MING Watch

Design Brief Ch 6: A More Comfortable Strap

We realize not every detail is obvious at first glance, so this series is intended to provide an inside look into the thought and design process behind our creations – and yes, perhaps a sneak peak or two at the future.

Fundamentally, there are only really three mainstream choices to keep a watch on a wrist: a strap with two halves, a single piece pass-through NATO style strap, or a metal bracelet. You then have two fastening options: one that disconnects, and one that doesn’t (i.e. a folding clasp that allows the watch to go over a wrist without the risk of it slipping off. I’m not counting continuous elastic bands because they are sizing-critical.

We’ve been through several generations of strap construction already with our partners Jean Rousseau – refinements of padding material and thickness for suppleness; development of waterproof rubber straps with the same construction and comfort as leather ones; sizing and of course color and material variations. We had one evolutionary diversion in the one piece straps and hook buckle for the ultralight; it’s now time to move some of that over to the main line.

People with small wrists face both the challenge of finding a proportionate watch that fits, and then a strap to go with it. If you don’t have enough extra wrist on either side of the watch head, the strap also tends to fall straight down – it’s both uncomfortable and ugly, making the watch look even more disproportionate on the wrist. Add to that an inevitable buckle position that’s off-center or imbalanced, and a lot of extra strap flapping about, and both aesthetics and comfort tend to be compromised. Short straps solve this to some degree, but aren’t always available and inevitably economics mean that it just isn’t practical to produce and hold every variant in every length.

Our solution takes inspiration from Ochs und Junior – they used a tuck-in buckle with two pivot points; the first of which carries the pin, and the second of which has the non-hole strap end. The extra strap beyond the hole in use then tucks through the buckle and against the wrist, underneath the non-hole side. Thus: no loose flapping ends and the extra material effectively increases the diameter of the wrist so the buckle position is more balanced. It also reduces the thickness of the strap stack because there is no longer any need for keepers – and eliminates the problem of them being too tight or too loose.

We have of course added some significant improvements: a notch in the center of the buckle was added to allow easy lifting of the tucked in portion of the strap for unbuckling; there are two springbar positions to allow an effective half-hole adjustment in length to really fine tune comfort, and it is of course aesthetically in line with the flying blade buckle. The strap itself is also new (and this buckle is NOT compatible with previous regular straps) – it has a reprofiled tip to ease insertion and improve wearing comfort; thickness of the overlapping portions has been reduced; and the lengths adjusted to account for the additional buckle length and the effective change in wrist diameter with tucked-in portion. 

I leave you with one thought: as much as we love the concept of folding buckles on leather straps for safety and convenience, we don’t so much love the thickness or asymmetry they inevitably add – in some cases, the whole assembly on the bottom of the wrist can land up thicker than the watch head. This is made perceptually even worse by proportion – the stack of two metal layers and two leather layers plus a keeper loop is narrow and high. But what if we could create a folding buckle that kept the neatness of the new tuck buckle, but added no thickness beyond two strap layers?

-MT