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Watch Straps: Comprehensive Guide About the Sources and Types of Leather Used in Making Watch Straps:

Leather, the top choice in straps, needs answers to basic questions like types of leather, its durability, sources, and how to take better care of it.
In this article, we will explain some of the primary factors involved in making leather straps that will assist you in buying a perfect leather watch band.

Six Sources of Leather:

Real leather is a processed form of the skin of an animal, like cow, buffalo, sheep, kangaroo, goat, or horse. Some of the exotic leather comes from ostriches, crocodiles, snakes, and stingrays. Hides of mammals (~less than 1% of total mammals) are being used for leather preparation. Most of them are reared for meat, milk, or wool, and leather is their top by-product.

It’s challenging to know the exact figures; however, research shows that cattle contribute 65% of the leather industry, 13% of leather made from sheep, 11% from goats, 10% from pigs, and the rest from other animals and exotic animals’ skins. All these leathers have different uses; some could be good for shoes, some for bags, and some for small accessories. We will take you through different types of leather and its sources used in watch straps’ making so that you can judge the leather’s seller and quality, which will give you better selection ability and peace of mind.

Buffalo Leather.

Buffalo leather is two to three times thicker than cowhide and more sturdy. Due to its weight-carrying attributes and durability, it is the first choice in making bigger bags like duffels, backpacks, messenger, and totes. Grains on buffalo leather (the appearance of the hide) are more significant and it will feel thicker when touched.

Calf Leather or Calfskin.

Age makes a lot of difference since the calf is a young cow, so the features of this leather are different from cowhide and more appealing. It is soft and lightweight with more minor and insignificant grains. Watch bands made with calfskin are flexible, durable, and feel more refreshing. Calfskin accessories tend to be pricey compared to cowhide or other leather types due to being smaller in size and limited availability of raw material.

Cowhide Leather. 

Cowhide leather is widely used in garments, i.e., jackets, coats and other accessories like good-quality bags, wallets, belts, and watch straps. It’s thinner compared to buffalo leather, flexible and 2nd highest used leather after buffalo. Watch straps/bands made with cow leather are durable and have the potential to loosen over time and develop a patina.

Sheep and Goat Leather.

Goat leather is soft and flexible. It’s hard to differentiate between sheep and goat leather; both are lightweight and soft with tiny grains on the top. These are not very strong like cow and buffalo leather, but accessories made from goat or sheep leather have their own beauty. High-end ladies’ watch straps/bands and bags are mainly crafted with goat and sheep leather due to their softness and flexibility.

Kangaroo Leather. 

Kangaroos are harvested in Australia, and their skins are exported to many countries for tanning. This leather combines cattle and goat leather’s qualities; it’s strong and supple like cowhide or even more lightweight and flexible like goat leather. It’s mainly used in making boots, wallets, car seats, and watch straps. Watch strips/bands crafted with kangaroo leather have small cracked types of grains.

Horse Leather /Shell Cordovan Leather.

Most of us are familiar with shell cordovan leather but have hardly heard about horse leather. Horse leather is shell cordovan leather known for its toughness, water resistance, and natural shine. Limited supply and Complex tanning process make it expensive. It has been used for top-end shoe making for a long time; however recently been introduced in watch straps making and other accessories like wallets and bags. Watch straps made out of shell cordovan are known for their strength, glossy finish, and natural feel; these are expensive compared to cowhide leather.
The best-selling colors in the shell cordovan are burgundy, whisky brown, and dark brown
The average price of a shell cordovan watch band is around $120

Five Grades of Leather:

Mainly there are four grades of leather. The average cowhide thickness is 6 to 10 mm; this thickness is further cut into different layers. The first layer is called full-grain, 2nd one is called top grain, 3rd called split leather, which is the underside of the skin, and the fourth one is bonded or genuine leather, made from leather scrap.

Full-grain leather.

It’s thought to be the highest quality leather. As the name says, it has full grains intact to the leather. Being the least processed form of leather, it’s a shadow of the animal’s skin; other than removing hair, it carries all the imperfections, pores, and scars on the animal’s skin when it’s alive. These characteristics make this leather special and add ultimate beauty to the product. Full-grain leather lasts longer because of the strong fibres of the skin, and its breathability keeps it away from cracking. Since each animal’s skin is different, this grade of leather will differ on every second hide. Due to its breathability, it gets softer when used over time.
It’s more durable, carries high resistance, and develops a patina with time. It’s widely used in crafting top-quality leather accessories like briefcases, shoes, bags, and watch straps/bands. Watch straps made of full-grain leather will be stiff at the start but soften as time passes.

Top Grain Leather.

It’s the 2nd best leather after full-grain leather; with the sanding and buffing process, its imperfections are removed from the skin, making it more uniform and smoother compared to full-grain leather. It’s suitable for printing textures and designs like Epsom, pebble, and nubuck. It’s slightly thinner than full grain and easy to work for artisans; moreover, it has a better resistance against stains because of the material coating at the top of the leather. It’s used in high to mid-range accessories and is easily available in the market.

Split Leather.

It’s the last layer of the skin which is very close to the animal flesh and derived after splitting all the layers of the skin. Its most common type is Suede leather. Suede is the softest among all types of leather to make a watch strap. Its velvety look and smooth feel are attractive attributes for making shoes, bags, and other small accessories in addition to watch straps/bands. The downside of this leather is that it absorbs liquid quickly which makes it less durable as compared to other types of leather.

Bonded Leather.

It’s not 100% real leather; polyurethane binder is mixed up with leather scrap, dust, and fibres, and then the processed mixture is glued together with fabric or paper backing. It’s also called reconstituted leather as it only consists of 10 to 20% real leather, and the rest is polyurethane binder.
It’s used in cheap leather furniture upholstery and accessories like bags, wallets, watch straps, belts, etc.
It has a plastic feel, smells artificial, and has a flat surface.

Genuine Leather.

Genuine leather is the cheapest; some people consider it in the category of split leather, and some in bonded leather. However, it’s a widely used term for leather; it’s better to avoid this leather since it doesn’t describe well the grade of leather. Newbies take it as the opposite of fake leather, but it’s not. It could be artificial or low-grade leather. Once you spot a product with the stamp “genuine leather,” don’t trust it straight away. Carefully examine its surface if it’s very smooth and gives you a laminated feel; then try to bend it, if it comes back to the original position without leaving any wrinkles on the bent surface, then this is a clear sign of fake or artificial leather. Please stay away from it.
Ideally, it should be a split leather, but in most cases, it’s used as an alternative to bonded leather to confuse customers.
Products tagged as genuine leather are generally very cheap and don’t last long compared to the above-mentioned high-quality leather types.

Exotic Leather: 

It’s a leather derived from reptiles hunted mainly for their skin. However, some exotic leathers are protected by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora). Some leading exotic leather types are Allegator, crocodile, ostrich, stingray, and snake leather.

Alligator Leather:

Among so many exotic leathers, Allegator is liked by most people, natural scales on the skin make it unique. In its whole skin, the belly is the most suitable part for crafting luxury leather accessories like bags, briefcases, wallets, watch straps, and shoes.

Crocodile Leather.

Crocodile leather is a term widely known as compared to alligator leather. Top-end luxury brands use crocodile leather to craft highly expensive leather accessories. Its low availability makes it expensive and rare.

What Is the Difference Between Crocodile and Allegator Leather? 

It’s not so easy to distinguish between crocodile and allegator leather ; however, if looked carefully, the main difference is the shape of the scales; alligator skin has bigger and square shape scales, whereas crocodile leather has less wide and round shape scales. Moreover, back horns, umbilical scar, and tile patterns make alligator leather different from crocodile leather.

Ostrich Leather.

Ostriches are grown for their feathers, meat, and skin. Little bumps on the skin make it special for crafting high-end leather goods. Ostrich skin is enriched with natural oils; the more its accessories, the softer they become.

Stingray Leather.

Stingray is a fish that belongs to the shark family, and there are more than 200 stingray species under the water. Leather derived from stingray is much stronger than cowhide and is widely used to craft wallets, watch straps, and other small accessories. So far, stingray leather is underrated for its use.

8 Factors Involved in Defining the Quality of Leather Accessories including Watch Straps/Bands :

  • Gender of the animal
  • Part of the skin; not all parts of the skin produce the same leather
  • The origin where the animal is grown
  • Living conditions
  • Age and size of the animal
  • Slaughtering process of the animal and the process of taking the skin off
  • Tanning process and equipment to process leather
  • Shipping of raw hides


Is Genuine Leather Good for Watch Straps?

Genuine leather is fake or very low grade good, hence it’s not recommended. Watch straps made out of this leather will start splitting after wearing it a few times, doesn’t matter how much care you put on it; it won’t last longer.

How To Take Care of Leather Watch Straps/Bands. 

Proper care of leather accessories like watch straps is a must for its long life .


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