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Vintage Watch Straps

Straps for vintage fixed wire lug trench or officer's wristwatches.

My Vintage Watch Strap Designs

Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2017 all rights reserved.

This page describes in detail the designs of the replica Great War era wristwatch straps that I supply. Details of prices, postage costs and how to place an order can be found on the ordering pages for straps with sterling silver or gold buckles at Sterling silver and gold buckles or for straps with standard base metal buckles at straps with standard buckles.

If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me via my Contact me page.

Posting Dates

Any orders received after 14 September cannot be dispatched until Monday 25 September. You are welcome to place orders for stock items between these dates, but I won't be able to dispatch them before the 25th.

Authenticity and Originality

As I explain on my history pages there was an upsurge in demand for men's wristwatches during the Great War (the First World War or World War One, WW1 - 1914 to 1918). Before this, most watch manufacturer were making pocket watches or ladies bracelet watches and hadn't anticipated the sudden demand for men's wristwatches. Men's wristwatches had been made before the Great War, but there was not really much demand for them and not much thought or development had gone into their design.

Benson advert Sketch 15 Dec 1915
From J W Benson advert in "The Sketch" 15 Dec 1915.

The easiest way to produce a wristwatch was to make some modifications to an existing small model of pocket watch wristwatch, adding loops of wire, called lugs, and passing a strap or band of leather through these to secure the watch to the wrist. The first wristwatch straps were single continuous pieces of leather which passed through the wire lugs and across the back of the watch, and this was the type of watch that was produced in huge quantities during the Great War and became known as a "trench watch", as shown by the advert reproduced here.

J C Vickery Advert 1916

Because the lugs on trench watches are only 10mm or 12mm wide they have to be fitted with a narrow strap. Sometimes that's all they get fitted with, a narrow strap not much wider than a decent bootlace. Although this is authentic - there are plenty of pictures showing men wearing watches with very narrow straps, to modern eyes a narrow strap on a man's wrist looks completely wrong and ruins the appearance of the watch. And if you have ever worn a watch with a strap like this, you will know that it is also very uncomfortable to wear.

There is evidence, such as the J C Vickery advert from 1916 reproduced above, that the benefits of a wider strap were soon recognised. These had to be have a narrow strap to pass through the lugs of the watch and were made wider with a separate back pad for comfort and improved appearance.

My two piece cuff type straps are authentic replicas of period military pieces like the one shown in the 1916 advert by J C Vickery here. They look good and chunky on the wrist, they are comfortable to wear, and they show off your vintage timepiece at its best. No man's fixed wire lug watch looks right without one of these style of straps.

Strap Mark on Silver Case
Strap witness mark on 1916 Omega

I originally wanted a strap like this so that I could wear my grandfather's 1918 silver Rolex watch but I couldn't find any of satisfactory design and quality, so I had some made! The image below shows what one of my straps looks like when it is strapped to my wrist, in this instance carrying a rather nice Borgel wristwatch with a sweep centre seconds hand, unusual for the period.

Type B, Borgel wristwatch, and me - click image to enlarge

Trench watches were sometimes fitted with straps that are stitched onto the fixed lugs rather than looping through the lugs and across the back of the watch. Again, this is authentic, there are adverts from the period that show watches with this type of strap, but it is impossible to use a back pad with this type of strap. But most trench watches were used with one piece straps, which is what I prefer for period authenticity - you can often see witness marks on the back of the case where the one piece strap used to run, as in the picture of the 1916 Omega shown on the right. It's a bit tarnished, but that's when the witness marks show up best.

One Piece Strap

My straps are designed primarily for Great War era watches that have narrow fixed wire lugs which take a one piece strap that passes through the lugs and across the back of the watch case as shown in the strap details picture here. The wire lugs of these early watch cases are simply made from bent pieces of wire soldered to the case, shaped to allow the strap to loop across the back of the case. Wire lugs usually have a dropped shape to guide the one piece strap across the back of the case, and also leave plenty of room between the case and the lug for the strap to slip through as shown in the picture. The back of the case is also rounded so that the strap doesn't need to make a sharp bend to go across the back of the case.

Strap Detail
Fixed wire lug showing path of strap

To be sure that your watch will take a one piece strap you need to look at the path the leather will take through the lugs and across the back of the case. If the lugs are sized and positioned so that the strap can take a gently curved path like the one in the picture, and there is at least a 2 mm gap between the case and the lugs for the strap to pass through, then it will be fine. usually it is obvious if the case and lugs were intended to take a one piece strap. If the path that the strap would have to take has sharp or right angled bends, then it is probably not suitable for a one piece strap and you should take a look at my open ended straps described below.

Modern Horn with Spring or Fixed Bar Strap Fixings

After the early fixed wire lug watches, more modern watches have "horns", projections fixed to side of the case, and "bars", either spring bars or fixed bars which engage with these horns. The bars usually come closer to the case than fixed wire lugs, and often they either don't leave enough space for a one piece leather strap to pass between the bars and the case. Also the placement of the bars on the mid line of the case often doesn't allow a one piece strap to wrap easily around the bars and then across the back of the case. The straps are wider and a back pad is not needed.

If you have a watch like this, then I can supply a two piece strap that fits directly onto the bars instead of looping across the back of the case. This type of strap fits the horn and bar configuration better than a one piece strap, which is more correct for wire lugs. These can be either open ended for fixed bars or closed end for spring bars. Please go to the page about Two Piece Straps for more details.

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My Three Basic Designs of Vintage Watch Straps

I have cutters for three basic designs that I call Type A, Type B and Type C. For the significance of the cutters, see Cutter Limitations.

The Type A back pad bulks up a 10mm or 12mm strap but is best suited to smaller watches. For a man's watch of 32mm or larger diameter the Type B and Type C straps suit the watch better and look more impressive on the wrist. If you want to get people noticing and commenting on your vintage watch, then the Type B and Type C form a more substantial back drop to show off your watch to its best advantage and are the better choice.

The Type A and Type B designs are shown with single slots where the strap passes through the back pad, the Type C is shown with a variation on this called double slots. Both the Type B and Type C designs can be made with double slots for straps up to 14mm in width. The Type A design is only supplied with the standard single slots.

Type A Design

Type A with Great War sterling silver buckles
Click image to enlarge

The Type A design back pad has straight sides and is 26mm or about one inch wide all the way along. It will take straps up to 14mm in width, but I don't like the way 14mm straps look and I would recommend not going past 12mm on the Type A. If you need a strap wider than 12mm the Type C is a better design.

The Type A design is not suitable for straps wider than 14mm simply on aesthetic grounds. Although in principle the back pad could accommodate a 16mm or wider strap, when I have made some in the past it just doesn't look right, there is just not enough back pad showing either side of the strap. The Type A design is also not suitable for the "double slots" that are described below.

If you want a Type A design with a strap wider than 14mm or with double slots, the Type C design described below is perfect. The Type C back pad is slightly wider than the standard Type A, which lets it take straps wider than 14mm, or the double slot design, with ease whilst retaining the essential look of the Type A.

I keep Type A designs in stock with standard buckles in 10mm and 12mm strap widths, and with my hand made sterling silver buckles in 12mm strap widths. Type A designs with 10mm or 14mm straps with standard or sterling silver buckles can be made up to special order.

To order a stock Type A design with a standard buckle, please click this link: ordering straps with standard buckles.

To order a stock Type A design with a hand made sterling silver buckle, please click this link: ordering straps with sterling silver buckles.

If you want something that is not a stock item, please see Special Orders for details of how to request it.

If your wrist measures less than 168mm or 6½" around, please see straps for smaller wrists

Type B Design

Type B with Great War sterling silver buckles. Click image to enlarge.

The standard Type B design back pad is about 35mm wide before flaring out to a wider section of just over 40mm wide behind the watch with a notch for the crown.

The notch for the crown is important because it allows you to grip the crown between the thumb and forefinger to wind the watch. Without the notch you would have to force your finger between the back pad and the crown, which presses the stem onto the stem bearings and causes rapid wear. The stem is the shaft that connects the crown to the mechanism of the watch. The bearings in the watch plates that carry the stem are not capable of taking sideways loads and with winding can soon cause damage that is very difficult, often impossible, to repair. The notch in the side of my Type B design overcomes this problem.

The standard Type B design suits trench watches that have case diameters (that is diameter of the case excluding the lugs and the crown) between about 32mm to 37mm. If the case diameter is smaller than 32mm, then the crown wouldn't fall into the notch cut out for it, which would not look right.

The Type B design can be supplied with either single slots as shown in the picture, or double slots for 10mm, 12mm or 14mm straps. I keep the Type B strap in stock in 10mm in the single slot design, and in 12mm width in both single and double slot styles.

The standard Type B design can in principle take straps wider than 14mm but I personally think that it is best suited to what it was originally designed for, narrow straps of 10mm, 12mm and 14mm wide, which were typically what fitted Great War era trench watches with fixed wire lugs. A wider strap 16 or 18mm strap makes the combined strap and back pad rather stiff and clumsy and I don't recommend it.

I have also had cutters made so that I can supply two bigger sizes of the Type B strap that suit watches with cases of (1) Large: up to 45mm and (2) Extra Large (XL): up to 50mm diameter. If you want one of these larger sizes please state whether you want the larger or extra large size.

The Type B can also be made without the notch in the standard size, but not in the larger sizes. I don't recommend this design for a stem wound wristwatch but it can be useful for e.g. wrist compasses.

I keep Type B designs in stock with standard buckles in 10mm and 12mm strap widths, and with my hand made sterling silver buckles in 12mm strap widths. Type B designs with standard or sterling silver buckles in other widths can be made up to order.

To order a stock Type B design with a standard buckle, please click this link: ordering straps with standard buckles.

To order a stock Type B design with a hand made sterling silver buckle, please click this link: ordering straps with sterling silver buckles.

If you want something that is not a stock item, please see Special Orders for details of how to request it.

If your wrist measures less than 168mm or 6½" around, please see straps for smaller wrists

Type C Design

Basic Designs
Type C with Double Slots

The Type C design is similar to the Type A, but the back pad is about 31mm wide.

The Type C can take straps wider than 12mm whilst retaining the essential look of the Type A. The extra width of the Type C back pad also give it a little more "presence" on the wrist so it is suitable for larger watches than the Type A design.

Although the Type C can in principle take straps wider than 14mm or 16mm I don't recommend them because the combination of a wide strap with a back pad looks bulky and ugly.

The Type C design can also take the double slot feature described below, which doesn't work on the Type A design because it is not stiff enough. If you make a special order on a Type C and you want standard single slots, please make that clear with your order.

I keep the Type C design in stock with double slots and standard buckles in 12mm strap widths, see ordering straps with standard buckles.

I don't keep the Type C design in stock with sterling silver buckles but they can be ordered to be made specially, please see Special Orders for details of how.

If your wrist measures less than 168mm or 6½" around, please see straps for smaller wrists

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Omega watch on Type B tan morocco
Type B tan morocco double slots.

Double Slots

I found a picture of a watch with a strap that had closely spaced double slots so that the thinner strap ran on the outside of the back piece over most of the circumference. I liked the somehow more rugged appearance of this strap so I had cutters made to reproduce this appearance.

You can see one of my Type B designs with double slots fitted to a 1916 Omega wristwatch in the picture here.

Double slots can be cut on the Type B and Type C back pieces, but only for 10mm, 12mm and 14mm straps due to limitations in the cutters.

I keep Type B and Type C designs with 12mm straps and base metal buckles in stock, see ordering straps with standard buckles.

If you want something that is not a stock item, please see Special Orders for details of how to request it.

NB: Double slots maximum width 14mm.

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Cutter Limitations - Why I Can't Make Just Anything

I can only supply the designs of the shaped back pads that I actually have cutters for, so you can take it that what you see pictured on this page is what I can supply.

The straps and back pads are made from two pieces of leather glued back to back. To make a neat job the two pieces of leather are glued together before the shaped pieces are cut out. To cut out the shaped back pads, each piece needs to have a cutter of the correct shape.

These cutters are, in principle, just like the pastry cutters that cooks use to cut shapes out of pastry, but the difference is that these cutters are made from tool steel, very strong and sharp, and they are pressed through the leather using a hydraulic press which exerts tons of force! Each cutter is made by a specialist toolmaker, and they can be quite complicated. Cutters for straps include punches for the pin holes, cutters for back pads include punches for the slots. They take time to make and are expensive, that's why I can't just make anything.

It simply isn't possible to cut the glued double sided leather neatly any other way, scissors and knives just don't make a neat job. This is also the reason why I can't cut down any of the back pads that are too long, it simply doesn't result in a neat looking job. Straight cuts in leather are fairly easy to make manually, but the cutters are designed to make nicely shaped back pads and a straight cut on one of them would look like what it was, a hack.

The length of the straps can be varied, within reason, because they are basically straight sided strips of leather. One end is shaped and punched with the pin holes but the other end that the buckle is stitched into can be easily shortened or extended.

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Strap Length and Wrist Size

From experience I know that the standard length of my straps suits most men. However, how a strap fits depends on the shape of your watch and the path of the strap through the lugs, and also how tight you like to wear your strap.

My standard length strap for the Type A, B and C designs is 230mm long, excluding the buckle. These standard length straps fit wrists that measure between approximately 165mm / 6½" and 190mm / 7½" around. If you are close to either of the limits and you don't want to be on the last hole of a standard length strap, then you can send me the measurement around your wrist and I will get a strap made of the correct length to suit you, see Special Orders for how to do this. If you send me a wrist measurement I add 50mm to it to get the length to make the leather part.

The back pads, whether Type A, B or C, are 168mm or a little over 6½" long. These fit OK on a wrist that measures 165mm / 6½" around because when you wrap the strap around the wrist the strap travels a little more than 6½" inches and so the ends do not meet, but if your wrist measures less than 6½" or 165mm around, then the standard back pads will meet or overlap, in which case take a look at my Straps for Smaller Wrists.

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Strap Path

Strap Detail
Fixed wire lug showing gently curving path of strap

Bear in mind that one piece straps are intended to fit a watch like the one shown in the picture here, where the lugs droop to make the strap pass easily across the back of the watch. If the strap of your watch takes a more convoluted path than the one shown, or has sharper bends because the lugs don't droop as much or the case is less rounded, then a longer strap will be needed to follow the path. Please let me know, and if at all possible let me have a photograph of the lugs from the side.

If you have a "modern" watch, by which I mean one with horns and spring bars or fixed bars, then you need to think about whether it was designed to take a one piece strap that passes across the back of the case. Early military watches with fixed bars generally were, because the idea was that if one bar failed the strap around the wrist and the remaining bar would retain the watch. These watches have a generous distance between the case and the bars, like WWW watches such as Omega W.W.W. watches shown on my Omega page. Later military looking watches, especially those designed to take metal bracelets, have a much narrower gap.

If you have a watch like this, then I can supply a two piece strap that fits directly onto the bars instead of looping across the back of the case. This type of strap fits the horn and bar configuration better than a one piece strap, which is more correct for wire lugs. These can be either open ended for fixed bars or closed end for spring bars. Please go to the page about Two Piece Straps for more details.

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What Width Strap or Band Do I Need?

What width strap do you need? The strap should fit the lugs snugly, or else the watch is always wandering off to one side and it gets very annoying pulling it back to the centre all the time. If your watch has a strap currently fitted that doesn't fit the lugs snugly, then it is the wrong size. When new, the strap should fit the lugs tightly because as you wear the strap and it stretches lengthwise, it also shrinks slightly across the width, and if it only just fitted the lugs when new, it soon goes sloppy.

Lug Strap Width
Lug & Strap Width

The picture shows an Electa watch with a correct size strap, 12mm in this case - see how it snugly fits the wire lugs. To find out what width of strap you need, either carefully measure the inside width of the lugs on your watch, or cut a strip of card so that it just slides through the lugs, and then measure the width of the strip.

Please note that I can only supply straps in even sizes, that is even numbers of millimetres i.e. 10mm, 12mm, 14mm etc. This is determined by the cutters we have available in the workshop, and the nature of leather. It is not worth making cutters in every millimetre size because leather just can't be cut to the sort of accuracy, it is a natural flexible material which moves slightly as it is being cut and varies in strength and flexibility across the hide. Talking measurements of +/- 0.5mm just doesn't have any real meaning.

If you are sure that your lugs are an odd size, I suggest that you go for the next larger size, e.g if you measure your lugs as 11mm, get a 12mm strap. It will fit with a bit of careful threading through the lugs: leather is a marvellous material which will squash down to fit the lugs - see the advice about fitting a one piece strap above if you think it will be really tight. This looks a lot better than a narrow strap that leaves your watch slopping about from side to side. And also leather straps always get slightly narrower as you wear them, because as they stretch slightly in length they also contract in width (the Poisson effect), and you don't want it to go sloppy after a few wears.

If you measure your lugs as a fraction of an even size, e.g. 10.5mm, then go for a 10mm. A ¼mm either side will not show. Please remember that working with leather is not like precision machining; an accuracy of 1mm in cutting out the leather is about as good as can be achieved given the nature of the material, and it will stretch or squash in use. This is one of its great qualities which has not yet been replicated by artificial materials, so please bear it in mind when you are thinking about a strap.

I try to always keep in stock the standard 10mm and 12mm widths. I can also supply 14mm, 16mm, 18mm, 20mm etc. wide straps to special order, which takes up to a couple of weeks, but if you need one it is well worth the wait! Please remember that the cutters are in 2mm increments, so I can't do odd sizes like 13 or 15mm.

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Special Orders

Special Orders and Non-Stock Straps

Due to the unexpected absence of a key member of staff I will not be able to accept any orders for straps to be made, including G10 and RAF straps, Two Piece straps and leather Alberts, after Tuesday 22 August for an unknown period, possibly several months.

Please note that I have plenty of stocks of pre-made straps which can be ordered as usual; follow the links below:

In addition to the normal stock items also have a small number of RAF, G10 and leather Albert fobs.

  • RAF straps in 18mm width and standard length; black or Italian dark chestnut leather.
  • G10 Mk II straps in 18mm width and standard length; black or Italian dark chestnut leather.
  • Leather Albert fobs with hallmarked sterling silver fittings in Italian dark chestnut leather. (One only now!)

Please contact me if you would like to order any of these. Include your country so that I can work out the postage. I will send you a PayPal invoice to place the order. If you are not familiar with these designs and sizes please review the relevant page first.

I am always happy to take special orders provided you understand that they do take extra time. I can't ask the workshop to drop everything and make just one strap, that would be totally impractical and uneconomic, so I have to tag it on to one of my orders for a batch of straps. You may be lucky and place your order just as I am about to submit a batch order, or you may be unlucky and I have just received a batch, in which case your order will have to go in with the next batch. Because of this I ask you to allow two to three weeks to get a strap made, and then the usual postage time after this.

There is usually no extra charge for a special order, they are the same price as the nearest similar stock strap. For example, a Type B with a 14mm strap it is the same price as a stock Type B with a 12mm strap.

If you want to make a special order, e.g. for a non-stock strap width or length, please email me with:

Once the details are established and I am confident that I can supply what you want I will send you a PayPal invoice to place the order.

Please keep thing simple and just send me your actual wrist measurement, preferably in millimetres. The best way to take the measurement is to wrap a dressmaker's flexible tape measure around your wrist at the point you wear you watch and take a reading from this, or wrap a piece of string around your wrist and make a mark with a pen where it overlaps and then measure the distance between the two marks with a rule. Don't try to second guess me on this and give me a measurement that you think will work better. If you take a measurement from an existing strap it produces a different result.

You can get my email address from the Contact me page.

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Strap Thickness

Strap Detail
Fixed wire lug showing path of strap

The finished thickness of my standard pull through one piece straps is about 2mm. The reason for this is explained below. This is the traditional thickness that straps for watches with wire lug were made and results in a strap that is supple but durable. If you have a wire lug watch and the lugs are closer to the case than 2mm then they have been bent, either accidentally or deliberately, and should be restored as shown in the image here.

Each strap is each made in the traditional way that British wristwatch straps have been made for over one hundred years, since before the Great War. Two pieces of full grain leather, a leather outer and leather lining that are glued together. These are then stitched together all the way round for extra security and durability.

Why are straps made like this? Raw leather has two sides, an outer side where the hair or fur was, which is called the "grain" side, and an inner side which is called the flesh side for obvious reasons. The grain side has close knit fibres and is dense and strong, but as you move through the leather towards the flesh side the fibre structure gets progressively looser and leather made from this is weaker.

To make a watch strap that is as strong and durable as possible, yet still flexible so that it is comfortable to wear, two pieces of the grain side leather are used. These are glued back to back before being cut into the strap parts using press cutting knives as I describe above. They are then stitched all round. The stitching stops the two parts from separating, and also helps to make the finished strap stronger, with less "stretch".

Raw hide is very thick and the hides are split before tanning to make them thinner. The grain side leather is what we want for watch straps, the layers of flesh side leather that are split off from the grain side are used for less demanding applications where strength is not important, such as suede. Leather from the tannery is often still too thick to be used to make watch straps and is further split or "skived" down to a usable thickness. Skiving is the term used in the leather industry for shaving down the thickness of the leather. So yes, the leather industry does employ professional skivers!

The minimum thickness that hide can be reduced to and still retain good strength is about 1mm, so the thickness of a finished double sided leather strap is 2mm.

If the lugs on your watch are very close to the case, less than 2mm gap, and can't be restored, or the shape of the case means that a one piece strap would have to make very tight bends that a normal thickness leather strap will not make (See section about this "One Piece Strap for Fixed Wire Lugs" above) then you probably have either a cushion case or a modern watch with horns and bars and you should consider a Two Piece Strap. These straps attach to the case either with spring bars or by wrapping around fixed bars.

Single Thickness Leather

A leather strap made from a single piece of leather rather than two pieces stitched together is not very satisfactory, because it only has one grain side and no stitching. You will often see straps like this advertised as being "soft" and "flexible", which is true; but for some reason they don't say that they are "stretchy" and "weak". Alternatively they are made thick and stiff, and uncomfortable to wear.

I prefer to supply leather straps that will last, which means made in the traditional way, from two pieces of leather glued back to back and stitched all round. I have in the past, against my better judgement, supplied straps made from a single thickness of leather, but due to general customer dissatisfaction with these I will not supply any more; as an engineer by training, experience and at heart, I prefer things made in a way that I feel comfortable with.

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Leather Types and Colours

All my straps are made of the best quality leather I can find. They are double sided, meaning that the outer part is leather and the lining is leather. The lining may be made from leather left over from other jobs, but as it is not seen I don't think this matters, it is still full grain leather, not a composite or synthetic.

There used to be lots of suppliers of raw leather in the UK but over the years these have dwindled and the choice is now much reduced. This problem is compounded by the fact that I don't use a huge square footage of leather, unlike a shoe factory or furniture maker for instance, so I can't order special batches of leather in a one-off finish or colour that I want - the tanneries are only interested in specially processing large orders of hundreds of square feet. It is a constant struggle to find suitable leather, the main problem is getting leather split to the 1 mm or so that is needed for watch straps. The problem is that the merchants often can't split the hides from the raw 5mm or so that they come from the tannery, and the workshop can't skive the unsplit leather because it's too thick for the skiving machine.

Leather Colours

The picture here shows most of the standard leather colours that I use for the straps that I keep in stock.

Type A straps with Great War sterling silver buckles
Type A straps with Great War sterling silver buckles
Click image to enlarge

There are more pictures that give views of the leathers made up into different straps and on customers watches on the pictures and customers watches page (click on the links to open the pages).

Please bear in mind that it is difficult to get good colour reproduction on computer screens, but if you have a look at a few pictures, here and on the other pages, you will get a better feel for the actual colours.

The standard leather colours illustrated in the picture of the Type A straps to the right are;

Brandy and dark chestnut Italian leathers
Click image to enlarge

Premium Italian Leathers

I am always searching for suitable leathers but I have had difficulty finding suitable leathers in the quality that I want and the thickness that I need for making straps the traditional way. After a lot of searching I found these two beautiful Italian leathers which are superb quality and colours. They are not available from any British supplier so import them myself.

I have two colours available, brandy and dark chestnut. The brandy is the lighter of the two. This photograph shows Type B and Type A straps in brandy and dark chestnut, both with my hand made sterling silver buckles, with the background samples of the hides, to give you a different view of the two colours.

All the straps in the picture are made with stitching that closely matches the colour of the leather. Contrast stitching can be done to special order, and the brandy looks particularly good with black stitching, which I think gives a real smart and sophisticated look.

The colour can vary across each hide, and it is always difficult to get a good colour representation on a computer monitor, but these are high quality leathers with beautiful rich colours.

These are premium leathers, the best I have ever seen, butter soft and lovely to feel. They are much more expensive than the standard leathers so I have to charge an extra £2.00 for straps made from these premium Italian leathers.

There are pictures of customers watches on straps made in these leathers on the customers page.

Other Colours

Alternative tan leathers
Click image to enlarge

Dark blue leather

The next picture is of a classy dark blue leather. It's rather difficult to photograph dark colours well but this gives you an idea of the colour, the actual shade is a little darker in practice. If you want a dark blue, this is a nice one. There are pictures of straps made up in this leather on the customers page.

The next picture shows some alternative tan leathers, at the top a traditional London tan, at the bottom a tan with a "Montana" grain.

If you want a colour I haven't illustrated, please ask - I can supply green, red, yellow, blue, white etc. as well as metallics. I have supplied straps in dark green, yellow, silver, etc. The pictures below show straps made in dark green, yellow, red and white.

I have included the white G10 strap not because I don't think you know what white looks like, but because when a customer asked me to make one for his girlfriend I was rather sceptical how it would look. In fact it turned out very nicely, as you can see.

If you click on the images, larger versions will pop up. These pictures give you an idea of just some of the different colours that I can supply.

Colour Fidelity

Please bear in mind that because leather is a natural material, not only does colour vary from hide to hide, it even varies across a single hide depending on the way it takes up the dye. It also is very difficult to get an accurate colour reproduction using a digital camera and also on a computer screen. Because of this the colours shown in these pictures must be taken as a guide rather than an absolute reference. But I only use top quality leathers and "nice" colours, so I am sure that you won't be disappointed with the colour when it arrives.

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Shell Cordovan Leather

I occasionally get asked about shell cordovan leather. I have never yet found any shell cordovan leather that I consider suitable to be made into watch straps.

Shell cordovan derives its name from the city of Cordoba, Spain, where it was originally prepared by the Moors, and from fibrous flat muscle or "shell" beneath the hide on the rump of the horse where the leather is taken from.

I have investigated all the sources of shell cordovan I could find in Britain. It is usually used to make saddles and bridles and because of this it is prepared by the tanneries by a process called "hot stuffing" to make it durable under outdoor weather conditions. This basically means that it is boiled in something like candle wax. This gives it a smooth and shiny appearance and waxy feel. The end result is a tough waxy feeling leather that in my opinion is both unattractive to look at and feels wrong to wear as a watch strap. For other applications I am sure it is perfectly fine.

Watch straps that I have seen made from shell cordovan are cut from a single thickness of leather and not lined. This may be satisfactory from the point of view of strength because the leather is tough, but this is not how I like to make straps that are both strong and durable and also supple and comfortable to wear.

Some correspondents have referred me to the Horween Leather Company because their shell cordovan leather is thought to be good, but I haven't handled any yet because it doesn't come in the thickness ("thinness") I need for my type of watch straps. All the sources that I found were much too thick to be used for my type of watch straps, and it is a very tough leather that is not easy to skive down.

I am not sure why shell cordovan is as desired for watch straps as it appears to be. I suspect it might be simply because it is expensive and gives good "bragging rights" rather than because it is actually a good material to make watch straps from.

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Standard Buckles

White metal buckles (usually chromium plated) are fitted to my stock straps and as standard. I try to use buckles that look correct for the period, but in the small sizes there is often not much choice available. As far as I am aware no one in the UK makes these so the ones on my straps come from Germany. The supplier we used to get the buckles shown in most of the pictures no longer makes them, so the current design is slightly different, but still period looking.

Replica and original 1918 Sterling silver buckles

Gold coloured / yellow metal buckles to go with watches with gold cases can be supplied as special orders at no extra cost. I can't currently supply solid gold buckles, but if you know of a source for these, please let me know. I don't keep straps with gold buckles made up because there are nothing like as many gold watches as silver due to the great melting of cases for their bullion that has happened over the years. Original Swiss records show that the number of gold and silver cases manufactured was roughly the same, whereas today gold cases from the era of the Great War are very rare compared to silver; a great shame.

Hand Made English Hallmarked Sterling Silver and Gold Buckles

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. My first attempt at copying an original Sterling silver buckle was done by entirely by hand and eye, and I soon realised that it was not easy to make neat and consistent bends, so I designed a small machine to make the bends neatly and the production versions are better, rather better than the original I like to think, although they still look hand made and authentically "artisan". The picture shows one of my buckles in the foreground, with the original I copied it from behind.

The first buckle I copied has London Assay Office hallmarks for 1918. This type of buckle was used both before and all throughout the Great War of 1914-18. My Sterling silver buckles are also hallmarked by the London Assay Office, with a full set of traditional hand punched English hallmarks including the leopards head of London and the walking lion or lion passant of sterling silver, just like the original. The only change is that the fineness .925 is struck in addition to the walking lion.

I also make these buckles in gold. I usually keep some 12mm buckles in stock in nine carat gold.

Further details of straps with with my hand made and English hallmarked sterling silver buckles, and stock straps available to order, are on the Period Replica Buckles page.

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Contrast Colour Stitching

Contrast stitching works quite well, although bear in mind that the stitches on my straps are small machine made stitches. See below for why I can't supply straps with big stitches

White looks very good with black, red with brown, and black with brandy. The workshop has most colours, but do ask if there is a colour combination you particularly want.

Because Type A, B or C straps with coloured stitching must be specially made, please email me with the details of what you want, including your wrist size and location for postage costs and I will send you a PayPal invoice to place the order.

Big Stitches

My straps are machine stitched which produces fairly small but neat and even stitches. Big stitches made with heavy gauge thread are made either by a special purpose machine, which we don't have, or more usually be done by hand sowing, which would be expensive if done in the UK. Hand stitching also requires extra punches in the cutters used to cut the strap parts, so that all the holes for the stitches are cut out at the same time as the leather parts are cut out from the hide - which my cutters don't have. So I can't supply straps with big stitches.

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How to Order

Details of how to order can be found on the Ordering page.

If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me via my Contact me page.

Fitting One Piece Straps

Fitting a leather strap to a modern watch that was not specifically designed to take a leather strap can be a bit tricky, Some modern watches have a narrow gap between the bars and the body which, although wide enough to take a leather strap, can make fitting difficult but not impossible. This is usually because the location of the lugs and the shape of the case makes the strap take a sharp bend to turn across the back of the case. Because modern watches are not designed with leather straps in mind the watch case can also have sharp edges that can damage the leather as you pull it through if you are not careful.

One of my customers had some problems fitting a G10 strap because his watch has quite a narrow gap between the bars and the body. You can see the notes by Mike on the customers page about how he tackled this, but basically he wrapped the strap in aluminium foil which enabled him to slide it through the bars without damage.

A better method is to use a piece of plastic film, e.g. a piece cut from a carrier bag. Simply cut a strip of plastic just over twice the width of your strap from a carrier bag, wrap this tightly around the strap and secure with sticky tape. Leave a couple of inches of empty plastic surplus at the end as a "leader" and feed this through the lugs. Because it doesn't have the strap in it it will go through easily. You can then use the leader to pull the rest of the plastic containing the strap through the lugs. After the strap is in place, just hold the buckle end of the strap and pull the plastic out.

You can use this technique to fit a one piece leather strap or a leather NATO G10 to a modern watch easily, and without damaging the surface finish of the leather.

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Straps for Smaller Wrists

Small Back Pads
Shorter Back Pads: Type BS top, AS bottom

The back pads of the Type A, B and C designs are 168mm or 6½" long. These fit OK on a wrist that measures 168mm or 6½" because when you wrap the strap around the wrist the strap travels a little more than 6½" inches, but if your wrist measures less than 6½" or 168mm around, then the standard back pads will be too long. (Unless you are happy for the ends of the back pad to overlap.)

I have two designs of shorter back pad which are suitable for smaller wrists, straight or flared as shown in the picture. The back pads are both about 135mm long.

If you need one of these straps, it will be made specially for you so you can have it made in whatever colour and strap width (within reason) you wish.

The price of these straps is the same as my other two piece straps, £25 in standard leathers with a base metal silver or gold coloured buckle, plus £2 for either of the two premium Italian leathers, and/or plus £25 for a sterling silver buckle. If you want a real gold buckle, please inquire.

Please drop me an email with your specification and I will send you a PayPal invoice to place the order.

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Cushion case
Cushion case wristwatch

Cushion Cases

Cushion cased watches with lugs that are nearly as wide as the case cannot be fitted with straps that have back pads.

The problem is that you would end up with either a back pad that is very much wider than the watch so that the watch looks lost in the middle, or a strap that is almost as wide as the back pad.

The picture here gives you an idea of the type of case I am talking about, the lug width is 20mm and the case at its widest point is 30mm. This watch is unusual for a cushion case in having wire lugs, often they have bars that are made an integral part of the case and extend almost the whole way across the case.

Despite the relatively large width of their lugs, cushion cased watches are often quite small in overall diameter, which was the fashion at the time they were made. There is a natural tendency to think that a strap with a back pad might make the watch "look" larger, which is more fashionable today. However, if you are thinking along these lines you might want to first try a mock up to demonstrate how it would look, because sometimes a small watch on a big back pad can look like . . . . well; like a small watch on a big strap.

The other problem is that to look right a back pad needs to be at least 14mm wider than the strap. Less than this and the back pad looks rather pointless. The watch shown in the picture would need a 34mm wide strap, which would be a big back pad - try a rule against your arm and imagine it. A back pad this size would just about be OK on that watch, but on cushion cases with integral bars that extend across a greater proportion of the case width, the back pad works out to be much wider than the watch and that looks wrong.

Cushion cased watches usually have 16mm, 18mm or wider lugs and would originally have been fitted with a strap without a back pad. A strap of that width generally looks and feels fine, so that is what I usually recommend you use for a cushion cased watch.

There is an the added difficulty if the watch has curved bars, which are also usually close to the case. The problem with curved bars is that they cause a stress concentration at the edges of the leather which can easily make it split. If the leather also has to be thin to pass between the bar and the case, then this makes the problem worse, because the thinner leather is also weaker. Watch like this are often fitted with open ended straps, the type where one thickness of leather wraps around the lugs and is then fastened together with a tin tab or glue, but the single thickness of leather makes worse the problem of stress at the edge of the leather and I wouldn't want to wear a watch like that because of the danger of the leather tearing at the lug and the watch being dropped or lost.

Strap Options for Cushion Cased Wristwatches

So what are the viable options, I hear you ask.

If the lugs are sufficiently far from the case and the path that the strap would have to follow through the lugs and across the back of the case would allow a one piece strap, then I suggest that you look at one of my RAF straps. You could consider a G10, but in my view the more rugged look of the G10 does not look right with a cushion case.

If the lugs are too close to the case for a pull-through strap like the RAF you could consider a Two Piece Strap, but beware of curved lugs that will tend to tear the leather from the edges inwards.

If the lugs are very close to the case and curved, the watch was designed to be worn with a fabric or silk strap and that is the best option.

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Pocket Watch Wrist Strap
Wristlet strap for pocket watch

Wristlets: Wrist Straps for Pocket Watches, and Why I Don't Supply Them

I have occasionally been asked if I can supply wristlets or wrist straps for pocket watches like the one referred to on the History page and used by the Captain in the North Staffordshire Regiment. At the moment I have nothing like this available.

There are now some of this type of strap becoming available on the market. All the ones that I have seen are hand cut and stitched, and the resulting straps are bulky and not well shaped. If I do make a replica it will not be like those but would be properly made in the same way as my other straps, the leather press cut and machine stitched so that the resulting strap is flexible and comfortable but still strong, and an accurate replica of the strap made by the Garstin company shown in the picture here.

I would need to get at least two new cutters made, to cut out the pieces of the strap, and a mould to form the cup. This would be quite a capital investment as the cutters and mould would be expensive to make.

I would also need to know how to stiffen the leather so that the cup retains its shape. There are various articles on the web about this, in particular the technique of "cuir bouilli" or boiled leather, which was used to make medieval armour. However, I have never used this and the articles available are not consistent in their recommendations, some say to use just water, others say to use oils or waxes, others animal urine. I would need to spend some time experimenting with the technique to ensure good and consistent results.

The workshop have also told me that they can't do the stitching around the cup where it attaches to the wrist strap. This stitching is very close to the cup and needs a sewing machine with an exceptionally narrow foot, which they don't have.

So I would need to get at least two cutters and a mould made, spend time experimenting with leather stiffening, and modify or purchase a sewing machine. I might do this at sometime in the future but at the moment I am not working on this, and I am not even planning to start work on it. If this situation changes I will update this paragraph with details.

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Wristwatch Straps with Covers

I don't make straps with covers. I do get asked for them occasionally, but to make one of an acceptable quality would not be easy, rather like making the wristlets for wearing pocket watches discussed above, the main problem is forming and stiffening the cup part so that it retains its shape, and stitching it to the strap. I have seen some replica straps like this with the cup just pressed into an ordinary piece of leather, without any stiffening or reinforcing so the cup is soft and flexible. I don't think they are an acceptable standard of design or appearance.

I am also not keen on straps with covers over the watch for two reasons:

  1. The purpose of wearing a wristwatch was to make it quick and easy to read without using both hands, but a strap with a cover needs you to fiddle about with both hands every time you want to read the time; this defeats the object of wearing a wristwatch in the first place.
  2. If you have a nice vintage wristwatch, why hide it under a cup rather than showing it off?

Wrist Compass Straps

The Type B strap without the winding crown notch works very well for World War One era wrist compasses. You can see a wrist compass fitted to the strap on the customers' watches pictures page.

If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me via my Contact me page. Back to the top of the page.

Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2017 all rights reserved. This page updated July 2017. W3CMVS.