I’ve seen many people asking, what band would their watch originally been sold on. The truth is: unless you can find the original advertisement or catalog entry for your watch, there’s no real way of knowing.
So, can you assume that a watch would’ve been fitted with a particular type of strap? Yup.
Leather types – now and then
Modern watches come in a variety of bands. Alligator, crocodile, gator/croco grain, calfskin, ox leather, textile, nylon. That’s a lot of choices.
Was this the way things were in the past? No, not really.
Most of the straps you’ll see on adverts for watches from the 1940s, and the 1950s were pigskin. That’s not that surprising. Pig hide was and is inexpensive, and was available in huge quantities.
It’s a good material for watch bands because it’s strong while staying supple at the same time.
You can quickly identify pigskin straps in old adverts. The grain is distinctive and unmistakable. These bands came in light colors, from beige-ish light brown/gold brown to dark tan. Other hides were mostly finished in dark brown or black.
Pigskin straps were put on just about everything. From functional sports/field-style watches up to dress watches in different styles from borderline casual up to most formal.
This isn’t surprising at all. They matched virtually every style of the watch because of their simplicity.
Calf and alligator leather
Straps made of materials other than pigskin were often used on dress watches. Not exclusively, at least that’s the case with calf leather. Still, calfskin straps were mostly used on the more expensive models.
Now, this doesn’t mean that luxury dress watches weren’t equipped with pigskin bands. As shown in the example of the Omega Centenary, they were. It’s hard to call anything here a rule. When you’re looking for a period-correct watch band, it’s about the likelihood that a specific combination was used. It’s not definitive, but it’s enough to make a satisfying choice.
“So, what’s the period-correct band for my watch?”
As long as you don’t put a field/”military” style watch on an alligator strap, you can’t go wrong with a plain calfskin or pigskin. This combination was probably used back in the day.
If you find the original advert for your watch, you’re in luck. If you don’t – and in the case of obscure and forgotten brands, that’s usually the case – you can only rely on the trends of the era to show you the way.
It’s a safe bet, and sometimes a bet is as good as it gets. Then again, can you get it wrong?
As long as the style of the strap fits the watch and it’s in line with the straps on ads for similar watches, you’re good to go.