There is more to a watch strap than meets the eye. In fact, when a leather watch strap looks elegantly simple it's usually far more complicated to produce than you'd imagine which is why there are factories dedicated to perfecting the craft in Switzerland as evidenced by this 'how it's made' video on Hermes watch straps.
For starters there is the choice of the leather which needs to be split down to a very specific mm thickness which is then married up with the appropriate thickness of the backing leather. In this instance the top layer of purple lizard skin was split down to 0.4mm with the appropriate underside backing leather then adding an additional 0.4mm to create a total of 0.8mm for the finish. This however is not including the padding which is run between the two folds of leather which adds another 0.2mm raised along the centre of the watch strap.
Although I am sure in larger factories the means by which watch straps are made would be refined down to reduce excess use of leather, the process remains mostly the same regardless of how many machines are available in larger operations to help with specific aspects of production such as sewing or, stamping, sealing or buffing the leather.
In a nutshell, once the leather is cut to a desired length and width, the craftsman, in this case Antonio from Enrile , glues together the top and backing leather together with the padding sandwiched in between. Once that process is complete the desired shape of the watch strap is cut around the padded area based on the pattern. The tunnel for the spring bars is created by turning the leather back over onto the backing leather before glueing down and cut to the desired mm width of the lugs of the watch that the strap is being made for. Lugs can vary from 14mm on ladies watches to 23mm for large diving and instrument watches. In this case the strap is being cut to 19mm.
The watch strap now needs to be sewn. The manner in which the sewing is done is best described in the video referenced in the first paragraph. It requires a heavy leather sewing thread which is alternated by two needles and two threads interlocking the stitches in through perforations made in the leather by the artisan. In some factories, such as the quality strap maker Hadley Roma, machines are used to sew the less expensive watch straps but where a watch strap is finely made it will usually be sewn by hand.
It was a pleasure working with Antonio again and his watch strap is a thing of great beauty. Of course, you can never expect an artisan's work to be finished in the same manner as a Swiss factory's with their additional tools and instruments to finish a strap fit for a fifty thousand dollar watch, but then that's not what I was searching for. Those watch straps are a little like a Warhol can of soup, whereas this one is for a very special snowflake.
|The selection of the leather, a purple lizard skin is chosen|
|The leather pattern is cut|
|Using a gauge, the leather is checkd for an even 0.4mm thickness across the leather|
|The leather is backed|
|The leather thickness is checked for both sides of the leather with a total of 0.8mm thickness|
|An area is defined for the padding of the watch strap|
|The backing leather is stamped for our company|
|Antonio is preparing the leather to be glued together|
|The indentation of the padding can now be seen, this will be trimmed around to define the end shape of the band|
|The leather is now ready to be trimmed|
|The hand sewing begins|
|The final strap is ready for shipping|
|The final result, an outstanding purple lizard skin watch strap rests in front of two Le Noeud Papillon purple silk bow ties|
|A purple lizard skin watch strap for a purple bow tie.|