From a sartorial perspective, summer presents both opportunity and challenge: find something stylish, fun, functional and — most importantly — breathable. We extend this logic to plenty of things: shorts, baseball caps, t-shirts, etc, and if you’re a watch nerd this goes not just for the timepiece but the thing that affixes it to your wrist. Yes, a dive watch or field watch is great for summertime wear, but only if you’ve attached it to your arm in a way that doesn’t feel hot, sweaty, itchy or heavy.
Every year I like to try out a new summer watch strap style. A couple of years ago I really leaned into the whole NATO thing to find that, while stylish one some watches, they don’t look great on everything, especially dressier timepieces. Their tight weaves also aren’t exactly breathable. Last year I got really into Milanese mesh straps, and while I stand by the style as a comfortable option they occasionally can feel too polished and, well, metal warms in sunlight. This year, though, I spent a whopping $16 on a perlon from Crown & Buckle and I’m finding the oft-forgotten style might be the perfect compromise.
A perlon, if you aren’t familiar, is a style of watch strap that dates back to the mid 20th century and was apparently invented by German watch strap maker Eluit. Conceptually, it’s similar to both the NATO and the Milanese mesh. Like the NATO, a perlon is made from light, durable and flexible nylon, though instead of one strip of tightly-woven material it’s made from a braiding of little nylon loops. As such, like the Milanese, the strap has a myriad of perforations, which makes it more breathable than a solid counterpart and the texture inherent in its weave feels dressier than your typical pass-through strap.
Further, my new perlon is light, crisp and has an elasticity that NATOs just don’t really have. It has a habit of feeling completely non-existent, which is exactly what you want from a summertime watch strap. But the best part about the perlon isn’t its light weight, flexibility, durability, breathability or dressy/casual duality – no, its the fact that when your wrist inevitably swells up in the blazing hot sun, you can make micro-adjustments to find the absolute perfect length for your strap on the fly.
See, if you’re dealing with a standard NATO, you’re beholden to the pre-cut holes that could either be too tight or too loose and if you’re rocking Milanese mesh you need to take the watch off to readjust the buckle. But the perlon allows for nearly infinite micro-adjustments thanks to its flexible, meshy construction and the fact that the tang buckle’s pin can slip into one of the strap’s many perforations. Feeling just a bit too snug? Just undo the buckle and reinsert further down the strap within seconds. Too loose? Do the reverse.
Like a pair of Patagonia Baggies or a Battenwear baseball hat, this adaptability, comfort and utility make the perlon the perfect summertime staple. And with that practicality, not to mention its relative obscurity, comes a dose of casual cool. Given that even the best options — including my Crown & Buckle strap or the beloved perlons from Eluit — cost less than $30, they’re pretty much a no-brainer.