What to look for in a quality handmade watch strap (Hint: It's not the strap!)
The person making your custom watch strap matters more than the strap itself
This is along the same lines as "Buy the seller, not the watch". If your strap maker is a professional who prides themselves on quality and customer service first and foremost, the strap will reflect that. Basically the quality of your handmade watch strap is only as good as the skill of the person actually making it. There's a lot of inexperienced weekend strap makers flooding the marketplace for handmade leather watch straps these days, and many are better at posting pictures on Facebook than they are at actually making the best custom watch straps. How can you separate the truly excellent from the merely new when it comes to handmade leather watch bands? Read more to find out.
How long has the strap maker actually been making custom watch bands?
This question rarely gets asked: How long have you been making handmade leather watch straps? Everyone has to start somewhere, but where craftsmanship is concerned: The more experience the craftsman has, the better their product will be. For instance, I've been hand crafting leather and canvas Panerai straps full time for over a decade. When I started out, there were just a few people selling custom leather watch bands at all, let alone making them from scratch themselves. If the strap maker you're considering only has a few months or a year of experience under their belt it's worth considering where there skill level really is at.
With experience you end up with a strap that looks this good even when it's not done
Is the strap maker a full time professional, or a weekend warrior?
Sadly, most strap makers are in it for the beer money. They're doing it as a hobby or just for some extra cash to do other things. With a full time professional such as myself and a few others you get a completely different level of service, because for us your order truly matters, it's our business, our profession, our passion. When it comes to your handmade Panerai strap, Rolex strap, any strap you need for any watch, a full time pro is going to give you more for your money than any weekender ever will.
Is the strap maker a watch enthusiast themself?
Many strap makers know a thing or two about watches, sure, but are they actual passionate collectors who understand the importance of selecting the right custom watch band for a particular model? By the time I made my first handmade leather watch strap I had already been a passionate Rolex and Panerai aficionado for many years, and I already understood what makes a watch look great on one strap and weird on another.
I've been a watch nut for 20+ years now, that tells you about my commitment to getting it right for YOUR watch
Does the strap maker actually... you know... make the straps?
I hand make every strap myself, from choosing the leather to cutting, thinning, stitching using a specific heavy duty sewing machine, hand punch all holes, every detail of the strap from start to finish is done by me using my own two hands. Some makers, I call them retailers, put their names on straps that they not only didn't make, they may have never even seen the strap, it just gets drop-shipped from a factory based on your order. When you're paying top dollar you should know who's making your strap... the person whose name is on it? Or an factory that has a stamp with the makers name on it?
Bottom line: Your custom watch strap will only be as good as the person making it. Choose a professional with years of experience and you'll end up with a strap you love!