A Guide To The HODINKEE Shop Strap Collection
Over 150 watch straps, explained.
Originally published by Logan Baker on HODINKEE, May 14th 2020
Watch straps are at the foundation of what the HODINKEE Shop does every single day. They were one of the very first products in the HODINKEE Shop when we first launched all the way back in 2012, and today, we offer more types of straps than ever before. We also pair them with nearly every single vintage watch we sell. We can honestly say it’s likely that the HODINKEE Shop would not have grown to where it is today without our collection of watch straps. It is a cornerstone of our business and one of the common threads that weaves every aspect of HODINKEE together. After all, everyone needs a new strap occasionally, right?
Calfskin Leather Watch Straps
If a material of record for watch straps existed, it would be calfskin. Calfskin is supple, long-lasting, and can be treated to receive a huge variety of colors and textures. It’s also the material that makes up the widest range of our straps, and it serves as the basis for three of our different collections. You really can’t go wrong with a calfskin strap.
The Davenport Watch Strap Collection
When the Davenport was released, it became the first of our “named” strap collections, which signified a new, more curated approach to how we introduced new straps. Made by hand from high-quality calfskin in the United States, we designed this series of four straps to be highly versatile, able to toe the line equally between classy and casual situations, and, more importantly, between modern and vintage watches, with ease.
Yes, only four different colorways (Blue, Red Clay, Tan, and Beige) are available, but within that small amount of colors is a wide variety of options. Not only is each strap available in 18mm, 19mm, 20mm, and 22mm sizes, but they also come in either long or short lengths, making them perfect for collectors of all types. Each strap features a lightly stained finish and contrast stitching.
The Sedona Watch Strap Collection
The Sedona collection is comprised of ten different colored straps, each available in four different sizes, made of high-end French calfskin. Named after the Arizona city that is famous for the red sandstone formations that line the city limits, these multi-colored straps echo the brilliant sunsets the Southwestern United States is known for. The specific range of matte colors available is one of our favorite things about this collection; from dusty blue to muted black to bright (but subdued) orange, there are options for every watch and every occasion.
The Sedona was the first HODINKEE strap collection with matching all-around stitching, meaning the color of the thread matches the leather on each strap. The stitching is done completely by hand for extra durability and longevity. The complementary stitching adds nicely to the casual but elevated aesthetic, especially alongside the leather’s matte finish.
The French calfskin is some of the highest quality leather we’ve encountered, and it is complemented by the equally quality French calfskin lining. Over time, the calfskin develops a subtle patina in the form of an ever so slight sheen. At roughly 2.5mm thick, the Sedona offers a great balance of substance and pliability. The strap is sturdy without feeling stiff, and the leather has a flexibility that negates the need for any breaking-in period. The calfskin lining, in particular, is supple from the moment you put it on, ensuring immediately comfortable wear.
Learn more about the Sedona collection right here.
The Barrett Watch Strap Collection
The Barrett collection is a series of six leather straps in a variety of colors that come to us by way of a small, family-owned tannery in the South of France. Unlike the other straps on this list, these feature a more glossy finish with a rich sheen that stands out in a big way. The leather is oak-tanned, which means it will gradually patina over time, transitioning from its lustrous appearance to a more matte look. If you’re familiar with our popular Moulded Oak-Tanned Leather Cases, then you’ll know that this type of leather, just like the best vintage watches, will only get better looking with age.
The straps that make up the Barrett collection all channel a fairly rustic aesthetic, with contrasting, all-around stitching and polished buckles. Since each strap undergoes a natural vegetable tanning process during its production, the graining of the leather is different in every single strap, regardless of color or size.
Each colorway comes in our standard four sizes (fitting lug widths of 18, 19, 20, and 22mm) and has a thickness of approximately 2.5mm. The six colors that the Barrett collection comes in are Burgundy, Navy Blue, Yellow, Dark Brown, Red, and Tan. Each color has its own charms, but each retains a low-key profile that makes it well-suited for, well, pretty much anything.
Learn more about the Barrett Watch Strap Collection right here.
Even More Calfskin Leather Watch Straps
We’ve added a large number of other calfskin leather straps over the years that don’t fit into any specific collection or category. Many of these straps are our most popular designs, and there’s a huge variety of colorways and textures to choose from. A few of our favorites include the Moss Green Calfskin Watch Strap, the Smooth Taupe Calfskin Watch Strap, and the Textured Honey Brown Calfskin Watch Strap.
You can view all of our calfskin leather watch straps right here.
Italian Leather Watch Straps
We like to say that these are the straps that made the HODINKEE Shop famous. These are the original HODINKEE single-layer straps, handmade in Tuscany by a single leatherworker, with many of these styles dating back to the early 2010s. Different cuts of leather are used for each individual style, meaning no two straps are identical in texture or appearance.
We designed these straps to pair with the vintage sports watches we personally own and love, but we’ve found them to be a great complement to basically any watch out there today. Versatility is a topic that comes up quite frequently when we discuss our favorite straps for a reason. You want a quality strap that can complement any number of watches in your collection, and these are just the straps to do that.
You can view all of our Italian Leather Watch Straps right here.
Shell Cordovan Leather Watch Straps
If you’ve spent any time on the hunt for quality leather in the United States over the past century, you’ve undoubtedly come across the Horween Leather Company in Downtown Chicago. Horween produces the leather used by both the NBA and NFL in their regulation basketballs and footballs, but it is perhaps best known for its production of Shell Cordovan leather. Shell Cordovan is most frequently found in the hands of first-rate cordwainers plying their trade, but it is also used extensively in other leather goods, including – wait for it – watch straps!
Horween exclusively uses ethically sourced horse hides that are then tanned over a six month period for its Shell Cordovan. The leather derives its name from its place of origin: Cordovan, for Cordoba, Spain, where it was first produced thousands of years ago; and Shell, for where the leather itself comes from, specifically the two round sections near a horse’s hindquarters. The resulting material is slightly glossy, extremely hardwearing, and is able to generate a beautiful patina over years of wear.
Shell Cordovan is also notoriously difficult to dye, but we’re able to offer our straps either lined or unlined in Black, Natural, or the famous Color No. 8, which is a rich burgundy tone that dates back to the very first applications of Shell Cordovan, and Green and Blue, in exclusively unlined. The underside of each strap is stamped at the Chicago tannery with a special Horween/HODINKEE logo. Each unlined strap is available in either 18mm or 20mm, while the lined styles are available in 20mm or 22mm.
Our Shell Cordovan straps have been part of the HODINKEE strap collection since 2013, and they’ve long been one of our most popular styles. We love this leather so much, we even made a limited edition billfold wallet out of it at one point! You can check out all of our Shell Cordovan Leather straps for yourself right here.
Single-Piece Shell Cordovan Leather Watch Straps
After we initially launched the two-piece Shell Cordovan straps, we received a number of requests to use the same leather in a NATO-style format. The only problem? Shell Cordovan is too thick to function like a traditional NATO strap does. Our solution required reimagining what a single-piece strap looks like.
We removed any additional stainless steel hardware, leaving only the pin buckle, and shortened the overall length of the strap to ensure there would be no excess leather that required folding under or over. But like a NATO strap, you can thread our Single-Piece Shell Cordovan strap easily through your watch’s spring bars. It has all the features of a more standard leather NATO, with none of the hassle, and all the benefits of beautiful Shell Cordovan leather. These straps are available in Black, Color No. 8, and Natural Leather.
NATO Watch Straps
Countless articles have been written about the humble NATO strap (you can read our most recent take on it, here), so we won’t waste your time covering the history of the strap (which dates back to requirements set by the British Ministry of Defense), the benefits it offers in reliability (no need to worry about spring bar failure), or even its pop-culture significance (James Bond, anyone?).
In fact, we think NATO straps are more than effective at speaking for themselves. They’re colorful, they’re filled with personality, and they’re perfect for summer. The simpler, the better.
Nylon NATO Watch Straps
One of the greatest attributes of a standard NATO strap is the cost of entry. You can own five or six quality NATO straps, allowing you to change out your watch’s look all summer, for the price of a single leather strap. There are tons of options for NATOs out there, and when we started thinking about adding traditional nylon NATOs to the Shop, we made sure to source the highest quality option available.
Our NATOs are all made of 100% nylon webbing that is equal parts durable and breathable, and they are all fitted with brushed stainless steel hardware. All HODINKEE NATOs measure approximately 11 inches in length, meaning they’ll fit comfortably on most average-sized wrists. We’ve got Black, Navy Blue, Black and Grey Striped, Grey, Light Olive, and Sand. And none of them cost over $25.
OMEGA NATO Watch Straps
There are NATO straps, and then there are OMEGA NATO straps. What makes the OMEGA NATO straps different from an average NATO goes far beyond a simple branding exercise – though the idea of an OEM NATO will be appealing in itself for any Speedmaster or Seamaster owner.
OMEGA’s NATO straps are the result of extensive R&D by the Swiss brand. The stainless steel buckle and square-shaped keepers are noticeably stronger and of better quality than a standard NATO, and the keepers are each milled from a single piece of stainless steel. This hardware is also properly proportioned, so the buckle is kept at the polar opposite of the watch regardless of wrist size. The keeper closest to the buckle is adjustable and can be slid up and down the fabric to tuck the end of the strap in once it’s around a wrist. The stitching of the strap is more substantial than you might expect, and the buckles and keepers are polished and feature a laser engraving of the OMEGA branding and logo. Depending on the color or style, OMEGA uses polyester or polyamide in each NATO, with both offering a robust yet compact weave that has a smooth quality equivalent to the seat belts in a luxury vehicle.
When compared to your run-of-the-mill NATO, the differences are clear. The OMEGA NATOs are thicker, more durable, and softer than basically any other style we’ve handled over the years. These tend to sell out rather quickly, and at press time, we only have a few in stock, but sign up for the waitlist on any colorway that catches your eye, as we try to restock these fairly frequently.
Kangaroo Leather NATO Watch Straps
First and foremost, the kangaroo leather used in these straps is sourced ethically from Australia, and the straps themselves are crafted by hand in the United States. Kangaroo leather isn’t something you come across too frequently in the watch world, but it is a surprisingly great fit for crafting luxury watch straps.
Kangaroo leather has an extremely dense grain, which makes it perfect for use in a thin NATO format, compared to other types of leather that will stretch, or even tear, over time. NATOs crafted from leather, in general, have received a poor reputation among watch enthusiasts for being uncomfortable, but our unlined Kangaroo NATOs boast a thinness that is comparable to the more common nylon form and a durability that far exceeds it. We’ll never downplay the pleasure that wearing a nylon NATO in the summer brings, but sometimes you need an alternative in the winter months, and that’s what these straps are for.
Our Kangaroo NATO Straps are available in Black, Dark Brown, and Tan. Please note that our Kangaroo Leather NATOs are only available for shipping within the United States, and further shipping restrictions may apply.
Leather NATO Watch Straps
We offer a small selection of leather NATOs that are hand-distressed in Italy to provide a true vintage-inspired look. They were designed with 1940s and ’50s chronographs in mind, but they go with just about any steel sports watch today. Not only do they look great, but they’re extremely comfortable on the wrist. We love the Beige and Dark Brown options, but the Distressed Grey Leather NATO is a particular office favorite for its muted yet eye-catching look.
In addition to the Distressed Leather NATOs, there are two other types of leather NATOs available. The Dark Stained Brown Leather NATO features a slightly marbled, soft texture with even dark staining over a medium brown-colored leather. The Beige Leather NATO features staining at the edges and blue contrast stitching, which works particularly well with watches featuring blue accents.
You can view our entire selection of NATO straps right here.
Goat Leather Watch Straps
While slightly more common than kangaroo, goat leather isn’t what comes to mind for most when they think of the perfect leather watch strap. With our Reid Strap Collection, handcrafted in the United States from French goat leather, we’re hoping to change that.
You see that marbled-like texture on the strap in the above image? That’s the natural grain of goat leather, which ensures that each and every strap in the Reid collection will vary ever so slightly. When holding these straps in hand, the immediate impression is one of quality. At just under 2mm thick, these straps are extremely thin and pliable, but they are also remarkable in how they hold their form. Even more noteworthy is just how soft they are – these are some of our most comfortable straps and require basically zero break-in time.
Each strap is lined with calfskin on the underside of the goat leather, in order to ensure durability, and the top side features contrast white hand stitching on the perimeter. There are nine different colors available, from your standard Dark Brown, Slate Grey, and Black colorways to some of the most colorful straps we offer, in Royal Blue, Orange, and Red.
Pro Tip: The Black Reid Strap (see above) is our go-to recommendation for anyone looking for a new strap to pair with an OMEGA Speedmaster Professional, whether vintage or modern.
Suede And Nubuck Leather Watch Straps
Suede and Nubuck are two of the most common types of textures you’ll find on watch straps. The two are similar, but they have some defined differences that you’ll want to make note of when considering one or the other. Suede is a soft type of leather, often made from the underside of a cow’s skin. Unlike most other types of leather, suede does not utilize the outer skin of its source animal; as a result, watch straps made from suede have a napped finish that is silky to touch but is more delicate than your average strap and can be stained or damaged over time. Nubuck, on the other hand, has a similar velvet finish, but it contains the outer skin of its source animal. It is more resilient than suede and retains its initial look and feel for longer thanks to a special buffing process during its creation.
Suede Leather Watch Straps
While suede might not be as robust an option for wearing on the daily, it is great for casual wear at home, in the office, or even on special occasions. Because suede has more open pores than other types of leather, it is quite receptive to dying, and as a result, there is a huge variety of color options to choose from. A few of the more striking examples in the HODINKEE Shop include Cobalt Blue, Pale Pink, and Lilac, and one of our most popular is this Camouflage Suede Strap.
There are over 12 different suede options in the HODINKEE Shop right now, and you can check them all out right here.
The Bedford Watch Strap Collection
Our Bedford straps are our headlining nubuck offering. They were introduced in April of 2019 and are made entirely by hand in the United States. These highly versatile straps are available in 10 colors and four sizes, all of which have been lightly distressed to receive a suede-like finish while offering greater durability.
The options, which range from Mint Green to Sky Blue, all feature an even coloring throughout, with no staining. Each strap is about 2mm tall and features off-white stitching on the watch’s perimeter. In the short time these straps have been available, they have quickly become one of our go-to straps when deciding what to pair with our weekly Vintage Watch updates, something we attribute to the overall matte finish each strap has. Despite using bright colors in some of the straps, the overall muted look really helps to tone down their appearance, only serving to enhance any vintage vibes.
Aged Nubuck Leather Watch Straps
In addition to the Bedford Strap Collection, we also offer five different aged nubuck calfskin leather watch straps that are the perfect platform for elevating any vintage watch. The unique texture of these straps is the result of the aging process, and it provides a more casual look for any watch it’s paired with. The all-around, off-white stitching makes the strap far more durable than a single-layer leather or suede strap.
English Bridle Leather Watch Straps
The Cooper Strap Collection is the most recent leather strap addition to the HODINKEE Shop. It is available in four natural, dark colors, either lined or unlined, and in a variety of sizes. Each strap is made of supple English Bridle leather that is sourced from North American cattle of European stock, and each undergoes a multi-week vegetable oak-tanning treatment that makes it one of the sturdiest – and softest – straps we have available. English Bridle leather is best known for its use in horse saddles and harnesses, as well as for other high-end leather goods such as belts and wallets.
The Cooper straps have a unique density that is extremely non-porous as a result of a “hot stuffing” process. Hot stuffing is a labor-intensive procedure that involves saturating the leather with natural waxes and oils in order to make it more resistant to humidity, sweat, and the general perils of day-to-day wear. As time goes by and the leather softens, it won’t stretch or break apart. It will instead become more pliable and comfortable on the wrist, just like a quality leather strap should. The only other straps in the HODINKEE Shop that undergo this type of treatment are our Shell Cordovan straps.
Available in a range of drum-dyed, neutral colors (Light Brown, Dark Brown, Burgundy, and Black), the Cooper collection is an excellent complement to most watches. Whether you prefer an all-around stitching or a simple center lining, we’ve got you covered, as each colorway in the Cooper collection comes in both forms, with color-matched stitching done by hand in the United States.
Crocodile And Alligator Leather Watch Straps
Crocodile and alligator leather are two of the most traditional watch straps in the watch industry. While the popularity of these two leathers has declined in recent years, they remain some of the more accepted styles to pair with your dressier timepieces – think of a Vacheron Constantin Historiques Ultra-Fine or a Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor, and you’ll get the picture. Our crocodile and alligator leather straps are bred in Louisiana and stitched in Tuscany, and we’ve taken the extra step of using thinned padding on both, because we believe a formal strap should represent the epitome of thinness and old-world elegance, just like a formal timepiece does.
There are three options for crocodile leather straps in the HODINKEE Shop (Brown, Dark Brown, and Black), and five variants for alligator (Light Brown and Dark Brown with a matte finish, and Navy Blue, Dark Brown, and Chestnut Brown with a glossy finish). Please note that our Crocodile and Alligator Leather Straps are only available for shipping within the United States, and further shipping restrictions may apply.
You can view all of our Alligator and Crocodile straps right here.
Racing Watch Straps
If you own any classic racing chronographs – anything from a Heuer Carrera or Autavia to a Rolex Daytona – you’re going to want a racing strap to complete the look. The appearances of these straps may differ slightly depending on the era, but the standard design consists of a perforated pattern running up the side of the strap in a series of different sized holes. Our standard Racing Leather Strap is available in Dark Brown, Black, and Light Brown and is handcrafted in Italy at the same Tuscany workshop as the rest of our Italian Leather Straps.
Our Rallye strap is a bit different than our more conventional Racing straps, but it is inspired by the same era of motorsport. Only available in black leather, the perforations on the Rallye strap differ ever so slightly. Rather than featuring a pattern of small holes, the Rallye strap features three large holes in ascending sizes. It might not seem like much of a difference, but to those that fell in love with watches through 1960s motorsport, this strap will more closely match their memories.
Bund Watch Straps
Bund straps might just be the most contentious of all watch straps. Some people love them, some people hate them, but everyone has an opinion on them. Paul Newman wore his personal Rolex Daytona (you know, the one named after him) on a black crocodile Bund, and Steve McQueen wore his famous Hanhart chronograph on one, too. A countless number of other figures in both pop culture and motorsport during the 1960s and ’70s were known to rock a Bund as well, and if one of those names (people like Miles Davis, Robert Redford, and Nina Rindt, among many more) had an impact on your life, then you might just have a proclivity toward the Bund yourself.
Basically, you either get it or you don’t. And if you do, then we have just the straps for you. Our collection of three Bund straps are named after the trendsetter himself: Mr. Paul Newman. The Newman Bund Watch Straps are available in three different colors (Brown, Taupe, and Black Crocodile).
Discover Over 150 Watch Straps In The HODINKEE Shop
While this guide to our current strap collection is about as comprehensive as we could make it, there are, of course, some one-off creations that deserve your attention as well. These are straps like our Textured Tan Watch Strap, which is based on a strap we discovered on a vintage Patek Philippe some years back, or our Canvas And Leather Watch Strap, which combines two separate materials for a particularly rugged result. All of these straps and more are waiting for you to discover, and pair with your own watches, in the HODINKEE Shop.
Here’s one more tip: If you’re on the hunt for a strap for a specific watch and are overwhelmed by the options online, browse through our list of previously sold vintage watches. We’ve sold over 350 vintage watches in the past three years, and nearly every single one of those watches has been paired with one of the straps discussed in this guide. Call it inspiration, or whatever you would like, but it’s a great tool to find out what combinations of straps and watches you personally enjoy. We’re also more than happy to make individualized recommendations if you reach out to our team of watch specialists through email or chat.