The world of watch straps is a far deeper and more exotic place than you might imagine. Yes, you can maintain the authenticity of a timepiece by keeping it on its original strap… or you could be adventurous and personalise your watch by giving a strap that you find more comfortable or that reflects your personality (or even the personality of the watch) far better. We recently took a look beneath the waves at a selection of unusual and exciting marine straps so now it’s time to surface and look at some land-based exotic leathers that can add incredible amounts of character to your watch. Here is our top 5 picks for exotic leather watch straps from Jean Rousseau.
Graffiti Collection Alligator, £335
One of Jean Rousseau’s specialties is their dedication to colour and bursting right into the scene with a wealth of colour and vibrance is the Jean Rousseau Graffiti Collection Alligator strap in purple. The French Maison’s artisanal processes allow them to unlock the richness of a material like alligator through the bold, exciting application of unusual patterns, textures and of course, colour.
Here we see that the scales have a rich purple tone with an intentional scuffing to it that’s reminiscent of street art. The lavender lines between the scales forming the cement work in this leather interpretation of a chaotic brick wall. It would pair well with a watch that’s equally classical yet extraverted such as the Fears Brunswick Jubilee although maybe that watch comes to mind simply because it’s also purple.
Sherry Ostrich, £190
While alligator certainly qualifies as an exotic leather, one of the most striking leathers in Jean Rousseau’s repertoire is ostrich. Ostriches have always been seen as a luxurious animal with their feathers in particular prized for hats and military uniforms. In the grand scheme of things, it was relatively recently that their leather began to be popular, really taking off in the 1970s and 80s as a premium luxury leather.
Presented here in the rich yellow-brown of sherry, the strap stands out for its unique pattern derived from the follicles created in ostrich skin by the protrusion of feathers. While the material became popular in the seventies, I think the Sherry Ostrich would look great on something even more retro than that, such as the Art Deco influences of the Alpina Alpiner Carrée.
Navy Blue Lizard, £190
One of the stand out exotic leather watch straps is lizard, which stands out compared to many other types of leathers for the fineness of its scales. There are hundreds of tiny round scales compared to the few dozen scales you might get on an alligator strap. It gives the lizard strap a highly distinctive texture that catches the light like no other exotic strap. These unique properties are further highlighted by Jean Rousseau’s use of colour.
With this strap they’ve used a dark navy blue with a lighter blue tone around the edges of the scales. It almost looks like the leather equivalent to aventurine glass, a dark surface speckled with bright points. A watch for this strap should be sleek and elegant to really emphasise the material’s charm, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas comes to mind. It’s worth noting that with their bespoke service Jean Rousseau can accommodate for any style of lugs including very specific ones like the integrated design of the Overseas.
Vintage Brown Alligator, £335
It’s important to remember that exotic leathers don’t have to be bright colours with bold aesthetics, they can also be grounded, subtle and elegant. That’s where the Vintage Brown Alligator strap absolutely shines. It’s as classic as they come with a gorgeous chocolate brown colour and square scales. There are actually a number of different types of scale an alligator strap can have, which depends on where on the hide the leather is taken. Large square scale tend to be from the chest or belly area and are the most expensive, round scales from elsewhere are typically smaller and less valuable.
Historically, alligator straps have always been associated with dress watches and high luxury. The classical appearance of the strap pairing with the classical appearance of the watch. A watch such as the Patek Philippe Calatrava.
Anthracite Ostrich, £190
Another example of an exotic leather strap being subtle is the Antracite Ostrich. Much like the Sherry Ostrich above it has the unique texture native to ostrich but instead of a warm brown tone it’s cold and dark. Specifically, it’s anthracite colour, which is a charcoal kind of grey that’s not quite black and is named after a type of high lustre coal. It highlights the texture of the leather to an even higher degree as the gentle folds and markings of the hide stand out even more against the dark colour.
Exotic leathers don’t tend to by hyper sporty but I think there’s a certain quality to the Anthracite Ostrich that would make it work alongside a sporty aesthetic. Which is why my recommended pairing would be something like the reverse panda Tag Heuer Carrera Glassbox, a super stylish chronograph with a retro slant.