Always on the prowl for new sources of watch straps, The Time Bum recently ventured into the online crafts market that is Etsy. There I discovered dozens of leather workers selling handmade watch straps, at very reasonable prices. Today, I bring you my first review of an Etsy find, the $22 button stud watch strap by J Grants General Store.
The straps are made by Grant Merrill of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, using American sourced vegetable dyed hides. They are one piece, pass through straps that fasten with a metal stud instead of a buckle. Unlike a NATO or Zulu style, there is no exposed tail to tuck, and no keepers. The leather is only about 1mm thick, so it slips easily under most spring bars, and buttons with ease.
Like many straps on Etsy, the button stud is marketed as a replacement for the 20mm Timex Weekender, but Grant offers them in sizes 16-22mm, and in 8-10" lengths. Silver and gold colored studs are available. Leather colors are natural, tan, saddle, brown, and black. The leather is hand dyed and minimally processed so some variation is to be expected. For the review, Grant provided a natural 22mm. My strap measured about 8.5" and with the stud screwed into the next to last hole, it fit my 6.5" wrist perfectly. At least for awhile. After the strap began to relax a bit, I found it necessary to cinch it one more step. Because the tail is on the inside, there is ample room to experiment.
Natural vegetable tanned leather starts off very pale and darkens with time, wear, and exposure to light. When new, the color reminds me of properly cooked pork, an off white with a slight pink undertone. Perhaps I was just hungry. A photo from Grant's site compares a new strap to ones with two and four months of wear, and the transformation is dramatic. I will post an update as mine weathers and acquires its tan patina, but for now I found it works best with white dial watches. Grant advises that the leather will be stiff at first but will soften with use. This is true, but even brand new, it was not at all uncomfortable. In the interest of science, I took the strap to Time Bum Laboratories to accelerate the breaking-in process. By occasionally rubbing the dry strap with my hands, and wetting it with tap water a few times, I was able to make it quite pliable by the end if the day. The treatment also took bit of the sheen off it, making this the first stage of the patina process. I am really looking forward to watching the leather age, but for those who want color right away, I would suggest the tan or saddle color options.
I had three concerns about the stud fastener: that I wouldn't be able to work it, it wouldn't be secure, or the stud itself would be disproportionately large. I am pleased to report that all three fears were unfounded. The button fastens like, well ... a button. It is really that easy, although it helps if you rest your watch and wrist on something while you button it. Once fastened, the strap is secure and tugging on the strap will only increase the tension on the fastener. It will not pop free. Finally, the stud has a flat brushed top with polished sides. In profile, it is not much taller than a fastened buckle. The two finishes match most watch cases. It does not stick out or interfere with a shirt cuff.
The strap is simple, but well executed. The edges are unfinished but the overall effect is clean. Unlike some handmade straps I have encountered, the holes are straight and evenly spaced, and the strap width is uniform. There is no doubt that it is hand made, but it does not look homespun. Because it is a pass through strap with unfinished edges, it is best suited to casual wear. The stud look is very tidy, and works well on slimmer watches like the Nixon Mellor in the photos, less so on heavy divers. Placement of the stud is up to you, either high on the strap near the watch head as pictured on Grant's site, or under the wrist like a conventional buckle as I have it.
The straps are very reasonable at $22 each, but even more so at two for $35. If that is not enough, Grant offers free shipping with the code FREESHIP. Don't see what you need? Custom orders are available. Overall, I am rather impressed with the button stud strap and could easily see it my rotation.
Pro: Appealing and uncommon design.
Con: Might not be the best choice for your 47mm Luminor.
Sum: A distinctive casual look at a great price.