One of the interesting things about watches is how you tie them to your wrist. Back when wristwatches were first popularized in the trenches of World War I by strapping a pocket watch on the wrist for easy access to the time, anything worked, stylish or not. These days, watch straps have a subculture of their own, and the list of options has exploded.
There are dozens — if not hundreds — of guys making custom leather straps these days, and a few doing nylon. You can too. All it really takes is some serious time on Google and YouTube looking for information, a leather supplier, a few knives, needle and thread, and Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of practice.
In case you don’t have that kind of time, we’ve rounded up some top current strap makers for your sampling pleasure. And lest you think these guys are dilettantes, at least two of them parlayed their passion into an OEM manufacturing concern for well-known watch brands.
Joe d’Agostino of SNPR Straps is a relative newcomer to the custom strap arena, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his products. Joe is currently a part-time maker, but if his work is any indication, he’ll soon be leaving the work-a-day world for the world of fine leather.
Joe’s day job is tactical police work, and his straps reflect that. He makes each by hand — no machines in Joe’s shop — from materials sourced right here in the good ol’ US of A. And his goods are truly bespoke. He’ll work with you to discover exactly what you’re looking for, advise you, and spend as long as it takes to understand your watch’s desire. The result is a strap to your specs, with your choice of leather, thread, padding (or not), width, length, etc. Need a recent outstanding recent example of Joe’s work? Check out this homage to the strap Leonardo DeCaprio wore with his titanium Breitling ChronoAvenger in the movie Blood Diamond.
Dangerous9 is another company offering entirely bespoke straps. Full-time maker John Glance is an American expat living in Munich, Germany. John made his first straps three years ago on a bet with his wife. You’ve seen his straps here before: on the Kaventsmann Triggerfish.
John prides himself on giving his customers a luxury buying experience. He uses the best leathers he can find throughout Europe on the inside and outside of his straps, and he doesn’t discriminate when it comes to what animals are providing it, whether common like cow and calf or exotics like eel, sea snake, stingray, American alligator, cane toad, or ostrich.
John, who’d been a leather crafter for a while early in his life, also understands the ins and outs of leather dying, so he’s able to offer just about any color a customer wants in just about any leather. One specialty we really like is his take on vintage “ammo” straps made from reclaimed ammunition pouches.
According to Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary, a vintager is a person concerned with the production of grapes and wine. Micah Dirksen is a vintager of straps in Napa Valley, CA. Micah makes custom and bespoke straps full time and, being a self-avowed long-time Panerai collector (Paneristi in his terms), specializes in straps for Panerai watches, though he’ll make straps for all brands.
Micah sources all his leather locally, handling each piece before buying. He offers four different buckle styles (priced separately from the straps), each in a couple of finishes. And then there’s his crazy guarantee, which includes the passage, “If your strap ever gets ruined or fails for any reason… the need to burn your strap for warmth, your dog eating it in a fit of rage… whatever. If it’s ruined I will replace it”. He does reserve the right to ask questions, however — if your story is an interesting one.
Ted Su is a Panerai fancier in Taiwan. Like many strap makers, he started the craft for his own collection. That was in 2003. Later, bowing to demand, he expanded to a full-time business. These days, his team of six makes straps for Panerai, Rolex, Cartier, and other brands.
Ted Su is not a bespoke maker. Rather, all available straps are custom designed by them and made available on their website. They offer straps in alligator, crocodile, shark, nubuck, shell cordovan, and vintage French and Swiss ammo pouch leather. They’ve recently branched out into rubber straps and have a proprietary buckle treated with DLC (diamond-like coating), a unique finish that’s highly resistant to scratching and corrosion.
Rob Montana has been making straps full time for nearly seven years. Rob’s another maker who came to custom straps through Panerai watches and the strap subculture of the PAM faithful. He saw a lot of custom straps he liked, but wanted something with his own style and detailed sensibilities. He’d played a bit with leather as a kid — his dad was a 4H leather instructor — so he bought some how-to books, tools, and leather and got to work. The Strap Smith was born.
These days, Rob is at the top of the custom strap game. He offers marvelous attention to detail, will work with clients to get the what they want, and also offers custom laser-cut Panerai-style buckles, strap-changing tools, key fobs, watch and strap cases, mouse pads, and pens, all paired with excellent customer service and a shared love of watches.
Greg Stevens Design
Greg Stevens is, by his own admission, a big-wristed guy. This is problematic for a strap-lover. In 2005, finally frustrated with standard after-market leather strap offerings, he decided he’d just make one himself. He visited his local leather shop, bought some tools and leather and went to work. A long-time proponent of simple and functional design, Greg offers straps, buckles, wallets, belts, key fobs, tablet cases and more with that philosophy in mind. In fact, he even offered watches for a while, until the supply of Swiss movements dried up.
Greg’s a watch enthusiast first, and works to build exceptional products that his customers can enjoy for years. To do so, he focuses on materials, craftsmanship, and design. Above all, his passion is reflected in his products. That fact has not gone unrecognized. Along with his custom work, Greg does OEM work for Kobold and UTS.
Carl Evans is an exception in our pantheon of custom strap makers. First, he works mostly in webbing and canvas (he’s just recently branched out into leather). Second, he didn’t come to the trade through a passion for Panerai. Instead, it was another icon of horology, the Omega Speedmaster Professional, that prompted his journey. Soon after acquiring his first Speedy around 2005, Carl made a Velcro NASA-style strap for it. He started selling them on eBay, and GasGasBones (a combination of the name of a Spanish trials bike and Carl’s nickname) was born. To this day, GGB remains a one-man show.
GGB bespoke straps are aimed squarely at the tool watch market. In fact, Carl will put a NASA-inspired label on your strap if you want him to. All the webbing and canvas he uses is military spec. He offers a variety of straps, strap rolls, tools and accessories like mouse pads, phone cases, and leather desk sets. Yep, all of that — and in the midst of his busy schedule, Carl still finds time to do some OEM work for Bremont.