ABP Paris (Atelier du Bracelet Parisien) is a manufacturer of the world’s most exclusive leather watchstraps. Although you can order most straps via their web shop, the Fratellowatches team decided to visit their workshop in the center of Paris.

ABP is currently lead by Yann Perrin and is a typical family business and have been around for 15 years. A few years ago, due to ever growing business, they had to move to a bigger workshop on the Place du Marché Saint-Honoré where they are still located as of today. Let us tell you, that with approximately a staff of 10 persons, we foresee another move in a couple of years.

Yann (right) and his staff

All straps that ABP sell are – of course – made by hand and specified to the customer’s demand. All sorts of leather are available, including some very exclusive ones like beaver tail, frog, toad and stingray. In the past, they were able to work with elephant and seal skin as well, but law forbids them to use it anymore. Alligator straps suddenly sounds very ‘normal’ once you step into the world of Yann Perrin and his co-workers. ABP used over 50 species of animal skin and they come from five difference tanneries from all over the world. ABP is unable to perform their own tannery because of the very strict Parisien law which doesn’t allow them to work with chemicals in the center of Paris. They have hundreds of colors to choose from and the stitching can be done in over 500 colors. Also, if you bring your own favorite pair of shoes for example, you can have your watch strap made that it will perfectly match them. Even the patina Santoni shoes that are so popular these days. Of course, you need to visit the ABP workshop in order to have these custom paint jobs done.

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ABP Paris

Because of the perfect location (near the Place Vendome) of ABP, they are able to supply to a lot of the high-end jewelers and watch boutiques located nearby. Sometimes a standard watch strap will not fit the wrist of the customer or isn’t up to his/her standards. Then, these boutiques will ask ABP to design and create a strap that will fit the customer’s watch perfectly. Of course, this has to be done to the very exact specifications of the watch in question as it should at least be as good as the original watch strap. In case a standard strap is too short for someone’s wrist, ABP will create an exact duplicate of the original strap but longer.

ABP also manufacturers straps for the smaller and independent watch brands when they only need a one-off or a just small batch of straps. However, you won’t see watches from the big brands delivered from the factory with an ABP strap.  ABP wants to remain exclusive and be able to guarantee exclusivity.

For a lot of watches that come with a stainless steel bracelet  (e.g. Rolex) ABP has developed a method to fit the original lugs as good as possible so their won’t be too much space left between the strap and the case of the watch. Also, in 99% of the cases, ABP can make the strap fit the original deployant buckle.

When we met Yann Perrin in his shop, he also showed us the prototype leather iPhone 4 covers they developed.You can choose from four types different iPhone cover types:  interchangeable, fixed, bumpers or a full cover. Check them out at the ABP webshop.

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  • What a beautiful strap on the Sarpaneva Korona K3 and the iPhone 4 covers are also gorgeous!

    • Keith

      I am about to purchase a strap from ABP.  The original strap on my Oris Miles Complication finally gave up the ghost and to be honest, for the price of the watch, it wasn’t the best quality strap in the world. ABP prices are high, so is the quality any different from other strap makers who charge one third of the price?  It’s a difficult call when you don’t want to put a cheap watch strap on a decent watch, but where else is there?  Can anyone advise me?

      • Keith

        Greg emailed me to say it was done and will I guess be winging its way to me soon.  I went for the ap6 colour Otrich leg for my Oris Miles Complication and I’m really looking forward to wearing it.  It cost 230 euros, so not cheap!

  • Boris

    This is a fantastic place to visit, and I own 3 of their straps.

    But here’s the downside: prices have increased massively over a short period of time. Between the beginning of and the end of 2010 alone, prices for an alligator strap with the same specification have gone up easily 20%.

    Besides, a number of friends of mine, repeat customers, have bought straps recently and the general assessment was that quality did not keep up.

    Probably, they are over-reaching now that the brand is known internationally and has expanded its business significantly from the time they were rue Sainte Hyacinte, just aroud the corner from where they are now.

    Honnestly, close to EUR 300 for a square scales alligator strap with machine stitching, it’s becoming a bit of a joke.

    The consensus in Paris at the moment is that both Camille Fournet and L’Atelier Jean Rousseau provide much better value for money. They might not have the same variety of skins, though. So if one is looking for something really special (say, toad skin), then ABP is still the place to go.

  • martijn

    Hi RJ,

    Thanks, great report! I’ve ordered multiple straps from them.. they are great!

    Martijn

  • GMC

    I discovered this place while googling for a new strap for one of my watches, an IWC Ingenieur ref 5005. I’m a watch collector and I have watches valued from $500 up to $25,000. A close relative of mine, also a collector, owns models valued at up to the mid 6-digits figures: watches for us is a family thing, a passion and a vice at times…

    After looking at the various models online and having come to the astonishing conclusion I would not find much alternative through online search, I decided to pay a visit to the shop while traveling to my home town of Paris (I live in London). I was also convinced I would be better up spending 350 euros (their RRP online for an alligator strap) for a top quality custom strap rather than paying the same amount for an outsourced standard from the watch manufacturer.

    Being myself from a luxury retail background, I can only but enjoy and admire places like these small ateliers where there’s still a visible trace of French’s craftsmanship.

    After opening the door, I see myself in a very small space, busy with about 6/7 workers, 2/3 clients, and 10s of different crafted items and raw fabrics. Business is good is the first thought that comes to mind! An elder lady welcomes me with a smile. I recognize her from the website, she’s the owner. The other owner, I assume her husband, a man with a beard, talks to some other customer. I tell her of my situation. She redirects me to a “young lady”, a certain Elsa.

    Suddenly there’s a change of pace. Elsa at first doesn’t pay much attention to me, which I find at that moment to be normal, given it’s a busy place. We start talking, but it’s sort of hard to brake the ice so to speak as Elsa is so busy talking with other co-workers. There’s no smile here, just a couple of stressed out grimaces. I’m patient.

    She then has a look to my watch. New change of pace. “oh, this one is going to be complicated!” she claims. She runs away, asking for what I take as commercial complicity from a mid aged man seated facing a computer, checking some orders made by a customer from Hong Kong. The mid aged man confirms her claims, but not to me, to her, adding: “oh, and you have to add 350 euros to the normal price for this one!”. I’m surprised, but it’s just the beginning of our joust, so I let it go for the moment. Elsa comes back and tells me the exact same words I just heard a few seconds ago (it’s a small place). She tells me it’s complicated, and she and the mid aged man mention some pseudo mechanical jargon they probably think I don’t understand to justify a new price tag of 700 euros. I comment legitimately: “but it’s twice the price compared to what you advertise online?”. I’m answered: “no no, if you would have ordered online, we would have told you the same, we don’t sell complicated straps online”. Again this word, complicated. Like the in house movement of the $12,000 engineered piece of metal I’m wearing. No, not that complicated.

    I also feel a bit of loss of enthusiasm (even though they didn’t have much so far) in their tone when telling me about the bad news. The mid aged man adds: “you’re not in luck…”. But discouraged I wasn’t, not my style. Even though I started feeling unwell about the situation: do these guys know what they’re talking about? I think ‘yes’, but ‘perhaps they’re trying to pull something on me’ is another thought that comes to mind. Seeing that I want to move to the next step of our sales joust, Elsa then shows me a nice croc leather and says it would fit my watch perfectly. 700 euros. Personally, I don’t find it quite interesting enough for my taste or the watch. She suddenly gets annoyed almost and tells me to go and look in their multiple drawers to see if I can find something I like.. She doesn’t accompany me to advise or, but I feel it’s too much to ask, faire la causette. Still undeterred, I dive into their drawers, feeling like a kid everyone seem to want to ignore. I try to get more attention by pulling a joke: (in French) “it’s great! It’s like the flea market here!”. The best I obtain is a very small laugh with a tone of mockery from the mid aged man. I go back to my search, while Elsa is still very busy talking, correction, commanding the staff and playing with one of the hole punchers. After a few minutes I come back with a couple of raw skins. I try bringing Elsa back to help me (ie. sell me), she slowly does so after a few minutes but stops talking to me after a couple to enter into a 10 minutes conversation with one of her co-workers. The co-worker has some trouble mounting a strap on a vintage Rolex, and asks his (what I now presume to be) boss for getting rid of his doubts. The client is there too, candidly observing the situation like I do, a client who also had a previous conversation with the mid aged man about doing business together, a conversation I heard everything about from the very start (have I said it’s a very small place?). Elsa is convinced her co-worker is an imbecile, who doesn’t know his fingers from his toes. Long story short, he was right and I wasted another 10 minutes.

    Coming back to our conversation, Elsa goes straight to the topics that interest her: me making an order and leaving the shop pronto. She says it’s 525 euros (it’s not croc anymore). She pulls an order form, start writing the date. Now the other me, the hard working man, the passionate collector, starts taking a hold of me. I stop her and say: “hold on, I haven’t agreed on the price yet”. I ask for an undefined discount. She replies, with another of her grimaces: “no no, it doesn’t work like that here”, she adds “there are hours of workmanship, it’s precisely calculated, we don’t do discounts”. Precise, like my time keeper. No, actually my time keeper is a precise instrument, and it now tells me to get the hell out of this place. I reply: “could you do 500 euros?” though I’m thinking to myself, a ‘fair’ price would be to make me 10%. She replies, with a very surprised tone:”what??”. She calms down: “no no, but I can give you a fidelity card for future purchases”. All sorts of thoughts come to mind. I insist. She looks on her left, and looks at me, and asks:”what price did we say again?”. I reply: “535 euros”. She says: “I can offer you the liner, worths 25 euros”. So I say: “510 then?”. Reply: “yes”. I look at my feet and my watch: ‘stop it and get out!’. Though I’m about to, I give Elsa a last chance: “come on, 500 euros, this is a lot of money, and I came here for an invoice that I rightly thought would cost me 350”. Reply, feeling sorry for me, “yes yes, I understand your situation, I sympathize”. I say: “my situation is not to have a large enough wallet for you”. The mid age man adds, unasked: “size of the wallet doesn’t matter, it’s what’s inside that needs to be large!”.

    I close the buckle of my watch, thank everyone, and leave. Elsa addresses me a last grimace.

    Whatever you think of this story will depend on your culture, your education and your experience of life. I was at all times polite and remained undeterred despite being bullied from start to finish by a poorly educated bunch of unprofessional and deeply disrespectful people. I really didn’t care about the price, and if you read these lines up to that point, you obviously understood my point. I don’t collect expensive watches for the sake of spending a load of cash and splashing it at people’s face. I don’t need that kind of reassurance. Going to a place like this, I thought, was going to be a nice experience. Even though they’re taking the piss and talking out of their butts, it’s just business. But working in the luxury business (Hermes is just a few steps away) is not just about high price tags and margins, it’s about customer service. I would never buy a Zenith or a Tag knowingly, because customer service from LVMH isn’t en par with the prices they charge. Hypocrites and those in favor might say I’m probably a too demanding customer. But there’s no such thing at being too demanding when it’s a matter about spending money, be it 10 euros or 10,000. This was probably the worst retail experience I had in my life. Perhaps you’ll be luckier than me, but to be sure to have the odds in your favor and get the respect any human deserves, avoid Elsa and her mid aged companion.

    PS. I intentionally replied ‘535 euros’. It doesn’t prove anything but just added what was enough of negativity to solve my dilemma.