I love my Tudor Black Bay 36 smooth bezel with the black dial. I fell into a hole searching for a Rolex Explorer alternative and came out the other end with a watch I really enjoy on its own terms. But, the 19mm lugs make it a pain to find a variety of straps to dress up or dress down this versatile watch. If you can do it to an Explorer, you can do it to the Black Bay in terms of style.
Going through the HODINKEE shop I found this UTE Watch Co. two-piece Sabmolo strap. Even better, it had standard availability in a variety of lug widths including 19mm. I love NATO straps for the ease of change and the variety of colors. Due to my military background I just feel drawn to them. I was able to easily squeeze some of my thinner 20mm NATOs into the lugs with no problem, but my OCD needed that perfect fit, so this seemed a match just waiting to happen.
The strap isn't cheap at $35 dollars but I bought two, a darker gun metal gray and black. I love what Adrian at Bark & Jack does with NATO straps on his Explorer: putting the darker grey in contrast to the silver of the steel case and the black of the dial. That tri-color subtlety is key, especially since a grey strap that is too silver has a tendency to wash out the details of the case and make it into a blob on the wrist. Alas, Adrian doesn't sell a 19mm strap, so, perfection in color and a chance to sate my OCD was found on HODINKEE.
This strap is interesting to put on, so now I'm going to confess to some absolute stupidity: I had to buy the black strap twice. Why? Because I failed to watch the video on how to put this strap on properly. The side with the pin and buckle is designed like a normal two piece with the spring bar passing through the opening in the strap as per normal and being placed into the holes on the lug interior. The side of the strap with the adjustment holes is passed through the lug at the bottom of the watch with the spring bar in place like a normal NATO strap and back fed into a keeper to form a loop around the spring bar. Then the keeper is adjusted down the length of this section of wrist band until it is suitable for the wrist size of the wearer. It is purposely long for any wrist size and for my 6 1/4" wrist, doubly so. Like an idiot, I tried to feed the spring bar through a very narrow opening near the keeper. After squeezing hard I wedged it into the lugs. Realizing it was too long I tried to punch additional holes and trim the end, burning the frayed cut like a piece of 550 cord (parachute nylon string) basically turning it into a savage melty mess. When I went back to order a new one, I noticed the video along with the static picture tiles of the product. While all my questions were answered, I chaffed a bit that my impatience led me to throwing $35 dollars down the drain.
These UTE straps are very comfortable with the seatbelt-style nylon having a softer feel. HODINKEE advertises this as loom-woven in a tight basket weave. The hardware is 316L stainless steel. The keepers and buckle definitely feel solid. The keepers are squared with sharp angles and are clearly not a cheep aluminum. The polish is not overly shiny and has a nice subdued satin tone that compliments the watch case. Overall this is a solid functional piece. The length adjustment comes from the mild friction of the keeper on the nylon and the pressure when cinching it down. Although it may slide a bit while putting it into place, it holds down easily enough once buckled and shapes itself like any other NATO. Is it expensive for NATO? Well compared to other more costly designs that still have cheaper hardware, not by much. Supposedly these are color fast as well to resist fading quickly, so the extra expense seems to provide a piece that will endure and stay durable over time. Overall I've enjoyed the look and style and would highly recommend.
Emerging watch enthusiast. I know just enough to be dangerous to my bank account. Small town kid, joined the military, stuck with it for 21 years, stayed in defense. Greater DC area.