How to Upgrade a Vintage Watch With a Custom Leather Strap

How to Upgrade a Vintage Watch With a Custom Leather Strap


Employing materials ranging from shell cordovan leather to the finest crocodile, a new generation of American and European accessory brands are producing luxurious watch straps that are as bespoke as the finest John Lobb shoes.

Two of the most highly regarded makers are Jean-Paul Menicucci, located in Lucca, Italy, and L.A.-based Attila Aszodi. Another company on the rise is French brand Camille Fournet, known for her alligator pieces as well as calfskin Apple Watch straps.

“I make each strap as if I made it for myself,” says Aszodi, whose pieces range from $275 to $2,500. “I control every aspect of production and handpick all materials so that I can create the best possible product. Each strap is unique to accommodate the individuality of each customer and tie into the details and feel of the watch and dial.” 

Asked about trends he’s noticing for 2018, Aszodi replies: “There is a strong divide developing between high-tech, manufactured and engineered straps [carbon, rubber, canvas, exotics or a combination of all], and Old World artisan-made straps with very fine detailing and craftsmanship with a unique individual touch, such as contrast stitching and hand-painted edges. Also trending are minimalist, thin and stitchless straps, as well as vintage-style straps with tight, boxed stitching and round tips that used to be fashionable in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Collectors are becoming more discerning and critical in picking their vintage watches; the same is happening with the straps.” 

Still considered the king of the custom strap, Menicucci is known for his vintage leather and suede pieces with trademark contrasting stitches at the lug ends (starting at $85). It was Menicucci who created the black crocodile “Bund” strap that adorned Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona, Ref. 6239, which sold last year for a record $17.8 million.

“When you have a dial with strong patina, a distressed strap can create a charming combination,” says Menicucci. “I use only the first quality of leather. Each and every strap takes 45 minutes to make by hand.” Both Menicucci and Aszodi straps are available through L.A. vintage watch dealer Alessandro Ciani, who adds that “like a living being, a watch can express its unique personality if ‘dressed’ with a perfect fit: the strap maker can be the artist who first interprets and discloses the designer’s original idea.” 

Producer and literary manager Dan Halsted recently purchased a handmade Menicucci vintage leather strap to go with his newly acquired vintage Rolex GMT. “It’s the most comfortable strap I’ve worn,” he says, “and really gives the watch a completely unique look.”


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