Watch strap making isn’t just limited to major brands and big shops; across the world there are small strapmakers making a living designing unique and custom straps. Our small brand spotlight series interviews these strapmakers to see what makes them tick.
How did you get into watch strap making?
When I was a little girl I remember my dad taking care of his watch collection. That’s how I learned to love watches, especially big watches. But I always had problems with the straps. When I tried to wear them they were too big for my wrist, so I started making my own straps, after that I start making straps for my friends and then in the middle of a pursuit for a different way of life I left my office job and opened up my web shop.
What materials do you use in your bands?
Mainly calf, but I also use exotic leathers such as alligator, ostrich, python and stingray.
What is your favorite material to work with?
Calf. It looks good, lasts long and gets old super nice.
What is the most difficult watch strap you’ve had to make?
A customer sent me a small patch from his dad’s WWII pilot jacket to make a strap. Besides the difficulty of making the strap, the most important thing was to make it right without damaging the patch. I knew this was an irreplaceable piece of personal heritage so I had to be super careful, the final product was great.
Do you have a favorite watch? What watch would you buy if you had the money?
No, I have a lot of favorite watches, it will be selfish to pick one. Most watches reflect a time and state in your life, as today if I have the money I will love to have the pam690.
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1. Get the right size
Measure the width between your watch lugs (where the strap attaches to the watch) to make sure you’re buying the right size strap. A strap too big will bunch up or won’t fit on. A strap too small will have an unsightly gap or an annoying shifting motion as your watch moves separately from your strap.
Lug width is measured in millimeters, which is why you’ll see sizes like 22mm and 24mm on websites. Get out a ruler and measure the distance between your lugs before you buy. You can also look up your lug widths on the manufacturer’s website or Google. Even numbers are popular, odd numbers are harder to find.
2. Get the right length
Most watch straps come in a standard length that will fit most wrists. If your wrists are very big or very small, you might want to consider getting or shorter or longer strap. Measure the size of your wrist with a soft tape measure or wrap a piece of paper around your wrist and then lay it flat and measure it.
Watch straps lengths are commonly measured in millimeters, just like the width. Websites that cater to Americans will sometimes show sizes in inches instead. You’ll also commonly see two sizes mentioned right next to each other, for example, 120/75mm. These measurements are for each half of the watch band that you’re buying. The smaller size is usually the buckle end, while the longer size is the is the end with the holes punched along it.
3. Get the right tools
Watch straps are removed with a spring bar tool. Cheap ones cost around $10 on Amazon and make it a lot easier to get your old strap off and your new strap on. In a pinch, you can use a small screwdriver or a knife. You’ll also need a soft cloth for your watch to rest on so it doesn’t get scratched. If your watch has no strap on at all, it might be missing the spring bars. You can buy new ones for a few dollars, although a few strap companies include spring bars for free. The bars are also measured in millimeters and will need to be bought to size.
Some watch strap companies sell quick-release straps, which don’t use a spring bar tool. Instead, there is a little knob on the underside of the strap that you use to compress the spring bar. Examples include Barton Bands and Carty.
4. Check the hardware
Rarely, some watch straps are sold without buckles, so check the listing before you buy. You don’t want to end up buying a nice strap only to find out you must also buy a buckle to go along with it. On the other hand, you might want to replace the standard buckle with a new one that matches your case. Most replacement watch strap hardware is brushed or stainless steel, so if you have a watch case that is neither of those two colors, you might want to look into getting matching hardware somewhere else. Common other colors include gold, rose gold and black.
5. Get the right material
Check the listing for clues as to what material the watch strap is made from or email the strap company and ask. That crocodile strap you just bought could actually be calf leather stamped or embossed to match common crocodile patterns. If the exact material matters to you, check on forums and watch websites for trusted strap suppliers who are known to use specific types of materials. If you’re in the market for a top-notch leather or exotic strap like crocodile, stingray & alligator, we have a list of custom strap makers with good reputations on our list of custom watch strap makers page.
Lastly, we have collected most of the reasonably priced strap options on our Amazon Store page. Basically, if it has a ton of 5 star reviews and a good price, you’ll find it on there. We’ve got lists for NATO straps, leather, silicone, canvas, & Apple Watch straps.
If you’re interested in more watch strap fashion, check out our other guides:
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Name Orient Bambino
Price Range: $100-$325 (depending on version and color combination)
Style: Dress watch
Watch Size: 40.5mm (42mm for V4).
Lug width (size of strap where it meets the watch): 21mm (22mm for V4)
Best Place to Buy: Amazon or Jomashop (search for Orient Bambino in the search bar). U.K. or Canada links.
Orient Bambino Review
Simply put, the Orient Bambino is probably the best affordable dress watch out there. A fantastic option for your first watch, it takes a movement from a reliable watch company and puts it in an incredible looking package. Earlier generations can be bought for just over $100, while the most popular style from the new generation will be closer to $300 (although it frequently goes on sale).
Rich, a strapmaker in England and the owner of Toshi Straps, is the latest focus of our small strapmaker spotlight. Completely handmade and hand-stitched from quality leather, his watch straps are perfect for anyone looking for a completely custom strap. Rich ships worldwide from his website at https://toshi-straps.co.uk.
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How to safely buy watches online
Orient Bambino Watch Guide
Seiko SNK Watch Guide
Style guide for picking out the right band for your watch
2018 Watch Strap Gift Guide
5 Tips For Picking Out A New Band
Tools for replacing a watch strap
Top 5 NATO Straps on Amazon