglasses, but also have very stylish and reasonably priced sunglasses as well.

  22. Jessy Diamond says:

    I got both the Timex Weekender (with the exact same strap you linked, it’s my favorite) and the Timex Easy Reader with a brown italian leather strap. They are cheap and they look great! The only downside I can find is that the ticking sound is quite loud.

    To go with my custom suit, I’ll wear something a bit more understated : a silver Seiko 5 with a black leather strap. Simple and classy.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Jessy, agreed on all points! We also found that the Easy Reader can get a bit loud, but it’s rarely noticeable most of the time. It’s definitely not much of an issue if you take into consideration its price and overall value. Where it really shines, however, is in the fun you can have with the plethora of 3rd party watch straps out there. As far as dressier and more traditional budget watches go, we are totally with you on the seiko 5 w/ a black leather strap!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.