Everything to know about leather watch straps – pros and cons

Unlike other straps like rubber, nato or bracelets, leather straps will give your watch a more unique look. Leather straps ages with your watch, depending on how you care for your leather strap offcourse. If you swim with it will not last so long, but other than that its quite durable.

When you get your first leather strap chances are that you will not like it, often they are not so comfortable right out of the box. But when you have used it for some days it will probably grow on you. It takes some time for the leather too adjust to your wrist, and when it does that there is not anything as comfortable.

Types of leather

There are made watch leather straps out off almost every kind of leather. All leather straps should be “Genuine leather” as a minimum. If that’s not the case its not used real leather.

Cow and Calf leather

This is the most used, and is perfect for most people. The price can range very much, from 10 usd to several hundreds. There is big variations in how good cow and calf leather straps are. Also remember that it doesn’t just depend on the leather, if the straps maker doesn’t do a good job it doesn’t matter how good the leather is.

Cow leather is not as soft as calf leather, but it is very good in combination with calf leather. When cow and calf leather is used in combination the cow leather is on the inside and the calf leather on the outside.

Calf leather has more fibers in it than cow leather and is therefore in theory stronger than cow leather, but this is not really important because both are more than strong enough for securing your watch.

Goat and Calf leather

So should it be cow or goat? The difference is not so big. Both are very common, in most cases goat leather is a bit softer, cheaper and more water resistant. When buying a leather strap you cannot just look at which animal the leather is coming from. Conditions the animal grew up in makes a big difference in how good the leather strap is going to be. All factors matters!

Kangaroo leather –

It sound very exotic, but in Australia they actually out number humans so you can buy kangaroo leather with good conscience. In general kangaroo leather is lighter, softer and stronger than cow and goat leather.

If you are looking for a thin strap you should consider a kangaroo strap, the leather can be thinner than for goat or cow leather for watch straps. However if you like a tan patina then kangaroo leather will not give you that. Kangaroo leather gives a darker patina than most other types of leather.

Crocodile leather –

There are 23 species of Crocodile, so here it is very much the same as with alligator leather. You have to do some research when you find a strap you like, otherwise you might get something that’s not as good as it could have been.

In general more expensive than Alligator watch bands, but not always off course.

Crocodile leather is not as smooth as alligator bands, and doesn’t have the same slim feeling when you wear it around your wrist. This is mostly in theory, though you can actually feel the difference.  

Alligator leather –

When you are looking for an Alligator leather watch strap you will quickly find out that it is either American or Chinese.

This is a more unique leather for watch bands, and you should make sure the seller is serious so you now that what you get is the real deal and that necessary certificates are as they should be.

On the alligator the belly part is the most expensive, but it’s not the part that is used the most.

For softness and thickness it depends very much, therefore you should look specifically when you find a strap you really like.

Alligator leather bands are very similar to Crocodile leather bands but the texture and how it develops patina is a little different. In general Alligator has more texture and the texture is more random than for Crocodile.

Ostrich leather –

This might be the holy grail, or at least at the very top for the leather enthusiast. Ostrich leather is rare, and it also has some very good qualities too it.

Ostrich leather is one of the strongest types of leather, but this is not so important for watch straps. More important for Ostrich leather bands is the durability it has, which is quite unique. Other than durability it is also soft and flexible. Ostrich leather tans very nicely.

Lizard leather –

Exotic and high end but still not the priciest. Lizard watch bands are really unique and most has a very fine pattern. Mostly its used leather from under the belly from Iguanas.

Lizard leather is very smooth and therefore perfect for watch straps.

Snakeskin leather –

Another very exotic leather for watch bands. Actually snakeskin leather is not perfect for watch strap because it is so thin. Therefore when snakeskin is used for leather straps it is in combination with other leather. Mostly it is used in combination with cow or calf leather, used on the inside and then the snakeskin glued on the top.

It is possible to get snakeskin straps in a huge variety of patterns and colors, but skin from phyton snakes is the most used.

What you should know

Don’t look blindly on which animal the leather comes from, you can get leather straps made off genuine leather in high quality for just 20 dollars. Price is not necessarily an indication of high quality.

Buy the seller! This is important, there are many very respected strap makers  which only will use leather that is real and off good quality. It’s understandable as a watch enthusiast that you want something unique, just make sure that the quality also is there.

Maintain your leather watch strap carefully, and let it get a nice patina. If you do that you can have a leather watch band for many years.

Lengths and width  

Don’t fool yourself into buying a leather strap that doesn’t fit perfect. Any serious watch strap seller or maker can get the right one for you. Most common is using 20mm on 19mm lug width watches. Don’t do that! It doesn’t look and feel as good as it should, buy the correct in the first place instead.

Often the length is written for each width, but measure your own wrist and see if its correct. If it’s not you should get it made in the correct length.

How long does leather watch straps last

The right answer is, it depends on so many factors that it’s not possible to give an answer. If you use it every day and never take it off, it might not even last a year. If you take it off when you are doing sports, never get it wet, take it off when you are in contact with chemicals ( like housecleaning) and let it rest from your wrist once in a while. Then you can have the strap for many years.

So the correct answer is that it depends on how much care you give it. Some people seem to think that using a leather strap for everything will give it a nice patina. That is not the case, using it in the right environments and giving it a rest once in a while is what will give it the nicest patina.

Can you waterproof it?

No! or not good at least. It is tempting but don’t do it if you like the strap. No leather straps are waterproof and all leather watch bands will have a shorter life if it’s in contact with water.

Even if you just get I sweaty you should let it rest for at least one day until it has dried up.


The biggest enemy for your leather watch strap will always be sunlight and high temperatures. Yes it will give it patina, but having it a lot in sunlight is not the right way to do it. I am a big fan off always using your leather strap, but there is no point off just leaving it in the sun.

What to look for on a leather strap

The stitching on leather straps can tell a lot about how good a job the strap maker has done. If the stitches is not perfect, it should be a sign that there might be more problems with the strap.

A common problem with leather straps is the glue, because most leather straps have a front and backside and is glued together. If the strap maker didn’t use the correct glue it will tear and the sides will eventually fall apart. If that happens there isn’t really much you can do  about, except sending it back or trying to glue it yourself.  

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