Leather and Lugs: The Making of a Hermès Watch Strap

Watch straps usually play second fiddle to the Breitling fake watches online they hold in place. Not at La Montre Hermès, which takes its leather goods as seriously as it does its watchmaking. In this feature, Gisbert Brunner explores how a fine leather watch strap is crafted.

For many watch fans, connoisseurship stops at the case lugs; the watch strap, a temporary, easily replaced accompaniment, is no more worthy of study than a paper napkin. That isn’t fair. Fine watch straps reward scrutiny the same way fine watch movements and cases do. Equipped with a little knowledge of leather-crafting techniques, a connoisseur can become as expert a judge of the former as of the latter.

A good place to start one’s study is at the world-famous, crème-de-la crème leather goods company Hermès. The company makes some 120,000 straps per year, not only for its own collection of Hermès-brand watches but for those of Parmigiani Fleurier as well.

Hermes leather strap tool

The company developed its leather-making prowess long before the wristwatch came along. In 1837, Thierry Hermès, a saddler and maker of other equestrian tack, opened a workshop in a back courtyard on Rue Basse de Rempart in Paris. The quality of his products soon earned him an enviable reputation. He moved to the Faubourg Saint-Honoré and, over the decades, Hermès and his descendants diversified into wallets, handbags, belts and luggage, earning the family brand considerable renown. In the early 20th century Hermès began marketing wristwatches manufactured by outside suppliers and equipped with its own leather straps. It introduced its first Hermès-brand wristwatches in 1928.

Thierry Hermes

Today, Hermès makes its watch straps in two facilities. One is in Switzerland, in the town of Brügg, near Bienne, where Hermès’s watchmaking offshoot, La Montre Hermès (founded in 1978), assembles its watches. There, in a small atelier in the big, modern-looking factory, 12 highly trained strap makers ply their craft. The other facility, where 30 of the company’s strap makers work, is in Paris.

One-third of the company’s straps are made from alligator; the rest are made of calfskin, buffalo or ostrich hide. As is true of all of Hermès’s leather goods, the watch straps are made from only the most meticulously selected raw material. Only about 40 straps can be made from each calf hide because Hermès uses only the skin from the calf’s back. No more than four straps can be made from an alligator skin because only the belly portion is used; the remainder of the scaly skin is incinerated.

Hermes strap perforation

It takes at least two hours to make each standard strap, and considerably longer to make customized ones. Each strap consists of three layers: the upper leather, visible when the best Panerai replica watches is worn; a textile lining beneath it; and the lower leather, which comes into contact with the wearer’s wrist. Once the leather blanks have been stamped, their edges are beveled until they are paper-thin. This ensures that they don’t bulge after they are folded over and stitched down.

Glue is an important bonding material for strap making, but stitching plays an even bigger role. There are two main varieties of seams: machine-stitched and saddle-stitched. The latter requires two needles plied in opposite directions. The thread is knotted in the last few millimeters of the strap, where the “tunnel” for the spring bar is located. Artistry and technical skill are equally important in sewing a saddler’s seam. The strap’s loops are particularly challenging: the craftsman makes six perfectly placed stitches to merge the loop’s ends. Machine-sewn seams also require deftness and experience: each material must be stitched at its own particular angle, so the machinery must be adjusted prior to sewing.

Hermes leather strap - sewing

After the needle comes the hammer. Hermès will not accept protruding seams, so the strap makers gently rap and tap with their hammers until each strap is flat and smooth.

The next step, processing the edges, usually requires at least 15 separate tasks. Each is executed by hand: abrading, waxing in the desired color, heating to between 176 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and polishing. Depending on the strap, the entire procedure must be repeated as often as five times. Afterward, slim grooves are embossed into the upper leather parallel to the strap’s margins.

Finally, the atelier’s director scrutinizes each strap under a loupe. If he discovers no flaws, the strap is punched with marks specifying its material and year of manufacture. The letter “K,” for instance, denotes bands made in 2007. An “L” means the strap was made at La Montre Hermès in Bienne and a “V” means it was made in Paris.

Before a particular strap style goes into serial production, it has already been tested for durability. This process occurs off-site, at the Laboratoire Dubois, an independent material-testing institute in La Chaux-de-Fonds. There, the straps undergo the so-called “Chronofiable” trials, which check their long-term performance under conditions straps rarely encounter in the real world. The strap must stand up to these torture tests in order to be approved for serial production.

Hermes leather strap -  edge finishing

In all likelihood, Hermès will one day shift all of its strap production to  the La Montre Hermès facility. Right now, there is not enough floor space there to do so. Fortunately, Hermès owns a neighboring lot where it plans to build an annex. When completed, it will house a capacious leather warehouse and new workbenches.

Hermès will then need to find and train qualified personnel. Artisans such as these are at least as valuable as watchmakers; Hermès suffers a major loss whenever an employee departs because it takes so long to bring new employees up to the company’s high standards. Steve Scheuber, head of the strapmaking atelier, says, “At least one year passes at any new replica Breitling watches strap manufacturing site before 80 percent of the straps made there are acceptable.”

IWC announces its connected watch

Continuing the company’s long tradition of engineering innovation, Swiss luxury IWC replica watches manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen is announcing the launch of a new device: IWC Connect. This intelligent tool, which will be embedded in the straps of mechanical timepieces from IWC, is designed to give wearers control over certain devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) and provide fully fledged activity tracking. The idea behind this new innovation is to enable owners of IWC timepieces to control their connected environment directly from the wrist while also maintaining the integrity of a handcrafted mechanical timepiece.

Engineered to be integrated into the straps of Breitling sports replica watches, beginning with the Big Pilot’s Watches, the IWC Connect answers the needs of discerning customers by providing a high-quality luxury design solution: it not only tracks the wearer’s activities, but also allows them to inter- act with connected devices in their environment (IoT).

“Seeing that many of our customers and brand ambas- sadors are wearing connected devices alongside  their IWC watches, we chose to work with a like-minded digital technology company to develop an elegant, aesthetically complementary solution that eliminates the need to have additional devices on the opposing wrist to your IWC,” ex- plains Georges Kern, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen. “But, and this is essential, we do not touch our beautiful Breitling fake watches – an ‘IWC’ stays a mechanical handcrafted timepiece. We’ve engineered an intelligent design solution which perfectly integrates and underlines our product worlds.”

TAG Heuer Joins World Surf League as Official Timekeeper of Big Wave Tour

The World Surf League (WSL) and TAG Heuer today announced the Swiss Breitling replica watchmaker’s sponsorship as “Official Timekeeper” of the WSL Big Wave Tour (BWT), lending the company’s reputation for “Avant-Garde” to a sport that champions fearlessness, athleticism and places a premium on quality and preparedness. This multi-year partnership will see the TAG Heuer inject its #DontCrackUnderPressure campaign into the heart of big wave surfing, serving as the Official Watch of the tour, and supporting the “Biggest Wave” and “Biggest Wipeout” components of the annual WSL Big Wave Awards.

Jean-Claude Biver, President of the LVMH Group Breitling fake Watch Division and CEO of TAG Heuer commented: “Be Unique, Different and the First has always been my personal philosophy in all my 40 years of activities, from products development to marketing and sponsoring. TAG Heuer is the first luxury brand to enter the Surf World. Our motto #DontCrackUnderPressure fits perfectly with the WSL Big Wave Tour and makes our partnership different and innovative. It will give TAG Heuer a great boost in terms of connecting with young people, with the support of our friend Kai Lenny and his highly contagious enthusiasm.

“When the WSL acquired the Big Wave Tour and Big Wave Awards, we believed it was an opportunity to elevate some of the most inspiring sportsmen on the planet and their passions to a bigger stage,” Paul Speaker, WSL CEO, said. “This elevation has not only seen a surge in attention to this incredible sport but has also provided the League with the opportunity to partner with world-class entities. We’re thrilled to announce TAG Heuer replica watches as the Official Timekeeper of Big Wave surfing and we look forward to a long and fruitful partnership.”

TAG Heuer spin up its first store in Panama

TAG Heuer replica watches proudly opened its first store in Panama City in Multiplaza Pacific Mall under the turntable of Sara Castro well known Panamanian’s young DJ!

The ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by the management of TAG Heuer with the presence of Henri Monti, Sales Director for Latin America and Sabrina Bergopsom Marketing Director, and Roberto Neira General Manager of Motta International, the partner of the brand since its inception in the country over 20 years ago.

The new boutique bears the latest TAG Heuer design concept which expresses its four universes (Sports, Lifestyle, Art, Heritage and Swiss Know-how) through the use of prestigious and avant-garde materials with a blend of warm and chic colors. Using a succession of strata to break up the walls with giants visuals of the brand’s ambassadors, it creates an entirely vibrant new way of showcasing its products.

It is the 6th boutique in Latin America and the 169th worldwide, and completes the wide spread international retail network at the premium locations (Geneva, Paris Champs- Elysees, New York City 5thAvenue, Ginza, Singapore Orchad Road, Hong Kong Times Square…) of the Swiss Avant-Garde Luxury Swiss Breitling replica watchmaker.

When entering the store, the guests were magnetized by the unique Carrera Mikropendulum epitomic timepiece regulated by electromagnetic field instead of traditional gears and the TAG Heuer 2015 novelties such as TAG Heuer Carrera 1887 with blue dial. Throughout the evening Sara taught a few DJ’s trick and between two tracks, she even had the time to set some impressive timing by driving the motoracing simulator.

The opening of the store will be celebrated with the general public through the motor racing exhibition which will take place from April 29th to May 2nd 2015 in front of the new Breitling replica watches store at ground level of the Multiplaza Pacific Mall.  During the 4 days, the mall goers will be able to enter in a daily competition to attempt to be on the podium and to be rewarded with a prize from the brand.