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Do You Care if Your Strap Employs "Genuine" Exotic Leathers?

  • My strap must be hand-made and use genuine exotic leathers; cost isn't the controlling factor.

    Votes: 13 27.7%
  • My strap can be machine-made, but I want real exotic leather at an affordable price.

    Votes: 17 36.2%
  • I'd rather have handmade at an affordable price; embossed calfskin is okay.

    Votes: 13 27.7%
  • The subject bores me to death.

    Votes: 4 8.5%
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey, guys,

I've been researching leathers online, and thought I'd conduct a poll on a subject that interests most watch fans: Exotic leather straps!

I've been reading about alligator, crocodile, caiman, ostrich, boar, buffalo, elephant, rhino and more. There are black market resources for just about any hide you can think of -- some of which don't warrant discussion in civilized company.

The chief concern for a collector is authenticity: E.g., is this a genuine alligator leather strap, handbag, etc. -- or is it something else? I've learned that there's a graduated scale of value, for example, and alligator is considered "premium quality," crocodile "medium quality," and caiman "low quality." There are a number of logical reasons for this grading system that I won't go into, here, but -- with instruction and practice -- it's possible to differentiate species from scale patterns fairly easily.

What's NOT easy to do -- even for the experts -- (non-invasively, non-destructively) is to tell the difference between genuine exotics and embossed cowhide. If you read about it, on-line, the expert advice is typically, "If the price is too good to be true, it's probably not a genuine alligator-leather product."

Purveyors of "genuine" hides suggest wetting the product, coming back a little later, and smelling to detect a "swampy smell." Cowhide won't smell swampy. Humorously, there are simple ways to defeat this olfactory test during the dying process, including mixing fish-scented fluids (spring water from a tuna can works!) with the water-based dye.

The chief argument for buying the "genuine article" -- most compelling for me, anyway -- is that real alligator is more durable than cowhide. Your alligator suitcase is going to be more rugged than your leather suitcase, 'course if you can afford the 'gator case, you probably don't care how long it lasts. :wink:

There's an embossing process that utilizes premium cowhides to produce faux "exotic skins," which can then be made into finished products, including watch straps. I have examined them, side by side, and -- while I'm the farthest thing from an "expert" -- I can't tell most of these finished products (watch straps, etc.) from their genuine-hide betters -- except by price.

A machine-cut, machine-stitched alligator strap is going to start at around $130.00 and go up from there. It can be VERY difficult to find straps in wider lug-widths. Then there's the question of whether the strap is single-sided with calf-leather interior, double-sided, etc. Anyway, it's easy to spend well over $200.00 on a custom strap built from exotic leathers.

Since most 'alligator' watch straps aren't going to see heavy abuse, why not buy cowhide (calf leathers) that's been "embossed" with the grain of your choosing and get the same "look" for a fraction of the money?

Personally, I'd rather have a hand-built strap made of embossed leathers than a machine cut/stitched strap made from exotics. Machine stitching LOOKS LIKE machine stitching for a number of very apparent reasons. Please take the poll and give me your input, if you have any further thoughts on the subject. Thanks, guys!
 

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I have a genuine gator strap for my Fredrique Constant watch. It is the softest strap I have, feels like butter. I love it, but I got it before Katrina. Gator was a lot cheaper then.

I have 2 buffalo straps, 1 made by you, and 1 made by Crown & Buckle. The one by you is much softer and wears better. The one by C&B is not that great, but was very cheap.($17)

The best leather strap i have is from Magrette, it came on my bronze model. It is very soft and buttery, I love it but it is black and doesn't look right with the bronze. It has now made it's way to my M14. It looks great on that since it black with red lining.

I prefer very soft leathers, so if you can find an embossed leather that is soft I am game.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I have a genuine gator strap for my Fredrique Constant watch. It is the softest strap I have, feels like butter. I love it, but I got it before Katrina. Gator was a lot cheaper then.

I have 2 buffalo straps, 1 made by you, and 1 made by Crown & Buckle. The one by you is much softer and wears better. The one by C&B is not that great, but was very cheap.($17)

The best leather strap i have is from Magrette, it came on my bronze model. It is very soft and buttery, I love it but it is black and doesn't look right with the bronze. It has now made it's way to my M14. It looks great on that since it black with red lining.

I prefer very soft leathers, so if you can find an embossed leather that is soft I am game.
I'm with you. Softness counts for a lot. A lot of a strap's feel depends on how its leather was tanned; if it was a "natural," vegetatively tanned process, the leathers tend to be a little stiffer. If the leather was "chrome-tanned," like your buffalo, for instance, then the leathers appear to be softer and more like upholstery-grade leather. The problem, for me, with chrome-tanned leathers is that they tend to not have much "body," are super floppy, and end up -- for watch strap applications -- needing to be backed with a lamination of cowhide, anyway.
 

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Thick, soft, and sized the way I need are important to me than anything else..
 

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With the sole exception of the Tungsten bracelet on my M24, I have Hadley Roma alligator straps on all of my M-Tungstens. Gotta be gator for me...:wink:
 

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I have zero problems telling faux from real when I have both in my hands.
The embossed leather just doesn't look like a good quality gator at all where it counts, and that is in between the scales.
There is small very subtle sort of wrinkles there that the embossed cowhide can never fake.
From a distance maybe, but when I have it in my hands? No way!

I like gator straps a lot but don't care too much about the other exotic skins used.
 

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I like a well made strap in any material and have several great straps that I like made from:
- cow hide, shark skin, ostrich, sting ray, elephant, python, lizard, rubber, carbon/kevlar......

But to me 'nothing' beats a well made GENUINE nice large scale gator....
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I like a well made strap in any material and have several great straps that I like made from:
- cow hide, shark skin, lizard, rubber, carbon......
But to me 'nothing' beats a well made nice large scale gator....
Thanks, man.

Here's a question I'm really interested in your answer to.

You and CT know a lot about watch collection and straps, so this is important to me. Just as CT can spot a fake, cowhide 'gator, the differences between hand-stiched and machine-stitched straps are VERY apparent to me. Machine-stitched straps are perfectly uniform, and the underside of the straps features a lighter-weight "bobbin" thread that is a dead giveaway. In fact, every aspect of production line strap-making is geared away from "individuality" and toward impeccable uniformity. The edges of the strap are machine burnished ("pressed"), and the net effect is blemish-free perfection. I have no particular problem with beautiful, machine-made straps. Most of the really expensive, western European, Panerai straps are largely machine cut, and finished. That's not to say that they aren't fussed-over during production -- they ARE -- but they're also factory assembled, mostly machine-stitched and packaged. What's your feeling about the value of hand-stitched, made-to-order straps vs. equally expensive name-brand factory straps, and should there be a price-point difference?
 

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Personally i can tell right away a gator strap from an embossed leather. I would not personally wear the embossed leather with an exotic pattern after owning several genuine alligator straps. There is a huge difference in feel and quality of material between the two. I also like factory made straps best as they are done to perfection but that is just me. Aged vintage looking handmade straps i really like as well but I think since handmade straps always cost more anyways i could not see much point in making embossed faux patterns which will end up selling the same as real mass produced gator straps. my 2 cents.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Personally i can tell right away a gator strap from an embossed leather. I would not personally wear the embossed leather with an exotic pattern after owning several genuine alligator straps. There is a huge difference in feel and quality of material between the two. I also like factory made straps best as they are done to perfection but that is just me. Aged vintage looking handmade straps i really like as well but I think since handmade straps always cost more anyways i could not see much point in making embossed faux patterns which will end up selling the same as real mass produced gator straps. my 2 cents.
Okay, hard to fault the logic. Then, just to be clear, you would NOT pay a premium of, say, $50 for a genuine gator strap that'd been hand-stitched, vs. the machine-cut-stitched, mass-produced variety? No "judgement" or emphasis intended, on my part, just want to be clear.
 

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Okay, hard to fault the logic. Then, just to be clear, you would NOT pay a premium of, say, $50 for a genuine gator strap that'd been hand-stitched, vs. the machine-cut-stitched, mass-produced variety? No "judgement" or emphasis intended, on my part, just want to be clear.
$50 for a hand stitched genuine alligator strap absolutely!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
$50 for a hand stitched genuine alligator strap absolutely!
No, no... What I'm asking is would you pay $50 extra for the hand stitching? In other words, if the mass-produced, machine-stiched, "genuine gator" strap were available for $150.00, would you pay $200.00 -- a $50 premium -- for that same 'gator strap, only hand-crafted vs. machine made?
 

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No, no... What I'm asking is would you pay $50 extra for the hand stitching? In other words, if the mass-produced, machine-stiched, "genuine gator" strap were available for $150.00, would you pay $200.00 -- a $50 premium -- for that same 'gator strap, only hand-crafted vs. machine made?
Ahh ok i see what you mean. No i would not personally. On a gator strap i prefer it to be machine made as it is more of a luxury item so i like the perfect look as opposed to vintage type straps that i think look best with hand stitching. I may be alone on this one. lol.
 

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Although i do have one amazing looking hand made gator strap. I will have to find it though! I have owned a bunch and 99% of the handmade gators i had i never grew fond of. I think the fact that most of them were too thick and stiff never appealed much to me. The one i like is tapered which i prefer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Although i do have one amazing looking hand made gator strap. I will have to find it though! I have owned a bunch and 99% of the handmade gators i had i never grew fond of. I think the fact that most of them were too thick and stiff never appealed much to me. The one i like is tapered which i prefer.
Okay, thanks, Chris.
 

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Yea, once you handle true gator it's pretty easy to tell the embossed from the true stuff.

I don't think it matters if it's hand stitch or machine to tell you the truth. I've had both and as long as it's quality skin and workmanship that's what matters. I don't think paying more for handstitching translates to visible quality increases.
 

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Yea, once you handle true gator it's pretty easy to tell the embossed from the true stuff.

I don't think it matters if it's hand stitch or machine to tell you the truth. I've had both and as long as it's quality skin and workmanship that's what matters. I don't think paying more for handstitching translates to visible quality increases.
Yep, I have a George Lan black gator and an ABP special tanning gator. Both are exceptional straps and I don't think they can be replicated with stamped cowhide. Both are hand stiched (as far as I know!) and the quality is easily visible.

Having said that, I do own stamped cowhide straps, usually when I'm trying to match a watch strap to the colour of a dial, or to what I'm wearing.

You gets what you pays for...
 

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I am with Chris on this one - NO embossed gator for me either.
I'd rather go to cowhide or a nice soft buffalo.

If I could have the same quality leather (real gator) and one would be machine stitched
and the second one hand stitched and would cost more....I'd pick machine stitched.
heck I may pick a machine stitched even if the price was the same !!

While I appreciate the work that goes to the hand stitched straps (as seem in these 2
custom straps below) - hand stitching is nothing I spend time thinking about.





 

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I have stingray, shark, ostrich, alligator caribou straps, I've owned elephant (got it in a trade, couldn't keep it), chicken strap at one point for some bizzare reason. I mostly wear rubber straps anymore.
 
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