This is week 5 of our Black Label Experience series, where we will be posting a behind the scenes view of our Black Label line over the coming weeks. View all the posts here.
In 2014, we launched our American Made collection almost exclusively using Horween Leather hides. Horween is probably the most well known leather tannery in the world (besides luxury conglomerates like Louis Vuitton and Hermes), having made a strong name for themselves over the last century. They certainly deserve their excellent reputation and the allure surrounding their renowned products like Shell Cordovan and Chromexcel leathers.
Watch straps require leather with very specific characteristics. A strap needs to be comfortable, but it can't be flimsy. Stretch is typically a bad thing for watch straps, and lots of leathers get stretchy the thinner they are. It's easy for leather to be strong when it's several millimeters thick. However, if a strap is double layered, you are looking at a maximum of 2mm per layer, or just ~1.25mm per layer for svelte designs like our Black Label straps.
We've learned a lot about picking out the best leathers for watch straps through our own manufacturing. One of the things we've learned is that what works for one type of strap may not work for another. For instance, when it came to the Black Label watch straps, any oily or waxy leather would not be suitable. With the strap only being sewn at key points, we are relying on strong glue to hold the layers of the strap together. However, any oil and/or wax present in leather prevents the glue from bonding properly. Improper glue bonding can cause the layers to split apart, sometimes the very first time you flex the strap! That is why it was vitally important for us to use appropriate leathers for these straps.
You may have noticed that the Horween name is absent from the descriptions of our Black Label products. That is not at all a knock against Horween; we simply made the decision to use Spanish and other American leathers for Black Label to best fit the specific demands. We selected leathers with characteristics that would allow them to be glued and form a rock-solid bond that won't separate. In the future we will continue to use Horween leathers for a lot of our American Made products, but that collection will also be increasingly supplemented with other American tanneries. Those tanneries may be less known, but they nevertheless make excellent leathers for watch straps.
Lastly, we made the conscious decision to withhold the names of the tanneries for the Black Label products. We did so as the only benefit would be for our competitors. The tanneries used essentially have no public presence and no brand recognition, meaning the average consumer would have no association with the name, unlike with Horween Leather. Big name or not, this is some of the best leather in the world, perfectly suited for the specific application of watch straps, rolls, and pouches.