Straps. We love ’em, you love ’em. Bracelets, rubber, leather, cordovan, woven materials…you name it, we’ve all tried them and have chosen our favorites amongst them. It’s the fastest way to change the mood of a watch, and to make a watch complement your style or the season. With summer coming, finally, it’s likely that you’ll want to remove the heavy leather that has adorned your watches for the last several months, in lieue of something lighter and more breathable. Typically, we go to our trusty nylon NATOs when the weather turns, but now there is another fun option, The Hill-Side Watch straps.
If you don’t know The Hill-Side, you really should. They are an accessories brand based out of NYC that focuses on finding and using interesting fabrics. Originally, they made simply pocket squares and ties, but in the last year have expanded greatly, now offering sneakers, backpacks, watch straps and more. Their approach to material selection and design is what I find particularly appealing about them. Ranging from serious to quirky, classic to experimental, quiet to loud, their wide array of seasonal fabrics are breathtaking and hard to resist. For guys who like to wear a casual tie, there are few better options out there. For more info on them, I recommend reading this article/interview on the great men’s fashion site, well-spent.com.
As a fan and customer, I was overjoyed to find out they were taking a stab at watch straps. It’s just one of those things that makes sense. If a striped nylon NATO looks good with a watch, it would follow that a nice pattern or nicely textured fabric would too. I also quite like the idea of the watch strap as being analogous to the tie. Perhaps you don’t wear it every day, but as an accessory to the right outfit and watch combination, it can add personality and style.
Hill-Side was kind enough to send us a couple to take a look at, and their approach is quite interesting. Rather than a two piece, they went with a single pass design with the star material on the outside, a lining material on the inside and honey-leather end pieces finishing either end. The material is folded and stitched as to not have raw edges, and I believe there is a thin layer of filler inside to add some thickness. The keeper is a wide piece of looped fabric that matches the outer material, which is held in place by the leather end-piece on the buckle side. Here too is a NATO style buckle in black PVD. On the far side are a series of black eyelets that act as the sizing holes.
So, what you have is an interesting play on a simple pass-through military strap. With the materials and leather, how ever, it quickly takes on a personality un-like any NATO or nylon strap. The two sent to us featured pretty gorgeous materials that aired on the classic side. One is their indigo/red stripe variety and the other is a dark blue “Panama Cloth”. The indigo/red stripe, which to my eyes is a much lighter, softer blue than “indigo” has a biased pattern of white lines with intermittent red. The second I saw it, I knew I had to throw it on my Nomos Club, and it worked great. The light blue accentuates the off white dial while the red in the strap and dial compliment one another. This combo would be great with a cotton blazer and light colored shirt, of with a solid shirt, sleeves rolled up.
The Panama Cloth strap, which is more indigo than the previous strap in my opinion, is a deep rich color. Though it is a solid, what makes this one stand out is its texture. The fabric has a dense weave that is unlike nylon and quite matte. They use this material in various other items, so you can pair them with each other. This one I put on my Seiko 5 SNZK803. Similarly to the Club, the dark blue and the khaki dial go very well together. Since this strap lacks a pattern, the military styling of the Seiko 5 suits it. For a more conservative approach than a NATO, but a less than leather, this is a great option.
In both cases, I found the straps very comfortable to wear. They are light and and the lining is relatively soft, so easy to strap on and forget. I did find them a touch long, but since the keeper is fairly large, I could actually tuck the excess strap back in, which solved the problem quite elegantly. The honey leather accents were also a nice touch. In both cases, it complimented the blues found in the fabrics. The only issue I had was that the leather tip was too thick to slide between the spring bar and case, so I did have to remove them to get the straps on. This is a common issue with leather NATOs as well, so it wasn’t much a concern.
On top of these colors, Hill-Side has 5 additional and perhaps more wild options for their inaugural collection. There is a bright “confetti” pattern, a couple of camos, a “big crazy floral print” and another blue with white dots, which I have to say is calling out to me. All of them run $59 dollars and are made in the USA. Currently, and this happens to be quite unfortunate, they are only available in 18mm. Hopefully they will expand on this soon as I imagine most of us need 20’s and 22’s, which are the most common widths. Regardless, these are great alternative to NATOs for the summer and for specific outfits where something material or patterned would work well. I look forward to seeing where they go with these.
by Zach Weiss