I have seen many people asking, what strap 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? Well, yes.
Leather types – now and then
Contemporary watches come on a variety of straps. Alligator, crocodile, gator/croco grain, calfskin, ox leather, textile, nylon. That’s quite a choice.
Was this the way things were in the past? No, not really.
The most 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 straps because it’s strong while staying supple at the same time.
You can easily identify pigskin straps in old adverts. The grain is quite distinctive and unmistakable. These straps came in fairly 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 watch because of their simplicity.
Calf and alligator leather
Straps made of materials other than pigskin were more likely to be found 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 by a particular brand.
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 strap, it’s more about the likelihood of the combination being correct. While that alone is nothing definitive, it’s enough to make a satisfying choice.
“So, what’s the period-correct strap for my watch?”
As long as you don’t put a field/”military” style watch on an alligator strap, there’s hardly any way of going wrong with a plain calfskin or pigskin. The combination will probably be something you could encounter 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.
It’s pretty much a safe bet, and sometimes a bet is as good as it gets. Then again, since it’s a safe bet, 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 shown on the ads for watches of a similar design, you’re good to go.