Ever since I got my Tudor Black Bay Red, I've been on the hunt to find the perfect strap that emulates the OEM leather but feels a bit more "authentic". After some exhaustive searches online for the right straps, I was inspired by all the great strap makers out there and in the spirit of Jeremy Clarkson, I began asking myself "how hard can it be?"
After a few struggles to find the right leather, ranging from old belts (too thick) to leather jackets (too thin), I was about to give up. Then, while browsing Restoration Hardware's website looking for some home decor ideas, I stumbled upon an item I'd never seen before. For the majority of the leather furniture they offer online, RH will send you free 6"x6" samples of the leather used to make the couches. A ha!
So I scoured the website and their 30-40 different types and colors of leather until I decided on 6 I'd like to try and ordered the samples. Next, I hit Amazon and bought all of the necessary tools I'd need to give it an honest effort: a punch, a spacing tool, a sewing awl, a skiver, some leather sewing needles and of course, the waxed thread. I also picked up some contact adhesive (Shoe Goo).
When the leather showed up, It seemed to be just a tad thin, but the quality was decent and it was buttery soft. I figured I'd be easy to work with and at least a good practice.
I found some free time yesterday and began by tracing a the outline of some of my favorite straps onto the backside of the leather. Now, I probably should've started with a straight 22mm strap but I really wanted something that would accept the OEM Tudor deployant buckle. Not realizing what I was getting myself into, I laid down a pattern for a strap that was 22mm at the lugs and tapered to 18mm at the buckle. After cutting it, I tried to clean up the edges a little bit with a pocket knife before skiving the fold-over points. Add a little glue and fold the leather pieces together and things started to look promising! I put toothpicks in place of where the springbars would go while the glue dried and held the leather together with a couple of larger paper clips.
At this point, I was a little worried the strap might be too thin so I felt the need to beef it up a little. Given the highly distressed nature of the leather I was using for the majority of the strap, I used some really soft, supple glove leather to line the inside of the strap. The glove leather is too thin to make a single layered strap of its own with, but works perfectly as a liner. So I used more glue and carefully add trimmed and applied some glove leather to the back of each strap.
The next step was marking the holes for stitching. I originally intended on just going with minimal, vintage-styled stitching with two simple stitches around each springbar hole, but since I was now working with two kinds of leather sandwiched together, I wanted to make sure it wouldn't break down and fall apart on me. So I opted for full stitching down the length of the strap.
Then I used my leather needle on the awl to set about stitching up the strap.
After a few trials and errors, I felt pretty comfortable with the stitching process.
Here's the underside with the soft glove leather.
Once I'd finished up the stitching, I used the 2mm punch to make the holes.
Here it is on the watch!
And finally, here it is on the wrist!
It's still a little rough around the edges but I'm pretty happy with my first attempt. I've got a few more samples of leather I'm really excited to play around with and I'll make sure to share the results here!