The first thing I do when I acquire a new watch is trash the strap. This is for two reasons: First, I’ve found that cheap vintage watch purchases almost always come affixed to some terrible excuse for a strap. Fake or overly worn leather. Faded rubber. Chintzy, generic aftermarket bracelets. You get it. And secondly, finding the right combination of watch and strap is all part of the fun. A good strap can do wonders for a vintage timepiece.
Since I don’t have much money invested into my watches, I try to keep things cheap. While I’ve had luck with nylon NATOs and steel mesh, a good, affordable leather strap has always seemed elusive. After having bought a vintage Seiko 6117 World Timer on eBay earlier this year, I had set in my mind a light-colored suede strap would match its white linen dial. But after looking at options from zeitgeist-y sellers — Worn & Wound, Crown & Buckle, Leffot, Hodinkee — I found most start around $70. Some reach close to $200. They’re great if you have something like vintage Rolex or Heuer, but a bit absurd if your Seiko costs almost about as much as the damn strap itself.
Feeling dejected, I turned to Amazon where I found a $30 answer to my woes from a brand called Fluco. Not much has been written on Fluco, but from what little can be found online I can discern this: It’s a German brand that’s been making watch straps in the Bavarian Forrest since the 1950s. They’re made by hand in apparently a 50-plus-step process — which seems like a lot for a watch strap — and use leather from “select tanning companies in Europe,” according to its website. All I know for sure is the end result is well worth the $30 asking price.
The strap I received is thick, sturdy and has a supple feel against the wrist. The suede side has an exceptional texture and the stitched trim is well executed. I was so impressed with it, I even swapped it in for the shiny black leather (which I personally didn’t care for) on the Seiko Presage Cocktail Time I reviewed in October. And, when I acquired an Omega Chronostop I immediately ordered a black leather rally strap from Fluco to replace the terrible aftermarket bracelet it came on. I’m currently thinking about buying another for my Seiko 6139 chronograph.
Aside from its top-of-the-line series of shell cordovan straps from Horween, which still undercut most of its competition, Flucos don’t seem to surpass the $40 mark. That’s refreshing. I’ve often found that much of the watch industry as a whole — from the timepieces themselves to the accessories — is built around the idea of conspicuously inflating prices for the sake of “luxury” or “exclusivity,” and that finding a reasonably-priced leather strap is almost as satisfying as scoring a vintage watch at the right price. Combining them is even better.