Strap Check: An Introduction To The Innovative World Of RSM Watch Straps
Most of the time, when we talk about horology, we describe watches. Less often do we discuss the brands and their founders. And even less often do we talk about brands that solely focus on making straps. Perhaps this is because straps are accessories. A bit like a cover band at a concert, they’re not the stars of the show. However, some of us like straps so much that we say things like, “I’ve got new shoes for my watch!” Yes, there is an entire subculture of straps aficionados, and I am proudly a part of it. After all, watches used to be primarily sold on straps before metal bracelets became more common. And there are now dozens of types of straps, from Marine Nationale and NATO to two-piece leather and silk.
Following similar articles written by Nacho and Daan and alongside the comprehensive Watch Strap Review series, today, I’d like to talk about RSM Straps. The brand was founded in 2019 in Singapore by Yiyan Lin, an architect with 20 years of experience under his belt. As of writing this article, RSM sells nine collections that span nearly all styles of straps you could think of. But instead of simply telling you about each collection in detail, we’re first going to take a look at RSM’s raison d’être. That will better explain how Lin came to develop nine collections over the past five years and what makes each collection interesting — according to yours truly, at least.
RSM Watch Straps — The beginnings and brand philosophy
Although it might sound cliché, Lin and his partners couldn’t find straps they liked for the right price — specifically, utilitarian straps for the numerous tool watches they collectively owned. So they decided to make straps of their own, just like founders of watch brands seek to create their dream watches. After all, we all like different things, and this is nothing new. Hans Wilsdorf couldn’t find suitably accurate wristwatches in the early 1900s, so he created Rolex. And the story is similar for many brands in any industry at any point in time. Some of us have the courage and determination to create a company to manufacture and sell something we need. Simple, right?
Being an architect, Yiyan Lin worked on a great variety of projects, each with a unique set of challenges. These included different terrain, different types of construction, and all sorts of climates. As a result, Lin developed a second-nature talent for looking at each project from a brand-new perspective. He couldn’t recycle the same approach he had for the previous one, and this helped him design the RSM collections. Furthermore, Lin is dedicated to creating straps that last and don’t cost an arm and a leg. This is why most of what he sells retails between $45 and $75. I know, we’re not talking about $8 straps here, but we’re not talking about $200 ones either.
Sturdiness over all else
I would also add that for Lin, making high-quality and long-lasting straps is more important than using recycled materials, although the latter is the current trend. To him, straps made of recycled materials tend to be stiff and uncomfortable, and they will eventually end up in the trash. Therefore, they would probably end up where they started. As we will see below, for each collection, RSM goes the extra mile in finding quality materials that last. Now, I know how eerily perfect this all sounds. I’ve had the opportunity to try most of RSM’s straps, and, to be honest, they’re good. I wouldn’t be writing about them otherwise.
The first collection: Herringbone Twill straps
I’m a tool-watch guy, so I paired all the straps I’ll be showing you with my Fleux FLX001. This watch has some cool vintage vibes and is an absolute strap monster. Just so you know, RSM offers all straps presented here in different widths. However, I’ve only used the 20mm versions, which are the most common nowadays. Don’t we all hate odd widths like 19mm or 21mm, anyway? In any case, the Herringbone Twill is the first collection that RSM developed. The brand’s team found inspiration in the fabric that World War II M1941 HBT uniforms were made of. It had a V-shaped rip-stop weave pattern, which made it robust and comfortable. These straps are made of nylon with a similar weave pattern. They come in five colors and retail from US$45 to $48.
VTG Mil Single Pass cotton straps
Lately, I’ve become obsessed with cotton straps. Since they are generally soft and light, I love the way they look and feel on the wrist. And it was through the VTG Mil Single Pass collection that I came to know RSM (thanks to the recommendation of another watch nerd). RSM uses poly-cotton, which offers a nice balance between sturdiness and comfort. Cotton straps are the most comfortable I’ve ever tried, however the ones made of 100% cotton fray easily at the eyelets. Using a mix of cotton and synthetic materials alleviates this problem so that the straps can last a long time and not end up thrown away. The VTG Mil Single Pass straps come in five colors and retail between US$45 and $48 as well. I have a big preference for the gray and khaki variants.
X Hatch straps
The X Hatch straps from RSM are sturdy two-piece straps made of tightly woven polyester fabric. They get their name from the pattern created by the weave, not something that was printed. This pattern is akin to that found on dollar bills if you look at them up close with a magnifying glass. By their very nature, the X Hatch straps are extremely sturdy but also surprisingly wrist-hugging and pliable. I honestly mean that, too, as I often find straps made of synthetic materials ungodly uncomfortable. These straps come in two colors and various lengths, and they also retail between US$45 and $48.
The Fine Canvas strap
Last, but not least, let’s talk about the Fine Canvas strap, the latest release from RSM. Canvas, in case you didn’t know, is woven cotton dipped into something that makes the fabric water repellent and stronger. This means that canvas straps tend to be stiff and take a long time to break in. RSM partnered with a Japanese maker of canvas who developed these straps specifically for the brand. They are surprisingly comfortable to wear and supple, and they come in a variety of earthy colors that I particularly appreciate. Specifically, the colors are reminiscent of Japanese charcoal, stone, pine trees, and roasted green tea. These straps are a bit more expensive, however, coming in at US$78.
A note on the buckles on RSM straps
Before sharing my final thoughts, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the buckles. I don’t know much about buckles, but I did notice something different about the ones on RSM straps. They have what the brand describes as being a “winged” profile in that they are slightly curved. This allows the strap and buckle to follow the natural contour of the wrist and to sit flat. I didn’t know this would be helpful until I tried on the straps from RSM. Indeed, I noticed that this type of buckle does make the strap sit better on the wrist. It’s a small detail that I appreciate.
Thanks for hanging on here as I walked you through RSM’s history, philosophy, and some of its core collections. I haven’t tried all of the brand’s offerings, and I remain curious about the reversible silk straps. Yiyan Lin found a silk artisan to make those straps for him, and the brand also created a new type of fastening clasp to avoid making holes in the fabric. Pretty cool, right? In any case, what do you think of RSM and its collections? I’m no strap expert, but I feel that the brand offers a good quality-to-price ratio. I’ve paid more for better straps and less for worse ones, so RSM hits a sweet spot for me. You can learn more about the brand and its collections here.