Which buckles are what, and what straps need which buckles? – Vintager Straps
Turnaround time: 1 to 2 weeks
Custom leather panerai strap

With so many choices to be made regarding custom watch straps one that often causes a lot of confusion is buckles.  There's several types of buckles (meaning different shapes), within the types there are several attachment kinds (sewn, screw, spring bar), there's different finishes (polished, brushed, PVD etc.) and on top of all that there's different sizes (22mm, 24mm, 26mm etc.).  And to make matters worse... not all buckles are available in all combos!  Lets get this sorted out shall we?

5 types of buckles: (L to R) GPF, Sewn in Pre-V, Screw in Pre-V, Spring bar Pre-V and Thumbnail

Buckle types:  I offer 5

The 5 buckle types I offer are this, as seen left to right in the picture above:  

  1. Sewn in GPF.  This is a traditional historic Panerai strap buckle that imitates the completely flat, wide buckles originally used on vintage WWII Panerai straps.  
  2. Sewn in Pre-V.  This is the modern shaped buckle most people who collect Panerai are familiar with.  Its shape is similar to the GPF, but instead of being completely flat it is curved to better match the shape of the strap when on the wrist and stick out less.  
  3. Spring bar Pre-V.  Same basic shape as the screw in Pre-V but not as thick or ridgid and uses a spring bar to attach to the strap instead of a screw.
  4. Spring bar or screw in Thumbnail.  A modest thumbnail buckle, appropriate for dressier Panerai straps or for most non-Panerai watches.  Buckles are identical except for spring bar or screw in attachment method.

Beautiful buckles, beautiful custom watch straps

Great, but which buckle do I actually need?

A big part of this question is about what watch you're getting your handmade watch band for. 

  • If you've got a Panerai and need a custom leather watch strap for it that will make it stand out as a historic watch full of vintage military style you're going to want a GPF buckle.  I do not suggest the GPF buckles for any watch strap that will be on a non-Panerai watch. 
  • If you want to keep that awesome Panerai style but want something a bit more modern and comfortable, a Pre-V buckle is the natural choice.  While I do offer spring bar Pre-V buckles in sizes down to 20mm for non-Panerai watches, I again believe that a Pre-V buckles only true home is on a Panerai strap.  
  • If you've got a non-Panerai watch on your wrist, the Thumbnail option is likely the best option as most non-Panerai watches are smaller in stature and are better suited to a more modest style of buckle

Does this buckle make my ass look big?

Ok, now what size buckle do I need, and do you even have it?

The size of buckle you need is determined first by the lug width of your watch.  If your watch has a 22mm lug width, you can use a 22mm, 20mm or 18mm buckle (I don't have buckles smaller than 18mm).  Straight straps (same width at lug and buckle i.e. 22/22) are generally going to give a watch more wrist presence and provide a more casual look.  Tapered straps (wider at the lugs than at the buckle i.e. 22/18) are better suited for dressier watches or if you want a more refined look in general.  The easiest way to sort out which buckles are available in which sizes is to go to any of my strap pages such as Corojo and first select the width for your strap.  Once you've selected a width, the "Type" menu under the Buckle heading will automatically be restricted to the buckles that are available in the width you selected. 

Sewn, screw in, spring bar... don't get too attached

What's all this about sewn in, screw in and spring bar?

It's about how the buckle attaches to your strap.

  • Sewn in.  Sewn in buckles are permanently attached to your strap and can't be removed without destroying the buckle or dismantling the strap.  They are the most robust and reliable option, but are also only available in GPF and Pre-V shapes and only down to 22mm in Pre-V and eliminate the option to change buckles if you want to.  On the other hand, they also eliminate the need to think about which buckle should be in the strap or where it got to last time you took it off.  These buckles are almost exclusively used with Panerai watch straps.
  • Screw in.  Screw in buckles use a small screw that can be removed from the buckle so that it can be swapped out to another strap.  Screw in buckles are quite robust and rarely fail, though the threading on the small screws is somewhat delicate and must be dealt with carefully or it will strip.  Screw in is a great choice if you have multiple straps of the same size and only want to use one buckle, or you like changing between styles of buckles on your straps.
  • Spring bar.  Spring bar buckles use a traditional spring bar to mount the buckle to the strap.  Spring bar buckles are the lowest profile of the buckles and also the most inexpensive.  While people may feel that spring bar buckles aren't robust enough for daily use, consider the fact that watch companies like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Seiko and others have used spring bars almost exclusively to attach straps and buckles to their watches for decades.  If it's good enough for Rolex...  With that said, screw in and sewn in buckles are more robust, and for larger watches are perhaps more in line with the idea of being big and burly.

Polished, brushed or PVD... choices choices

Buckle finish... to match or not to match?

I offer three finishes:  Polished, brushed or PVD (black).  All buckles are available in polished or brushed, and most buckles are available in PVD.  Generally people match the buckle to the case of the watch their custom watch strap is going onto.  Polished case?  Polished buckle.  Black case?  PVD buckle.  Sometimes a watch has both polished and brushed elements, in this case I usually suggest a brushed buckle as they are less prone to scratching and will match the brushed element on the case.  If your watch is black, of course a PVD buckle is the answer.

No.  Just... no.

What about deployant buckles?

I don't sell them and I don't make straps for them.  Deployant buckles require special sizing and tapering thicknesses that I can't replicate as nearly every buckle requires a different specific set of measurements to work.  Furthermore, deployant buckles are generally incredibly uncomfortable and dig into your wrist, they're fiddly and more likely to break and worst of all they do not in any way suit the rugged, individualistic style of straps I make.  And yes, it's deployant... not "deployment".

October 17, 2019 by Micah Dirksen

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