While we watch-lovers often categorize bands into several well-established types according to style and material (NATO, leather, bracelet, etc.), in truth it’s an oversimplification to lump all leather watch bands (or straps, if you prefer) together. What type of leather are we talking about – full grain, top grain, nubuck, suede, cordovan? Is the strap a 1-piece or a 2-piece? Is it top-stitched all around the perimeter or does it feature vintage-style threading near the lugs?
All of these factors dictate which type of watch the band will be appropriate for, and certainly, not all are created equal. What follows are 12 of our favorite leather watch straps from some of the best brands available from 3 continents:
Every self-respecting watch nerd needs a “rally” strap in his or her collection (or “ralley,” or “rallye,” or whatever). Essentially a leather strap perforated with holes, this type of strap accompanied vintage Heuer and Omega racing chronographs in the 1960s, but it looks good on just about any chunky tool watch. The Le Mans from B&R Bands, founded in 2009, is a modern take on this classic style, available in three sizes (18mm, 19mm and 20mm), two lengths, and several colors. Personally, we dig the Russet version, a dark brown with contrasting top-stitching and brushed hardware, that perfectly compliments darker dials.
Blue might not be a traditional leather strap color, but it's more versatile than you might think — especially when it's the right shade and texture as in Analog/Shift's Roger Blue Calf strap. There are plenty of blue dial watches that would match it perfectly, but it can enliven a monochromatic design or even provide a striking complement to gold elements. The matte finish provides just the right level of interest while letting the watch itself remain the star of the show. Handmade in Italy by a family-run company, the 18mm, 19mm, 20mm and 22mm options all taper nicely toward the buckle, and offer a strong value.
Worn & Wound’s Model 2 Premium (shown here in Stone) is essentially a refined version of their Model 2 Classic that uses a tapering design made of Wickett & Craig vegetable-tanned lining and Horween top leather. With painted edges in a complimentary color (the strap is available in 14 different colors), waxed cotton braided knots near the lug edges, fixed metal loop and leather keepers, the Model 2 is, for the money, simply one of the best leather watch straps available on the market. With all the different colors to choose from to precisely match the strap to your watch, not to mention available sizes in 18, 20, and 22mm, there’s a Model 2 Premium that’s right for every watch out there (except perhaps that pesky 34mm vintage Rolex).
Everyone needs a black leather strap in their rotation, ready to go to accompany a thin dress watch or spruce up an otherwise playful tool watch. And though lizard or croc is a classic choice for such a band, it's good to have an option for those who would rather avoid animal products. Hodinkee's Amagoh collection is a totally vegan-friendly leather alternative with a fibrous texture made from pineapple leaves (!). With matching black stitching and keepers and a stainless steel pin buckle, this minimalist strap is the perfect option for that formal look, but should also remain perfectly appropriate on a Sub. It comes in 18mm, 19mm, 20mm or 22mm versions and in more colors, so you can definitely dress up that vintage 34mm Rolex or larger dive watch.
A NATO or Zulo single-pass style offers an interesting alternative among leather straps. You'll ideally want it soft and thin for comfort and to keep the bulk down, and that's exactly what the Silas, a semi-bespoke strap from Australian company Bas & Lokes, delivers. It's handmade in Sydney from American cow hide and given a pebbled texture that's sure to lend this otherwise rugged style of strap (military in origin) a distinctly luxurious feel — the edges even have a decorative groove. Dress up a tool watch with it or pop it on a smaller watch that could use a little more wrist presence. With numerous lengths, widths and buckle finishes available, it’s possible to semi-customize a Bas & Lokes strap until it feels like it was made especially for your wrist.
The Suede Collection from Molequin is crafted from premium goat leather from France for uniform quality and feel. The result is a strap that’s low-key, subdued and perfect for a variety of watches, both vintage and modern. Available in 6 colors, two lengths, five widths (from 18mm through 22mm), two spring bar choices and two buckle choices, the Suede straps make use of a calf leather lining to prevent damage from moisture and sweat. We personally love the Taupe colorway, which pairs beautifully with all manner of dial colors.
Based in Brussels, Belgium, vintage Rolex enthusiast Michael Luther’s brand Molequin fashions straps in a variety of leathers, and their robust, thinly cut Grained Calf is far and away one of the best. Available in nine different colors, two lengths, five widths (from 18mm through 22mm), two spring bar choices and two buckle choices, the Grained Calf is particularly versatile in taupe. Pair this band with a monochromatic watch to maintain a subdued look or use it to counterbalance a timepiece with a louder dial. (Pro Tip: It’s worth springing for the quick-release spring bars, since you’ll likely want to throw this baby on multiple watches.)
Easily one of the most striking leather straps we’ve ever seen, full stop. This beautiful band is handcrafted by Jean Paul Meniccuci, the OG of leather strappage, especially for Netherlands-based Bulang & Sons, and we’d be hard pressed to find something comparable from the other big players. Painted in a cool, denim-colored leather with a distressed pattern and using cream-colored edge stitching and natural leather keepers, the Denim Blue Retro strap pairs perfectly with a vintage tool watch and a beat-up pair of selvedge jeans. Available in sizes from 18mm through 22mm — including 19mm and 21mm for those pesky vintage watches — we challenge you to find a more unique strap for the money.
While there are several styles of 2-piece strap available in C&B’s American Made Collection, the Walnut Boxcalf is a standout offering. This is a two-layer strap with an underside and topside made from matching “Boxcalf”-style leather, which is chrome-tanned, full-grain calfskin sourced from France. Boxcalf leather is typically used in high-end leather dress shoes, and the Boxcalf used in this strap is “boarded,” a process by which a tight grain is created that closes the hair follicles. This is an incredibly versatile color that will work well with a wide variety of dial types, and the slightly darker edge dying, as well as perimeter top-stitching and corner knots near the buckles, lend this strap a vintage look that doesn’t seem to be going out of style any time soon.
The HODINKEE Shop began with a small collection of fine leather watch straps, and has been regularly updating its stock with new collections ever since. The company’s Bedford Collection, launched in 2019, is made in the U.S.A. and available in 10 colors and four sizes. Crafted from high-quality nubuck leather in attractive, subdued shades with off-white stitching, brushed buckles and calfskin lining, the Bedford is another strap that serves as the perfect compliment to a vintage piece, or an upgrade to a modern watch. The Olive Green version is our personal favorite, but there’s truly something for everybody in this high-quality collection, available from 18mm through 22mm
If the Bedford is a bit too subdued for your taste, you owe it to yourself to check out Hodinkee’s Barrett Strap Collection. Crafted in a small, family-owned tannery in southern France, this group of six vegetable-tanned leather straps features a glossy sheen that’s sure to compliment a watch in steel or in a beautiful precious metal. Available in burgundy, navy, yellow, dark brown, red and tan in sizes from 18mm through 22mm, the Bedford straps are complimented with contrast stitching and polished buckles.
Michael DiMartini, founder of Everest Horology Products, conceived of an Italian vegetable-tanned calf leather strap with hypoallergenic lining made for Rolex wearers. The strap features an ABS plastic insert embedded at the case connection point for a precision fit to your Rolex Submariner (there are however several models of Submariner that are not compatible with the curved-end leather model, so we recommend checking the Everest website regarding compatibility). The curved-end leather Sub strap, available in nine finishes, is incredibly over-designed and ergonomic, with its precision-fit ends and steel buckle that looks robust enough to use as a weapon in close-quarters combat. For die-hard Rolex enthusiasts, an Everest strap is about as good as you can get.