This is week 3 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.
Over two years ago, Crown & Buckle reached a milestone with the release of our American Made collection. It featured products hand made directly in house, at our South Florida location. Except for our previous collaborations with Logan Zane and Woodnsteel, this was our first foray into American products, and it was our first time manufacturing under our own roof. The learning curve was steep, but well worth the effort. Our initial American Made collection included NATO straps, 2-piece straps, and watch rolls.
We excelled with the leather NATO straps and continue to make those in house. The 2-piece straps and rolls were more difficult for us. While we had a lot of success selling the best of the 2-piece straps that we made, there was a high rate of rejects during our production process. We of course could not and did not sell those straps. The watch rolls simply took a lot longer to produce than anything else, so we only worked on those once in a while and couldn't keep up the demand for them.
It was back to the drawing board to refine the design and productive efficiency of the 2-piece straps and rolls. In the spring of 2015 we really began to shape what was to become Black Label. We created a new pattern for our watch rolls and transitioned them to a softer leather outer and suede lining that was much more user-friendly. While not made under our own roof any longer, the watch rolls are still made in the United States.
The 2-piece straps were a harder proposition. We realized early on that the leathers we were using for them weren't ideal for the type of construction we were trying to achieve. At that point we were using only Horween leathers. Horween has created quite a name for themselves and they truly make world-class leather. However, most of their trademark leather is very oily and waxy. That makes them great for footwear and even NATO straps, but not great for un-stitched watch straps that are double layered (with a lining on the underside). Most strap makers avoid this issue by making "unlined" 2-piece straps, which are single layer straps like our leather NATOs. To be thin enough to fit between the spring bar and the case of a watch, a NATO has to be thin like that. However, when it came to classically designed 2-piece straps, we wanted them to be more refined and to feature a lining, which created great challenges in both material selection and the assembly process.
The materials we chose and the assembly of the 2-piece straps is a long enough story to warrant it's own post, which will be coming in week 5 of our series. We will go into much more depth with those subjects, which were our greatest challenges of the Black Label project.
Stay tuned for week 4, where we will cover the look and feel of the Black Label brand, and how it compares to our core Crown & Buckle brand.