When Nacho asked me to do a Strap Check article, I instantly knew which of my watches to cover. This is a watch that is extremely dear to me, and personally, I love the strap combo. I ought to since I picked it out, right?

I would not wear a combination that I did not like, but sometimes you just feel that one and one is three. This watch and strap combo does that for me. This is the story of my Grand Seiko SBGW231 and a handmade natural horse leather strap from Belgium.

The Grand Seiko SBGW231

Let me start by briefly explaining why this watch means so much to me. I bought it in 2021 when my fiancée was pregnant with our first child. I wanted to get a watch to celebrate, but also to pass on to my firstborn one day. I wanted something that would stand the test of time and not go out of fashion. Since we did not know our child’s gender up front and you have no idea what kind of person you will end up raising anyway, I wanted something subtle and small — a neutral but beautiful watch that anyone could potentially wear and enjoy.

This Grand Seiko SBGW231 fit the bill for me. I also like that it is an under-the-radar watch. This piece is something to enjoy privately without the entire world seeing some blingy status symbol. I feel it makes sense to teach my kid to appreciate fine craftsmanship and quality over external approval.

And then, last December, we had a beautiful and healthy son. Don’t tell him, but he will get his birth-year watch one day, perhaps on his 21st birthday. But we’ll see if and when he develops an interest. For now, he just bangs stuff into his own head, so let’s give it at least a few more years. I will look after the watch and put some wear on it in the meantime.

A bit of a dull original strap

I love the SBGW231 for its looks and quality, but the original strap was a bit of a letdown. The watch excels at simplicity executed to perfection. The original strap excels at making the whole thing a bit dull.

The matte black crocodile strap is of great quality. It just makes this GS a bit too formal for my taste, a bit too serious. If you intend to pair it with black and gray suits, it will work beautifully. But if you are a rather casual type like myself, it might not. It does not for me, anyway. I also own a similar King Seiko ref. SPB281J1, which I do like on a black croc. The difference is that its more aggressive case kind of adds a much-needed hint of brutalism. The Grand Seiko is just more elegant, begging to be dressed down a tad.

Enter the Belgian horse leather strap

Working at Amsterdam Watch Company at the time, I had had my eye on one particular strap for a while. One of the suppliers — LIC from Belgium — offered a waxy horse leather strap. These came in a grayish color and this natural tone. I had noticed before how it brought out champagne and beige dials perfectly, and it would not disappoint on my new GS!

Why I love the horse leather strap

The strap has a waxy, open-pore finish. This makes it come alive. It shows imperfections and blemishes, which — to my eye — contrast the sterile cleanness of the GS beautifully. I also love how it seems to be in the same color family as the dial, just a bunch of tones darker. The leather is flat, thin, and super supple. This makes it a joy to wear.

Oh, and it has the same taper as the original strap, ensuring a neat fit of the original Grand Seiko buckle.

This horse leather strap does precisely what I wanted it to. It dresses the GS down a bit, bridging the gap between the serious watch and my not-so-serious style. I love how this looks with a denim shirt or army-green fabrics now. I like this sort of contrast. It’s not unlike seeing a Patek Calatrava on a full-sleeve tattoo. I love that look.

Not too slick

I have been experimenting with different straps on this watch, but I have found many to be a bit too slick. With such a sharp and tidy watch, I really longed for a strap with a bit of an edge. Overdo it, though, and the combination looks off.

I am quite sensitive to odd strap combos. I always like it when a watch/strap combination looks as though it could have been original. You could put this watch on a brightly colored coarse suede strap with vintage-style stitches, but it would look a bit too “put together” to me. To each their own, but this horse leather strap strikes just the right balance for me. It’s not too slick, but it’s still in line with the watch.

An unexpected strap monster

If you are a bit more anarchistic in your strap choices than I am, you will find the SBGW231 is a veritable strap monster. I think it might be the fact that it is a bit more tubby than your typical pure dress watch. I even tried it on a moss-green NATO and it worked great. I would not have expected that.

I’m guessing I will wear out a couple of straps before the time comes to pass this watch on. For now, though, I think I will stick to my AWCo × LIC horse leather strap.