My grandfather's 1918 silver Rolex watch with fixed
wire lugs on one of my cuff type military straps.
Straps for Vintage Wristwatches
In 2004 I inherited my grandfather's and grandmother's vintage 1917/1918 Rolex wristwatches. I wanted to be able to wear my grandfather's wristwatch, shown in the picture here, but I found at the time that it was impossible to get a strap to fit the fixed wire lugs, so I had one made. I had to pay for the tooling needed to make the design I wanted, which would have made one strap very expensive, and I realised that there were probably other watch collectors in the same position, wanting a strap but not able to find one, so I had a few made, and started this web site to advertise them.
I started this web site in 2006 to talk about my wristwatch straps, or wristwatch bands. These are designed for very early vintage wristwatches with wire lugs dating from around 1900 to the 1920s, and particularly the used by soldiers in the Great War (World War One or WW1: 1914 - 1918) and which because of this came to be called "trench" watches. However, the web site has grown as I have discovered more about the history of these earliest wristwatches, and become fascinated by the stories around their development and manufacture, and the way they were worn and used.
If you explore the web site using the blue navigation bar above, or click on any of the following links you will discover pages that talk about the history of wristwatches, the development of the waterproof watch, Borgel watches, and the history of the company of François and Louisa Borgel, and later the Taubert family, early Rolex watches, including the waterproof Rolex Oyster and my grandparent's Rolex wristwatches, a page about the stamps and hallmarks found in watch cases, which might help you to identify your watch, the potential dangers of luminous paint on dials and hands, and the possible significance of a red or blue 12, and lots of other information about early watches and their makers. I also buy interesting early watches, so if you have a watch to sell, click on this link to go to the I Buy section of this page.Copyright © Notice
Some people seem to feel that anything published on the internet can be copied freely. This is not true; everything belongs to its author or creator, and all the text and all the images on my website are my copyright unless undicated otherwise. This includes images that I have scanned from original sources that are out of copyright, in that case the copyright comes from my labour in making the scans, and cleaning and editing the resulting images.
You are welcome to use small quotations for non-commercial uses (including private eBay listings) so long as you include proper attribution, I have put a lot of time and hard work put into creating the content on this web site and I would like that to be acknowledged, I think that's only fair, don't you? So please include "Information from VintageWatchstraps.com © David Boettcher" with any material you use. For any other use, including any publication or commercial use, please contact me first.
My Designs of Watch Straps
The watch straps I supply are replicas of original straps designed for very early vintage wristwatches with wire lugs dating from around 1900 to the 1920s, particularly those used by soldiers in the Great War (World War One or WW1: 1914 - 1918) and which because of this came to be called "trench" watches. I sometimes get asked to supply straps like this to fit more modern watches, with horns and bars. Some of these will take a leather strap without a problem, particularly those that were originally designed to take a leather strap such as the W.W.W. series from around World War Two (WWII), and my Leather NATO G10 straps are especially suitable for them.
More modern watches from after WWII, and of course new watches, are often designed with bars that are very close to the case, because they are intended to take a metal bracelet or a thin nylon strap, and these often cannot take a leather strap, because it is too thick. Please bear this in mind if you have what I call a "modern" watch, i.e. something made after 1950.
I have devoted a page to describing my designs of wristwatch straps and bands to suit the earliest wristwatches. If you are thinking about ordering a strap from me, please start by reading that page, it will answer most of your questions. Feedback from some of my customers and pictures of their watches on straps and bands I have supplied can be found on the customers page, the pictures there give a good idea of what my straps look like fitted to all sorts of different watches. And of course, there are pages about ordering standard straps, straps with my hand made and English hallmarked Sterling Silver Buckles described below, or my Leather NATO G10 straps for your own watch should you so wish.
If you have any problems or questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Replica & Original Sterling Silver Buckles
Period Replica Buckles in Sterling Silver
To further improve the authenticity of my replica Great War straps I am now offering them with hand made solid sterling silver (925) reproduction buckles. Silver is a beautiful material that takes a lustrous high polish. If your watch has a silver case, a strap with a steel or chrome buckle doesn't do it justice, you really need one of my straps with a sterling silver buckle, and one of my polishing cloths too!
My Sterling silver buckles are copies of authentic period buckles and are hallmarked by the London Assay Office with a full set of punched UK hallmarks including the leopards head and the walking lion, just like the originals were marked nearly 100 years ago. Full details of the sterling silver watchstrap buckles and silver polishing cloths are on the Period Replica Buckles page.
I hope you enjoy browsing my web site. If you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, or be put onto my mailing list for occasional notices about updates to the web site, then my contact details can be found on most pages, or just click on the following link to email me. I always like to hear from fellow watch enthusiasts, or if you just have a question about a watch that you have inherited, or bought in an auction or at a flea market, don't hesitate to get in touch by email to Please don't give out my email address, refer anyone interested to this web site. I try to answer all emails I receive so if you don't get a reply in a few days please check your junk or spam folders.
If you find any errors in what I have written, I can only offer the same explanation Dr Samuel Johnson gave when a lady challenged him to explain why, in his great dictionary of 1755, he had erroneously defined "pastern" as "the knee of a horse" Johnson replied "Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance". Please do let me know what you have seen though, so that I can learn and correct.
Best regards - David.
The Earliest Wristwatches
Very early wristwatches are often referred to as "officer's" or "trench" watches because they became popular during the first world war, when they were convenient to wear in the trenches, but were so expensive that only officers could afford them. They are also sometimes referred to as "fixed lug" watches, because of the method of holding the case to the wrist where fixed loops of wire, called lugs, were soldered on to the case to loop a thin strap or band of leather through.
I wanted a strap to fit such a watch so that I could wear my grandfather's wristwatch, shown in the picture to the left. I found I could easily fit it with a single narrow 10mm band of leather, but strapped to my wrist it looked ridiculously girly, it was not at all comfortable to wear because it was so narrow, and there was no way to keep the watch in one place, so it kept sliding along the strap.
After some research I discovered that men's watches of this era were often fitted with cuff type straps having a wider back piece behind the narrow strap. This looks a lot better, is more comfortable to wear, and also holds the watch in place. However, after consulting all the jewellers I could think of, and scouring the internet for months, I couldn't find a strap like this of satisfactory design and quality, so I eventually had some made!
If you have a vintage wristwatch and you are looking for a strap for it, you may have hunted high and low to find one suitable. Well now you have found the place to get one. In addition to my stock models of military style vintage watch straps, if you want something different for your vintage wristwatch, maybe a custom design of watch strap, or a special leather, then get in touch and I will do my best to make something to your specification.
My Grandparents' Watches
My interest in these vintage watches goes back to 2004, when I inherited my grandfather's wristwatch as I mentioned above. Although I had known this watch all my life, I didn't realise until I inherited it that it was a Rolex, dated 1918 in silver, and my grandmother's watch that my mother used to wear was a matching 1917 gold Rolex.
My grandfather was an industrial chemist in Leicester supplying the leather industry, particularly the boot and shoe industry which was strong in Leicester at the time. I know that he married my grandmother in 1917, and I believe that he bought these wristwatches as a pair in 1918 to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
When I inherited them they were fitted with the wrong straps, and neither of them ran. After an overhaul by a Rolex licensed watchmaker they now both run beautifully. The next problem was to find suitable straps. The lady's watch was easily fitted with a new strap, but the man's watch was a different matter. Why should this be?
Development of Wrist Watches
Strap Witness Mark on Silver Trench Watch Case
As I explain on the Trench Watches page, there was an upsurge in demand for wristwatches during the Great War (the First World War, WW1 - 1914 to 1918.) Before this there had been little demand for wristwatches so little effort had been put into their design. The easiest way to create a wristwatch was to add small loops of wire, called lugs, to the case of a watch and pass a strap or band of leather through these to secure the watch to the wrist. These were often a continuous single piece of leather which passed through the wire lugs and across the back of the watch. You can often see witness marks on the back of the case where the strap used to run, as in the picture shown on the right.
It is not right to say that these were "converted pocket watches" as is often heard, most of the early wristwatches were purpose made as wristwatches. One does sometimes see pocket watches that have been made into wristwatches, but this is usually crudely done and the watch is poorly adapted to wrist wear. There is more discussion about this on my Watch Cases page at Pocket Watch Conversions.
For some reason now lost in the mists of time, the width used for the lugs on these earliest wristwatches was about 10mm, allowing a narrow strap or band of flexible leather to be looped through and across the back of the case. This design persisted after the war and into the 1920's, with the lugs gradually increasing in width to 12mm, 14mm, etc. over the years until they were superceded with the fixed horns and spring bars seen on modern watches.
A Problem for the Collector
The nature and size of these fixed lugs presents a problem to the collector of these interesting early wristwatches. After cleaning and servicing, watches that are now around a hundred years old go just as well now as when they were new, and they cry out to be worn. However, modern wristwatch straps and bands either just do not fit the fixed wire lugs, or look completely wrong. A 35mm diameter wristwatch on a 10mm wide ladies strap not only looks ridiculous, it is not comfortable to wear because the narrow strap concentrates too much pressure on the wrist. A military style cuff type strap with a wide back piece not only looks better, it also distributes pressure more evenly and so is more comfortable. Over months in 2004 I hunted high and low to find an original cuff pattern strap to suit the narrow fixed lugs of my grandfather's watch, and managed to find just two which came anywhere near: but one was very expensive and badly designed; and the other was an unattractive design with poor quality workmanship.
Development of My Designs
After all this effort and still not able to wear my grandfather's watch, I resolved that I would have to have a cuff type strap made to my own design and specification. This involved getting made a new press knife, which is used like a pastry cutter to cut out the leather pieces under a hydraulic press. There really is no other way to get a regular result with a neat finish to the cut surface, because leather is such a tough material. Making just one strap this way would have made it very expensive, so I had a few extra made that I could sell to offset the manufacturing costs, and so that fellow enthusiasts could enjoy wearing their own vintage watches.
I sold these first few straps successfully, and then I was asked for more, and also for a different design, so I had some more made, and another press knife so that I had two different designs to offer, and this has continued in a small but regular way since then. It gives me great pleasure to know that a vintage watch, one that perhaps saw service during the first World War, or belonged to somebody's grandfather like mine, can be worn and enjoyed today, looking good on a properly designed and made strap. One of the most touching comments I have received from a customer who was visiting the First World War battlefields in France, and he remarked that with the strap I had supplied "I will be able to wear my grandfather's watch at the very spot where he went 'over the top' on the Somme in 1916.". A sobering reminder of the historical events and human tragedies which many of these watches have witnessed. If you have a watch like this, remember that it is a piece of history and please take good care of it.
The purpose of these pages, which I plan to expand over time, is to document the history of these earliest watches, and also to make available my replica watch straps and watch bands to fellow enthusiasts. If you explore the rest of the web site using the blue tabs at the top of the screen, you will find some background on the history of early wristwatches, details of my designs and the available leather colours and finishes, prices, and ordering details.
Identifying and Looking After Your Vintage Watch
If you want to know who made the movement of your watch and more about it, including the one vital question that you MUST ask before you hand over your watch to someone for servicing, you need to vist my page dedicated to watch movements. You did know that a mechanical wristwatch needs regular servicing, didn't you?
If you like what you see, or have any comments, requests or suggestions, then please feel free to email me at Please don't give out my email address, refer anyone interested to this web site. I try to answer all emails I receive so if you don't get a reply in a few days please check your junk or spam folders.
Antiquarian Horological Society
I am a member of the British Antiquarian Horological Society (AHS). The AHS is a learned society formed in 1953 to promote the study of clocks and watches and the history of time measurement in all its forms. In order to achieve its aims the AHS holds meetings and publishes a quarterly journal Antiquarian Horology and various books. It is not really a society for watch collectors, but it does publish interesting research on early clock, and sometimes watch, technology and design.
The British Horological Institute
I am an Associate Member of the British Horological Institute (BHI). Formed in 1858 to promote horology, the BHI today continues to provide education, standards and support to its members around the world involved in making, repairing and servicing clocks and watches. Although primarily an organisation for professionals in the watch and clock trade, associate membership is open to non-professionals and brings the monthly BHI Horological Journal and access to BHI resources such as the extensive library.
If your watch or clock needs servicing or repair, you'll want to make sure it's properly cared for by experts. The BHI's Professional Register only includes details of individuals who have satisfied the Institute's stringent requirements for professional membership, so by choosing a BHI Registered Repairer, you can be confident of a good result! Find your nearest registered repairer by clicking on this link: BHI Registered Repairers. Note that some members choose not to register their details on the webpage so it is not a full list. All BHI members are required to abide by the BHI Code of Practice. If you have difficulties with any aspect of the service you receive from a BHI Registered Repairer, you can use the Institute's Problem Resolution Service.
National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC)
I am a member of the American National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC) . Although the NAWCC is primarily about American clocks and watches, it is not exclusively so, and there are a lot of resources and information on their web site, plus very useful message board forums that are open to non-members to ask questions. The NAWCC publishes every two months the Watch & Clock Bulletin, which often has interesting articles about watches, some of which have been written by me.
I Buy Watches Too!
I am always interested in buying interesting early men's watches with features such as:
- The Borgel FB-key trademark
- Unusual wire lug trench or officer's wristwatches from the Great War era
- Early waterproof type watches
- Watches marked "Brevet" with a number beside or underneath
- Watches marked with little Swiss cross like this with a number beside or underneath
And basically any interesting wristwatches from before WW2.
If you have such a watch, I would love to see some pictures and details of it. I will give you an honest appraisal, and if I am interested we can discuss what your watch is worth so that I can make you an offer. You are under no obligation, and you have my word that I won't try to rip you off. If you already have a price in mind, or are a collector or dealer, then please let me know.
Please email as many details as you can, including:
- Brief description
- Case diameter, excluding crown and lugs
- Does it wind smoothly and run correctly
- Case material, e.g. gold, silver etc.
- Date (from hallmarks) or details/pictures of the hallmarks
And if at all possible please include as many pictures as you can, particularly of the dial and inside case back.
To aid identification, movement shots should be square on, and with the winding stem at 12 o'clock, this is how movements are shown in the reference books and it is a lot easier to compare if you don't have to try to mentally rotate the picture.
These are for my research and my own personal collection. I am interested more in curiousities rather than brand names: Collecting Patek-Philippes and Rolexes is a wealthy man's game, for which I don't have the resources ...
However, I am always interested to see any interesting watch from pre-WW2. If you could supply good quality photographs that could help me in my research and might be suitable for publication, that would be great. If I use any picture or details that you supply on my web site or in a magazine article, I would be happy to acknowledge your contribution.
If you have a watch that you wish to sell I am more than happy to take a look at it and let you have my thoughts. Even if I am not interested in buying it I can recommend contacts of mine who are specialist dealers in the more expensive, high end, wristwatches, who might be interested in purchasing.
Sorry, I am not interested in ladies watches, they are just not my thing, and I am rarely interested in pocket watches unless they have unusual or waterproof features.
I can't provide valuations by email. The value of a watch depends on many factors including its appearance, originality and condition. If you would like a written valuation of your watch for marketing or insurance purposes, I must see the item in order to examine carefully under magnification to appraise its originality, the condition of the mechanism, whether it is worn, damaged, has been well serviced or badly repaired etc. etc. All these factors have a significant bearing on the value of the piece. I charge £120 for this service, plus return postage at cost. Your watch will be returned with a written valuation. If you want to get a valuation like this, please email me.
Watch Case Repair
If you have a watch case that needs repairing, get in touch with my good friend Adam Phillips. Adam is a goldsmith with over 30 years experience in the making and repair of all types of watch case, from antique pocket watches to modern wristwatches. Contact Adam via his web site: www.watchcaseworks.co.uk - this link will open in a new tab.