Vario is a brand based out of Singapore that sells hand-wound, Art Deco-inspired mechanical watches, as well as some of the most creative and unique watch straps I’ve ever seen.
They’ve sent me a harris tweed, vintage italian leather and a two-piece grahic nato strap to review, as well as a watch travel case.
Disclaimer: Vario was kind enough to send these products in sponsorship, though I’ll still give my honest thoughts and if it sucks, I’ll always tell you.
Harris Tweed Strap
Leather and NATO straps are a dime a dozen, but the Vario Harris Tweed wool strap is what I’d call their most unique offering. It’s the strap that piqued my interest enough to inquire about them in the first place and frankly, one of the most unique watch straps I’ve ever seen.
This one is a rich navy blue that’s simple enough color-wise to really allow the unique rough-out texture pop.
The slight fraying that happens inadvertently when going about your day to day only adds to the character and charm of the strap, like how a few battle scars on the bezel of a dive watch make it your own. I actually can’t wait to see how this strap ages and ‘patinas’ over time, and how well it holds up in the long run. I’ve only owned it for about a week, but so far, so good.
The strap is thick and feels sturdy, but still soft and pliable. It’s only starting to conform to my wrist a few days after wear, so there’s a bit of a break in period,
According to Vario, wool fabrics are heavily resistant to tearing, hopefully that should keep the strap holding up and looking great for a long time to come.
Common Misconceptions About Harris Tweed Wool
I, like many others, probably are used to thinking of wool as being a material you wear only when it’s cold. According to Vario, however, Harris Tweed wool is an insulator that doesn’t conduct heat and keeps you at a constant temperature. Well, it’s been warm and humid these past few days in New York City, so I’ve really gotten a chance to put that to the test.
I can confirm this strap is surprisingly not uncomfortably warm to wear even in the early summer, though on the underside of the strap is a buttery smooth leather lining. While very soft and comfortable, it’s definitely not going to be my go-to as the summer temperature peaks.
I can see myself gravitating toward this strap a lot in the fall, kind of like a good flannel shirt.
I only have a couple of minor gripes with this strap:
- It may be too small for some wearers. On my 7 inch wrists, there are only 2 extra adjustment holes to make the strap bigger. If you have larger wrists, beware. (UPDATE 6/24: Ivan, the owner of Vario has informed me there will soon be longer sizes available for this strap!)
- The keepers are a little big and ‘fluffy’, and kind of give an otherwise classy strap a bit of a ‘clownish’ appearance. It kind of reminds me of the big fluffy sherpa part around the top of an Ugg boot. But the wool is made from sheep, so, I mean…
- No quick release. Their other strap offerings I’ve tried all have a quick release, so it’s a little bit of a bummer this one doesn’t. This was probably decided as Harris tweed is a difficult material to work with, and a quick release spring bar might’ve somehow compromised the structural integrity of the strap, or made it too thick to wear.
Which Watch Should You Wear This On?
I feel like this strap is the fun and playful version of a crocodile leather strap.
It’s very stylish and classy, but the texture and variety of color options make it much less serious. You can use it very well to dress down an otherwise very sophisticated and mature piece. Could be a good way to finally get a chance to wear that favorite dress watch of yours on a casual Sunday afternoon.
Admittedly, I don’t own any watches that really do this strap justice. It’s so classy and has so much character that this is one of the few straps that, in my opinion, really NEED as minimal of a watch as possible to really make the most of it.
On my Seiko 5 SNK355 it matches nicely with the minimal silver dial, but I think a watch with a simple white dial would be the best fit.
The Final Verdict
The Harris Tweed watch straps are an extremely unique look and can look great when complimenting a sophisticated and minimalist dress watch.
You can really feel the substantial nature of the weave and the buttery smooth leather interior against your wrist feels amazing.
Large wrists beware as these straps, while beautiful, are shorter than average and might not fit everyone. (UPDATE 6/24: according to Vario, there will soon be longer lengths of the Harris Tweed strap added to the site!)
At $38, it’s not cheap for a watch strap, but the quality is there and I haven’t seen any other Harris Tweed straps aside from a few custom-made on Etsy.
Though a Harris Tweed strap wouldn’t be my first choice as an ‘everyday’ strap, a dress watch isn’t an everyday watch, and I think it pairs perfectly for a fun ‘special’ occasion or night out on the town.
Vintage Italian Leather Strap
The Vintage Leather offering is not a strap I was expecting to receive, but am SO glad I did. It’s by far my favorite of the bunch.
It has the visual appeal of both sophisticated elegance and durability and toughness, all at the same time.
At 3mm thick, it’s very substantial and beefy but lacks the initial stiffness and break-in period of other high-end leather strap offerings, like my Colareb Venezia strap.
Seriously, there was almost NO break-in period with this strap. It came out of the box comfy as heck, and the soft, buttery leather underside definitely adds to the luxurious feel as it hugs your wrist.
This particular strap is a slightly bi-colored Pewter Grey with contrasting cream stitching that really sets it off and makes the strap look a little more slim on the wrist than it actually is. A nice touch of class.
Build Quality and Dimensions
The strap is 18mm and tapers to 16mm, as does their 19 and 20mm offerings. That’s right, they offer this in 19mm, perfect for watches with that unusually pesky lug width, such as the Seiko 5 SNXS79 I reviewed earlier this week.
The tapering makes the strap wear extra comfortably around the wrist and adds a certain level of elegance to an otherwise rather robust and tough looking piece of leather.
The Vario strap uses leather from Provincia di Vicenza in Italy and has ‘Genuine Leather’ embossed into the underside of the strap. Usually ‘Genuine Leather’ is a catch-all term and doesn’t at all denote the quality of leather used.
But by feel and even smell (yes, I sniff my leather straps, I’m weird, I know) I can tell it’s real leather.
According to Vario, it’s stain and scratch resistant, and though I’ve only worn it a couple of days, so far it still looks brand new. I’ll continue to update this as it wears over time.
The One Downside
My only gripe with this strap is the hardware used. The buckle that’s included is, from what I can tell, the same as that on the Harris Tweed Strap, but with a punched hole for easy swap-outs.
It’s not a bad buckle, by any means. It’s nicely engraved with VARIO and polished well enough.
But I think a slightly higher quality and beefier buckle would take this otherwise perfect everyday strap to the next level.
On the previously mentioned Harris Tweed strap, I can easily overlook this buckle, as on a more sophisticated and ‘dressy’ watch strap, you want something sleeker and slimmer.
But on a beautiful, thick, Italian leather strap, I’m actually going to seek out a thicker, third party replacement, which should be really easy to swap out, thanks to the drilled holes on the existing buckle.
The strap is ever so slightly longer than the Harris Tweed straps, so those with a larger wrist may have less of a sizing problem with this strap than the previous, but should still be mindful of sizing when ordering.
The Final Verdict
It truly looks and feels like a luxury strap on the wrist and I’m so glad I now have it as part of my collection.
It’s thick and substantial but still maintains a level of comfort and style that I’m very happy with, and look forward to wearing this as a “go-to” strap once I find the right watch to pair it with. After the summer, it’ll sit on my SNK355 until I find a more deserving watch of such a strap.
I think this strap is an absolute steal at the current sale price of $32 when compared to other straps in the price range.
Two-Piece Graphic Nato
Unfortunately, both of my watches with 18mm lug width, the SNK355, and Vostok Komandirskie both have very little clearance between the lugs and the case.
Because of this, I couldn’t properly fit the strap on either of the watches.
The strap protrudes where the quick release spring bar is moved back and forth to activate it, preventing it from sitting properly in my SNK355, and the Komandirskie’s lug clearance is SO short, there’s not a shot.
In retrospect, I should’ve asked for a one-piece nato instead.
With that said, the standout feature of these natos is obviously the funky design and the sheer variety of colorful, fun options.
To be perfectly honest, I feel like these graphic Natos are best suited for smartwatches or other watches that don’t have much character on their own, or for somebody who really wants to get a little funky with their strap choice.
I feel that these are upgraded offerings of the graphic Natos that watches like the Timex Weekender come with, though of a slightly higher quality.
At the current price of $26, I think they’re a bit overpriced for what you get, but I don’t know many other companies that do graphic natos.
Bonus: Watch Travel Case
Vario was also kind enough to throw in this watch travel case.
The travel case is pod-shaped and fits one watch. It comes with a foam insular padding that helps protect your watch and an attached net, presumably to hold a phone charging wire, along with your smartwatch.
You can also use the netting to sneak in a thin strap, like the two-piece Nato, which fits comfortably inside.
Overall, the case keeps the watch secure and it fits a watch of just about any size. I’m definitely going to be using this to throw an extra watch in my carry-on when traveling, or in a backpack when having an outdoor photo shoot with my watches (they’re the closest thing I have to children, okay? I’m only 24).
The Wrap Up
Thanks again to Vario for sponsoring this review.
The Harris Tweet strap is an incredibly unusual and unique offering and adds a touch of playfulness to a somewhat classy watch.
The vintage Italian leather, by far my favorite Vario offering, looks amazing, feels amazing and in my opinion competes with leather straps two times the price at the current sale price of $32.
The two-piece nato, while unfortunately, didn’t fit, was an interesting and colorful offering, though not my cup of tea, and I think a little overpriced considering what you get.
The travel watch case needs little explanation. It holds 1 watch and has a hard outer shell sturdy enough to protect it while traveling. It just gets the job done.
You can check out Vario’s site and all of the strap offerings here: Vario Watches.