#TBT Meet WatchStrapHeaven, My New Discovery For Your Vintage Watches
Have you ever blissfully enjoyed your leather watch strap creaking subtly from time to time? Well, I didn’t even know it was possible. Simply put, I find no other watch straps to be as truly “leather-ish” as the straps from WatchStrapHeaven are. Let me explain…
I am very much a fan of thin leather straps, and for me, it’s an important parameter when pairing with moderately sized vintage watches. There are thin straps out there, that’s for sure. But no strap I’ve tried (and I’ve tried many) feels as thin as WatchStrapHeaven straps do. Every tenth of a millimeter of thickness counts. If I were to pinpoint the major point of difference in WatchStrapHeaven’s products, I would say it’s their original, most leathery look and feel.
Describing differences between something as usual and similar as watch straps can be pretty challenging. After two weeks of rotating WatchStrapHeaven’s straps, I found the leather on them absorbing. It’s a pure material that you see and feel. In pictures, they may look like other leather straps, but they are very different on the wrist. Besides the thinness, it is their slightly raw look. These straps are treated finely, but somehow they manage to keep the identity of the leather they are made of much better than other straps I have.
So far, I’ve found GLC and Torre Straps to be the ultimate strap producers. The special treatment and careful finishing of Torre’s straps in particular give them a charming vintage look and feel. With WatchStrapHeaven, the stitching and hot-press lines are there, but it’s the leather itself that makes the unique impression. If you own an Omega Speedmaster 60th Anniversary LE and you’ve kept it on its thin original leather strap, that’s pretty much the feeling that WatchStrapHeaven offers.
Light Brown Derby Horween
I will start with my top pick. Besides the hot-press lining and five stitches at the top, there is nothing fancy about it. It is the most essential strap yet so beautiful too. Jan Ruzinsky, the founder of WatchStrapHeaven, could easily call it a watch belt instead of a watch strap. The Derby Horween feels so firm, but at the same time, it sticks to the wrist so naturally. When I first put it on and twisted my hand a few times, I realized it was creaking and squeaking in the way that only real leather does. It was a completely new experience, and I loved it instantly.
It’s a very different experience to wear the Derby Horween from WatchStrapHeaven. First and foremost, it’s the special material — so-called “pull-up” cow leather — aniline dyed to create deep and vibrant colors. When this leather is stretched or pulled, the color migrates and becomes lighter in the pulled areas. Visually, it’s one of the most attractive straps I have, so I paired it with of my most highly regarded watches, the Gallet Filmeter.
As seen here, deep, handmade hot-press lines along the edges and a perfectly round end look best on the super-thin leather. After a week on the wrist, the exposed round end already started to develop a nice patina. Besides the fascinating structure, in the detail shot above, you can see the slightly darker end and appealing contrast with a brighter deep press line. I am hooked, and over the next few months, I will get more of these. Plus, the €70 price tag is not bad at all.
The major difference in comparison to Torre Straps is that Jan incorporates modern elements into his straps. I was unsure about the five stitches under the lugs on the Light Brown Derby Horween because I found them a bit disturbing. “I’m not that fixed on keeping with some specific time period,” Jan explains, and he says he loves to mix styles. If we take the stitches on the Light Brown Derby Horween strap as an example, I am happy that I embraced his creative license. After two weeks, I don’t find the stitches disturbing, but rather quite the opposite. They give a new edge, life, and energy to a pretty classy, grounded style.
Antique Brown Italian Calf
This strap is a perfect example of Jan’s creativity. He moved the hot-press lines more towards the center and followed them closely with boxed stitching. It was a bit of a mind-bend when I first saw it in pictures, but I absolutely love it after two weeks on the wrist. It has everything you like about vintage straps but in a completely new setup. It’s creative, it’s interesting, and it works amazingly with almost any great vintage chronograph. And if you looked at the precision of the stitching, would you guess that it’s all handmade?
“I am not using any electric tools in the process of making the straps, just simple hand tools. I used a sewing machine for some time, but I wasn’t impressed with it. Stitching by hand gives you much more control,” Jan adds. While the upper leather is a semi-gloss calf produced in sunny Tuscany, the underside is a Zermatt calf from the famous Haas tannery in France. This leather is great for strap linings as it resists sweat and is hypoallergenic. The fresh green leather tone with hot-press lines on the inside shows why the Antique Brown Italian Calf strap looks so great flipped over too.
Oak Vintage Style Rally Strap
This is worlds away from all the modern reinterpretations of racing straps with 3mm-thick leather and racing holes that are too large. The Oak Vintage Style Rally Strap is firm, thin, and perfectly flexible. The racing holes are smaller than the buckle pinholes, and they have a distinct touch that allows the leather to breathe. This strap is made from the finest Italian calf leather.
In comparison to the Light Brown Derby Horween strap, it is softer to the touch but seems to be more durable. While the Derby developed a buckle “memory stamp” after just a few days, the Oak Vintage seems as though it hasn’t been worn. Some of you might feel that a visible buckle imprint is an imperfection, but I beg to differ. I don’t mind it at all because, for me, it just shows the true character of the leather that was used.
Camel Suede Mini Bund Strap
I was struggling with what strap to put on my Seiko Champion J13040 for two full years. Any strap I tried to put it on was just not good enough. When I was thinking about what watch to pair with Camel Suede Mini, all the dots connected at once. The original Seiko Alpinist watches came on Bund straps too! I rushed to put it on, and the result was monumental. First of all, I have never seen a suede structure so fine and so linear. The strap is so incredibly soft that it feels like the Seiko is lying on a pillow.
It’s the first Bund strap I’ve worn in ages. I think the last time I wore a Bund strap was in my teenage years. I found the Bund style too adventurous and too complicated and not ready to walk with me to the office. The straight edges of the “cushion” make the Camel Suede Mini Bund strap unusual, and even more so if you consider the contrasting dark brown leather loops and dark brown edge paint.
On the wrist, the Camel Suede Mini Bund strap is unmissable. I like how it shines together with this bright dial. The unusual lume squares have almost the same tone as the suede strap, and as such, they seem to be born for each other. If you have any decent time-only vintage Seiko watches, go and get some Bund straps. You might be surprised — at least I was.
Jan Ruzinsky is fully devoted to strap-making. He started 13 years ago, and now it’s his full-time job. I’ve gotten many straps shipped from Japan, Germany, Spain, Italy, you name it. Do you know where he lives? Funnily enough, almost next door, not even an hour’s drive from me. Quality products are often closer to us than we think. I am impressed by the neo-vintage charisma Jan’s straps have, and I am sure I will be a returning customer. Happy strapping!