Period Correct Watch Bands – 1940s & 1950s

 In Collecting Watches

I’ve seen many people asking, what band would their watch originally have 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 on a variety of bands. Alligator, crocodile, gator/croco grain, calfskin, ox leather, textile, nylon. That’s a lot of choice.

Was this the way things were in the past? No, not really.

Period correct watch straps - 1940s & 1950s

1940s Mido Multi-Centerchrono advert. Most likely on a pigskin strap. Photo credit: Magazine Advertisements

Pigskin everywhere

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 good material for watch bands because it’s strong while staying supple at the same time.

You can easily 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.

Period correct watch straps - 1940s & 1950s

Omega Centenary advert from the 1950s. Band? Pigskin. Photo credit: Magazine Advertisements

This isn’t surprising at all. They matched virtually every style of watch because of their simplicity.

Calf and alligator leather

Straps made of materials other than pigskin were often used on dress watches. Obviously, not exclusively, at least that’s the case with calf leather. Still, calfskin straps were mostly used on the more expensive models.

Period correct watch straps - 1940s & 1950s

Early to mid 1950s. Longines dress watch fitted with a black or dark brown alligator strap. Photo credit: Magazine Advertisements

Now, this obviously 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 band, it’s about the likelihood that a certain 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 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.

Period correct watch straps - 1940s & 1950s

Pigskin or calfskin? Hard to say, but as long as the choice of strap goes along with the style shown in an advert from the period that a watch was made in, both are correct. Photo credit: Magazine Advertisements

It’s a safe bet, and sometimes a bet is as good as it gets. Then again, can you really 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.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Avatar
    Eric Wind
    Reply

    Great topic and post, Michal!

    • Michał Kolwas
      Michał Kolwas
      Reply

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Avatar
    andrew
    Reply

    Great article

    I love the old straps – too many people throw them away when they come across barn finds.

    Clean up with saddlers leather restore polish and they look so good.

    Any ideas about where to find these style straps new now though?

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