Since we no longer wear pocket watches and instead strap miniature clocks onto our wrists, we must find ways to securely strap our favorite watches. There are different apparatus to do so, for example leather or rubber straps, NATO straps, and metal bracelets. Today we’re going to take a look at leather straps and what makes them good and bad, both from objective and subjective standpoints. There are agreed-upon features that leather straps must have that make them good, and then there are personal preferences. So we will first discuss general information about leather straps, then look at what makes them good and not so much.
About Leather Straps
Leather is considered a noble material because it has been used for various applications for thousands of years and because it requires a lot of work to become something. It has to be cut, treated, and handled in specific ways in order to look nice. Making leather goods is a profession in its own right, whether we are looking at making saddle bags, gloves, coats, and in the case of this article, leather watch straps. And we could say that not all leather straps are created equal, just like not all stainless steel cases or luminescent paint compounds are created equal.
Leather straps are used for particular watches and for certain situations. A leather strap is the last type of strap you should use to go swimming or diving as leather takes time to dry and it will eventually smell bad. However, leather is good for many other situations like going to the office, social occasions, and cool weather. A good leather strap adds style and comfort to the wearing experience. Leather is probably the material that has been used the most for watch straps and it kind of makes sense.
Leather straps are more often than not paired with dress pieces and nowadays it’s ok to see one on sport watches. Leather can be worked in different ways to have different textures and finish and is therefore adaptable to many situations. You can find a fine leather strap that has a shiny sheen to it that looks great for a dress piece, and you can find thick leather straps with matte finish that are best for adventure timepieces. There’s really many options to choose from.
What Makes a Good Leather Strap
There are key common characteristics that make a leather strap a good one. For example, the type of leather the strap is made of. No two pieces of leather are created equal, and no two pieces of leather can be used for the same purpose. People tend to prefer leathers that are supple and bend easily as they generally guarantee that it will be comfortable to wear as it contours the wrist in a natural way. Leather straps that don’t bend easily are stiff and one can feel a sort of stiffness on the wrist. It’s not the most exciting experience. Just like any other type of strap, a leather strap must be comfortable.
Having some kind of padding is always a plus as it gives the strap an interesting shape and makes it comfortable to wear. Some people prefer to have more padding and some less. Padding, by the way, is exactly what it sounds like: manufacturers add a layer of foam in between the layers of leather skin, like stuffing a pillow. I personally prefer to not have any padding because I like straps to feel light and close to the skin. But having a little bit of padding adds visual interest and also gives the strap an air of elegance. Again, it’s all a matter of personal preference.
Although we don’t often talk about it, having the right hardware is equally important. By “hardware” I mean the type of buckle and keeper straps come with. Matching hardware—as in if the case of the watch is mostly polished, having a polished strap buckle is preferable—is something to look for, so are the keepers—the loops of leather that makes it possible to tuck the strap end neatly so that it doesn’t flap around. Cheaply made straps have loose keepers that don’t serve any real purpose. Better made leather straps have keepers that are neat and of the right size, making them do their job and visually disappear.
Perhaps the most important component of a good leather strap is the stitching. Besides being able to add different colored stitching to create visual plays, having well-made and durable stitching is important. Not only does it have to be sturdy to pass the test of time, but it also has to be elegant and discreet. Good stitching adds not only visual appeal but also keeps the strap together. Poorly made stitching will fret over time and become undone, rendering the strap useless. Good stitching has a sort of tight weave and is closed properly, making the end invisible and not able to get undone.
As it is true for everything else, our personal preferences play a key role in making a strap a good one or a bad one. You may prefer crocodile straps that are dressy, or distressed leather that look like they’ve been used before and add an air of adventure to your watch. You may also prefer to have vintage-looking leather straps that use, for example, natural and cognac tones, or modern straps that have a felt texture and come with gray and earthy palettes. There are literally hundreds of options out there you can choose from.
What is important is for you to find the right leather strap for your watch, based on your personal preferences. Once you’ve defined what you like the most—in terms of color, material, thickness, stitching—you will be adding new “shoes” to your watch and that will enable you to enjoy your timepiece even more. Changing straps is like changing shoes. I particularly like the huge selection Everest Bands offers and the fact that their straps are tailor-made to different brands and models.
Although I didn’t go into the details of what makes a leather strap a good one, I wanted to look at these types of straps from a general perspective. Although at the end of the day what type of strap you go for is a highly personal choice, if you have never worn a leather strap or if you have not really looked into this topic, now you would know what kind of characteristics to look for. For example, you may have a better idea of what a comfortable leather strap should feel like and what to look for when you're buying one. I find it difficult to find the right straps that look good with my watches and that are comfortable and durable. To be honest, a good leather strap will set you back at least $150 on average, so the more you know about them, the better it is.
If you own a Rolex, Tudor, or Panerai, check out Everest Band’s extensive collection of dedicated leather straps for your favorite timepieces.