Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Strap of your Wristwatch

A Classic Cartier Santos

In 1904, the Hot air balloon pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont complained to his friend Louis Cartier that while he was flying with both hands on the controls, it was impossible to read the time on his pocket watch. This was the trigger of the very first wristwatch Louis Cartier made for his Brazilian Friend.

It was sold from 1911 as the Santos, and was the first watch with leather bracelet attachment horns integrated into the case. The Santos carries a distinctive feature of Cartier: a sapphire cabochon on the winding crown. After 103 years, still, this Cartier Santos seems never lose glory and style as it is still a Classic iconic Watch from Cartier.

Nowadays, a strap is perhaps is less expensive but is an indispensable component of a wristwatch.  Watch Straps can be easily changed to suit your taste, styles or outfits…it comes come in a countless variety of colors, materials and design.

Many watch users have overlooked the importance of your watch strap, as if it fails, your expensive 2mm solid gold dress watch will drop onto the concrete ground…
”@&#^#^!” Is that next words I could hear from You!

Watches continued this way for many decades since Santos, but as these gruff “wristlets” sooner evolved to be more refined, detailed, even made as the predominant fashion nowadays. Removable spring bars allowed for changing of straps without rivets in the 30’s.

Most of the straps designs today have not changed much today.Thick leather straps with contrast stitching are often found on beefy sports watches, such as those from Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore, Panerai, U-boat, Bells & Ross…They tend to complement with jean.

Whilst, thinner, more exotic skins are still the choice for high-end dress watches, since they tend to complement a suit with leather shoes and a belt. Not the other way round!

In 1980, seems they are made thinner and less crude, stylish matching with the thin watch as the trend setter: Universal, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet.

Leather Strap material had been using different animal skins, and now straps can be made from cowhide, pony tail, horsehide, crocodile, alligator, snake skin, lizard, stingray and ostrich skin.

French Flag NATO Strap on a Vintage Rolex Air King.
A Courtesy Picture from

NATO strap
The one-piece cheap NATO nylon straps were first developed for the British military designed to run across the back of a watch and through the spring bars, they may also be the best way to save your watch since if one spring bar breaks, the watch remains on your wrist.

The straps are known as NATO straps because they were given a stock number by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (or No Action Talk Only for best describing my boss) for use by soldiers and divers.

NATO straps have become hugely popular with fashionistas, and are sold in striped patterns colour. Ironically, a HK$200 NATO strap now may be used to carry a HKD$500,000 Submariner!

Supple Rubber straps have a long “Marriage relationship” with sports watches and diver watch, cheap comfortable, flexible, resistant to water, sweat or corrosive liquid.
In the 1960s, the first rubber straps were called “Tropic” straps, and the rubber used was stiff and often became brittle after a few years and or under sunshine.

Nowadays, silicone rubber straps can be found on expensive diver watches and can cost ten of thousands of dollars each!

Hints on Maintenance on your watch strap:
A well maintenance watch strap can last for years.
An fine alligator watch strap is expensive, and it has certain limitation in usage.

It does not go well with water or sweat
It absorbs water and sweat, it may create fungi and becoming smelly!
Sweat would corrode the leather especially in the hot and Humid Hong Kong Summer.
It does not like sunshine or it get hardened and cracked easily.

How to keep you expensive watch strap in good shape!?
Like your Ferragamo, leather has life and it has to breathe, give it some rest once in a while.
Use soft tissue paper to absorb the water or sweat immediately.
Put it in ventilated area for drying up
Put some fine soft leather nourishing lotion or shoe shine wax on all the stitches and leather surface, then wipe off with a fine soft cotton cloth.
This will keep you leather strap lasting for many years.

HK Snob
Watch Fever

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