Watch strap guide – learn the different types of leather straps

Watch strap Guide – Things to consider when choosing leather wristwatch straps

Watch strap guide – Leather is one of the most popular materials used for watch bands, and it is easy to understand why. Simple yet elegant, leather gives timepieces a classic look, and a high-quality design can easily stand the test of time.

Watch strap Guide – 2 types of leather straps

Watch strap GuideLeather straps are typically divided into two main categories:

  • Bonded leather

Watch strap Guide – This is the lowest quality of leather watch straps

Bonded leather comes from the collected waste products of leather processing, and is re-constituted to create a less expensive alternative to quality leather. This is the kind of leather you would find in cheap wallets, book bindings, etc. It is likely to fade with use and watch collectors suggest that you stay away from watch bands with this quality.

  • Top grain leather

Watch strap Guide – Top-grain leather is the second-best type of leather you can find on the market.

It is obtained after the grains from the top surface of the animal’s hide are sanded away and buffed, to remove imperfections and defects. The so obtained leather has a more uniform look but is not as durable and strong as the full-grain leather. This kind of leather could develop a patina on the surface over time too.

Watch strap Guide – what is genuine leather

Wristwatch strap guide - what is genuine leather

Genuine leather types

  • Aniline leather

Watch strap Guide – Natural charm of the Aniline Leather

Aniline is dyeing chemistry that helps highlight the natural charm of the hide, so it is assumed that the main role of aniline is no to protect the hide. Only 5% of all hide can be used right after the aniline dying process and called aniline leather.

This type of leather strap is expensive since the surface is not coated with pigment, the leather is vulnerable to external impacts, causing the watch strap to wear out or accumulate scars after a few years of using if not taken well care of.

To compensate for being short-lived, aniline leather gives your strap an unmistakably natural feel and look. It is so pliable that you can bend and twist it in any direction with ease. Every canny and crease can be seen clearly. Even the natural smell of animal skin is still there on your strap.

Watch strap Guide This type of genuine leather is the easiest to distinguish from the faux:

  • The pliability and softness are superb
  • The surface looks very natural with markings and scars on it.
  • The subtle smell of animal skin might float into your nose in a short distance.
  • Semi-aniline leather straps

Since aniline leather is too vulnerable, a better-protected type of leather is certainly in demand. Semi-aniline leather is among that kind. Its surface is coated by pigment, but not too much, just enough to defend the watch band against minor physical abuses. The thin topcoat does not bury the natural markings below, you can still most of them clearly, but the feeling is certainly not as good as aniline leather.

Watch strap Guide – the durability of semi-aniline leather

The durability of semi-aniline leather is considerably improved compared to that of aniline leather, but its beauty cannot increase with time. Natural leather would get tainted with oil and sweat from your hand and wrist and look attractively antique. The few minor scars or wear-out signals even give your strap a more appealing appearance.

Watch strap Guide – What is Pigment leather?

  • Pigment leather

This type of leather is merely for practical use, less natural markings, less softness, and no more animal skin smell. A thick pigment coating on the surface makes the leather loose most of its original characters.

Watch strap GuideThere are 2 main reasons why producers have to sacrifice the leather’s natural traits.

  1. Leather’s longevity – the leather’s durability increases with the topcoat’s thickness. Different customers have different priorities. Some just want the softness and natural look of leather, others need their items to last as long as possible. Most budget wristwatches, which are massively produced, have their bands made of this type of leather because it is quite hard for a natural leather strap to be in the brand-new state after one to two years in stock with normal storage condition.
  2. To cover up imperfections – If the hide is not in perfect condition to be used nakedly, a face-lifting is needed. A thick topcoat would bury all unwanted markings on the surface, giving the leather a flawless appearance.

Watch strap Guide – Pigment leather and Synthetic leather

Pigment leather is quite difficult to distinguish from synthetic leather as most of its natural characters have been diminished, so it is hard to tell the differences externally.

Watch strap GuideWhat is Synthetic leather

Watch strap Guide Synthetic leather

Unlike genuine leather strap which is mainly made from animal skin, synthetic leather can be produced by many different methods, with a variety of materials. Based on the main component elements, we can roughly categorize synthetic leather into 2 types.

  • PU Leather

By covering a fabric layer with a soft polyurethane coating, we can produce a new material that looks and feels much like natural leather.

  • Breathable – PU leather has pores on the surface, so it can absorb water, but it’s still easier to clean natural leather.
  • Pliable – since the inside of PU leather is mainly made of fabric, it is easy to twist and bend in any direction.
  • Natural feel – today’s technologies can make the surface of PU leather feel nearly the same with genuine leather.

On the surface level, PU leather feels as much like natural leather, but there is still one trick you can do to minimize your risk of getting the wrong wristwatch strap.

  • Press your nail, natural leather is more resilient, it would regain its original shape right after you lift your nail.
  • PU Leather, on the other hand, takes much longer to fully recover or even never, because its inside is made of fabric, which is not as resilient as skin tissues.
  • PVC Leather

This kind of faux leather is mostly made of plastic; you can easily distinguish it from genuine leather, even pigmented leather. It is very stiff and lacks pliability. PVC leather strap would break off or be heavily scrimped due to its stiffness. The smell is just like a plastic kids’ toy. PVC leather wristwatch straps are mainly featured by the cheapest fake watches because of their low-quality.  

Watch strap Guide – always choose high-quality leather watch strap

Choosing the right leather watch strap can be quite a challenge as the market offers us so many types of products made of different materials. But it’s worth-while, a high-quality leather strap would push the beauty of your watch to a much higher level. It is best that you do your research before you decide on a watch with a leather strap, making sure your purchase is worth it.