Charlotte Harris



Watch Straps


Watch Straps

October 09, 2023

The tried-and-tested leather watch strap is a staple for good reason. This often-underappreciated hero of the wristwatch world can completely transform the look of a timepiece; taking a divers watch from sporty to casual and a dress watch from formal to relaxed. But how do you choose the right leather strap for your watch?

In this comprehensive guide on all things leather watch strap-related, we’ll explore everything from the artistry to the practicality of leather watch straps. Learn how to care for leather and the wide range of different leather straps on offer. At the end, we’ll help you find the perfect leather watch strap to fit your timepiece. Let’s begin…

1973 British Military Watch Strap

1973 British Military Watch Strap - Credit Zuludiver

What is Leather?

Leather is a flexible and robust material made from the skin of animals, typically cattle and sheep but also sometimes more exotic animals like snakes and crocodiles. The transformation of raw animal hides involves a series of processes including tanning, crusting and finishing to achieve a final product that is durable, comfortable and resistant to everyday wear.

Real leather is used to create a number of products in today’s modern world including belts, wallets, bags and of course, our trusty leather watch straps. Synthetic or faux leather is another option, but rather than this being made from animal skin, it is made from polyurethane, a type of plastic. Real leather is much softer and more breathable than synthetic leather which in turns allows it to wear and better and age beautifully.

1973 British Military Watch Strap1973 British Military Watch Strap - Credit Zuludiver

The Different Types of Leather

There are a several types of leather watch straps to choose from, many sourced from different animals.

One of the most popular types of leather strap is calfskin or cowhide which is sourced from a cow. Here at Zuludiver, all our leather straps are crafted from high-quality top-grain cowhide leather – also sometimes known as “Crazy Horse” or “saddlers leather”. Why is it named that? Because this type of material has a history of being made into saddles due to its durability. It also ages beautifully along with the wearer.

1973 British Military Watch Strap1973 British Military Watch Strap - Credit Zuludiver

Alligator leather or crocodile leather is another popular strap material in the watch world. They are typically attached to dress watches due to their striking appearance. Like the skin of the creature, alligator and crocodile leather straps have a textured surface often with a pattern of small, raised scales. It’s a distinctive look and sets it apart from smooth calfskin leather. Other popular exotic leathers also include ostrich, snake and buffalo.

Cordovan or Horween leather are two other popular types of leather sourced from the hump of a horse. You’ll have likely heard of Nubuck and suede leather too. These are two velvety leathers commonly from deer, elk or cows. Nubuck comes from the outer side of the skin and is sanded down to create a soft, fuzzy-like finish. Suede has a similar textured but is taken from the softer and more pliable lower layers of a cow’s hide and sanded on the inner surface.

Full Grain vs Top Grain Leather

1973 British Military Watch Strap1973 British Military Watch Strap - Credit Zuludiver

Several terms often thrown around often during the discussion of leather is “full grain” and “top grain”. But if you’re not familiar with leather, you’ll have no idea what this means. Don’t worry, we got you.

Top grain leather means that the natural grain and top layer of the leather has been stripped away. Most premium quality leathers are top grain. As you’ve probably guessed, full grain leather instead refers to leather that has not been altered this way. It still contains the top layer of hide and all the natural grain.

A benefit to top grain leather is that since it is sanded, it has removed any imperfections and blemishes found on the hide. It gives the leather watch strap a sleek, uniform look but one that will still naturally age over time. This is one of the most beautiful aspects of a wearing leather watch strap; as it develops a patina the more it is worn, it not only becomes more beautiful but more comfortable.

1973 British Military Watch Strap1973 British Military Watch Strap - Credit Zuludiver

What Makes a Good Leather Strap?

There are several key qualities and features to look out for when purchasing a leather watch strap. This way, you can be confident knowing the material securing your favourite timepiece to your wrist is going to do its job well.

For starters, a good leather strap should be suited to its intended purpose. At the end of the day, it’s holding your watch to your wrist, so it needs to be robust, durable and attractive – no one wants a strap to let down the aesthetics of an otherwise stunning timepiece. The quality of leather used will help identify the reliability of it. Full grain and top grain leather watch straps are considered the highest quality options.

Good quality leather watch straps should undergo a proper tanning process. The tanning process is what transforms the raw animal skins into leather, giving it a supple, durable and comfortable finish. Other qualities to look out for include stitching, which should always be precise and even, and the thickness of the strap which should be suitable for day-to-day wear. Quality hardware like buckles and clasps are also good signs of a high quality leather watch strap.

1973 British Military Watch Strap1973 British Military Watch Strap - Credit Zuludiver

Finally, we always recommend you buy your leather watch straps from a reputable, well-known manufacturer. Here at Zuludiver, we don’t believe in cutting corners when it comes to quality so you can feel assured knowing our premium leather watch straps are crafted to the highest standard. All our watch straps are made from genuine oiled 'Crazy Horse' top grain leather with hot-stamp line detailing, hand-painted and sealed edges and SS304 stainless steel hardware.

How to Care for Your Leather Watch Strap

Taking proper care of your leather watch strap is essential if you want to maintain its appearance and longevity. Leather is a natural material at the end of the day, and although naturally durable and resistant to day-to-day wear, it doesn’t hurt to treat it to a mini spa day every once in a while.

Many leather watch straps are not water resistant or waterproof. They can typically be exposed to small amounts of water, such as splashes from the rain or tap, but should not be exposed to water for long periods of time (our Sailcloth and Rubber straps are much better suited to those needing waterproof straps). With this in mind, it’s important to keep your leather strap dry.

1973 British Military Watch Strap1973 British Military Watch Strap - Credit Zuludiver

Another common question that is asked regularly is “how do I keep my leather strap from cracking?” A good quality leather strap should not crack. For example, here at Zuludiver we use premium waxed leather that is infused with hot oils and waxes during the tanning process. This guarantees a durable material that does not crack. Another way to avoid your leather strap from cracking is to apply a leather conditioner or cream to the material every few months.

Cleaning your leather watch strap is also an easy way to keep your strap looking like new. Simply use a clean, damp cloth and wipe the strap’s surface to regularly remove any dust, dirt and sweat. You can also purchase leather-specific cleaners for a deeper clean. If you clean and look after your leather strap properly, there should be no reason your quality leather watch strap won’t last a lifetime.

Choosing the Right Leather Strap for your Watch

1973 British Military Watch Strap1973 British Military Watch Strap - Credit Zuludiver

Finally, we’re down to the all-important decision of choosing a leather strap for your watch. Now you know all there is to know about leather, hopefully making that decision will come easier to you. But here are some important aspects to consider:

  • Consider the style of your watch and find a leather strap that suits it. Does your watch have any obvious coloured detailing? If so, maybe deliberate a leather strap with stitching that matches.
  • What’s the lug width of your watch? You’ll need to know this to choose the right size leather strap.
  • How and where will you wear it? Do you need something that’s waterproof? Or do you want something that will naturally age with you over time. If it’s the latter, we highly recommend our own Oxford 1973 Military Leather straps.
  • At the end of the day, choose a strap that speaks to you. If you like it, we have no doubt it will look fantastic on your timepiece.

If you’re shopping for a new leather watch strap, consider taking a look our incredible selection of premium top-grain "Oxford" leather 1973 military straps here at Zuludiver. Taking its name from the iconic Oxford dress shoe, a style of footwear favoured by officers and military personnel for formal parades, our straps are guaranteed to elevate the style of your timepiece.

We handcraft all our straps from “Crazy Horse” cowhide leather which has a distinctive vintage-like appearance and fantastic durability. All our leather is treated with a special blend of natural waxes and an oil finish for a lifetime of wear, but like any good leather strap, it will still change appearance and develop its own patina the more it is worn. Trust us, it’s a real treat to have a leather strap that grows and evolves with you, showcasing the journey you and your watch has shared together.

We hope this comprehensive guide has provided you with valuable insights and assistance in selecting the perfect leather strap for your watch. We encourage you to share your thoughts, experiences, and questions in the comments below. Your input can be invaluable to fellow watch enthusiasts and may even lead to further exploration of this captivating realm of horology. So, don't hesitate to join the conversation and let us know which leather strap has caught your eye and why!

Charlotte Harris

About the Author: Charlotte Harris

About the Author: Charlotte Harris

Writing and watches are two of my biggest passions in life so being able to unite them on a daily basis is a wonderful thing. I hope through my writing that I can bring a fresh, feminine perspective on the watch space and encourage more men and women to get excited about all that’s happening.

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