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Watchbands, or the art of dressing time

November 28 2017

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The material of which a bracelet is made, its thickness, its touch and its color are all details that play a role in the appreciation of a timepiece. But how is a bracelet made? Reportage - Vincent Daveau.


Few amateurs question the nature of bracelets before having to change them. And some even, to avoid having to do so, deliberately choose watch products equipped with original, metal bracelets. This already old fashion developed at the same time as appeared the first waterproof watches designed to be worn in wet areas. It was then generalized, once launched diving instruments to accompany their owners under the sea. Insensitive to the liquid element, these links coexisted with the so-called "NATO" textiles, which were originally cut by soldiers in parachute hangers, once the first bracelet supplied with their endowment watch, destroyed by moisture.

Think differently about dressing a watch
However, it is interesting to have information on the choice and maintenance of its watch strap to preserve the passage of time. The amateur, focused on his watch, often tends to forget that this link requires some attention to last and that it is good to choose it conscientiously to give his watch more consistency, or an originality that could miss.

Often, however, back in the conversation with enthusiasts the recurring problem of the price of bracelets. It is true that leather ties and especially alligator, are very expensive, given the size of the product. But what few people know is that these elements are also very expensive to produce and that, in the end, very few brands are able to provide a quality worthy of attaching a beautiful watch to the wrist.

Talking about manufacturing
As Jacques Bordier, the founder of Jean Rousseau, recently pointed out, leather bracelets are a product that, like watches, require a lot of work done by skilled craftsmen with selected quality materials. with care. For example, an alligator skin (a skin is less than 1 meter long from head to tail) costs about 11 euros per linear centimeter. But just look at a fall of this same skin (farm animal) always more or less standardized in size, to realize that it is not possible to make so many pairs of thongs in such a small area ( a bracelet has two leather sides cut in the same skin and often in the same length). This finding was further confirmed by Mr. Jean-Luc Déchery, owner of the Camille Fournet house, another renowned house in the manufacture of bracelets-leathers.

Tanning, pressing and dyeing
If most manufacturers buy already tinted leather (alligator, calf, goat, ostrich and special skins such as buffalo, toad or cock's feet, etc.), some like the Jean Rousseau house acquire raw to dye in their workshops to ensure the quality and conformity of the product. For Jean Rousseau, crocodile leather is treated individually by experts. Once the colored skin, this one, always wet, is put in tension to allow the interstitial parts, in other words the soft parts between the scales, to be as wide as possible, in order to guarantee the bracelet to remain itself flexible as long as possible.

Once dry, the skin is controlled and sometimes its color is touched up by a specialist so as to standardize the shades in orders (large orders). Obviously all these treatments are monitored and the effluents are reprocessed to avoid pollution.

cut and seam
The stowed leathers are then selected by the operators according to the orders and then cut with tools having the shape of the two strands of the ordered bracelet (width, length, ribbed or straight edges). The order is placed in a bin with the order slip so that the successive workers can carry out the operations requested. The leather is then primed, the parts to be refined are using a machine and the lining is selected, cut to the right extent and glued to the elements intended to give volume and shape to the bracelet. In large manufacturers, these components are made of leather crust or sometimes water-resistant synthetic materials to retain its long-lasting leather. It is also at this time that are placed the inserts intended to allow the future bracelet to be fully integrated into the middle part of the room for which it is intended.

Once these operations of collage done, and that it is not necessary to miss at the risk of having to start again, the bracelet joins the seamstresses' section. The bracelets are then sewn using a conventional sewing machine (more or less) or hand-made by a specialized operator.

Finishing and quality control
Once the bracelets are sewn, those that are not ribbed (leather flower on the sides) receive a flexible paint treatment intended to finish the slice of the product. Then, the coins receive their passers all sewn hand, in tabs of the less noble parts of the leather in which the face of the bracelet was cut. These beautiful links glossed and controlled by specialists with experience of the trade, then leave to be packaged and shipped to destination.

It is now possible to go to the shops of the best makers or to the retailers who own the color charts of the craftsmen with whom they work. However, the customer will also have the opportunity to make his wristband by ordering on the Internet. It's less pleasant than talking to vendors or vendors in dedicated stores who have the know-how and experience to ensure quality advice, but it's faster.

Latest tips

You can never remember enough that a leather bracelet is a fragile product that deserves the attention of its owner. - Vincent Daveau.

Men, whose skin is more acidic, will burn the lining of their bracelet (all brands combined) in just over a year of a daily wear, if they do not pay attention. Women are more fortunate and wear will be in absolute terms, often half as fast. But in all cases, it will not wait to see the element cracking at the closure or fasteners of the case to consider changing it.

The best is to provide for its replacement at the first signs of fatigue of the lining. This is the sign that sweating has done its job and burned the material. The seams, in these conditions are also fragile and may break at any time. And a bracelet, even expensive, is always cheaper than a revision after a fall.

It is possible to replace it for the summer season (period when the bracelets suffer the most), by rubber ties, the steel bracelet of the model that it was possible to acquire in original equipment, or a bracelet in NATO type canvas.

And because we must not be satisfied with the basic colors provided by the brands (black and brown), it will be necessary for the amateur to look at the original colors capable of giving a new youth to his watch ... That's why, nothing will replace human contact and shop trials where retailers have stock to choose from.

Sewing with hand.