The Best Sustainable Watch Strap Makers Right Now - Oracle Time
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The Best Sustainable Watch Strap Makers Right Now

Votch Pinatex Straps

Like the fashion industry before it, the watch world is waking up to the fact that not all straps are, shall we say, 100-per-cent ethical. Aside from the usual problems with fine leather and the waste by-products of tanning, you’ll occasionally see a watch on some exotic animal skin that’d have Greenpeace up in arms – and they often look awful, too.

Then there are the non-leathers that aren’t all that much better. After all, rubber isn’t the most sustainable of products and the amount of waste that comes from the milling and machining of a metal bracelet can be just as bad, no matter how carefully the maker tries. Then there’s the factories that pump out strap after strap using sweatshop-style cheap labour. Every problem fashion has, watch straps have, too.

Outerknown Econyl Yarn Nato Straps

Think of it like you would a fine bag; the end result may look the part, suit your watch perfectly and sit comfortably on the wrist, but does it sit as comfortably on the conscience? The more you look into it, you more you might think that it does not. Now I’m not saying that everyone should tie their vintage Rolex on with an old bit of hemp rope, but as we wake up to the environmental issues surrounding straps, it’s worth taking a look at the possible alternatives – particularly if they look this damn good.

Jean Rousseau Vegetable Tanned Calf Strap, £95

Jean Rousseau Vegetable Tanned Calf Strap

The French artisans at Jean Rousseau make some incredibly handsome, often brightly coloured numbers in plenty of different exotic (though non-endangered) skins. By contrast this soft, subtle calfskin strap is relatively run-of-the-mill, except for one thing: vegetable tanning. Essentially, it’s a way of tanning leather using all-natural products, eschewing the harsh chemicals that can leech into the ground in most tanning factories.

The result is something that’ll suit any gold dress watch to a tee, but safe in the knowledge that it’s about as sustainable as leather can be.

Available at Jean Rousseau.

Suede Strap Vintage Ocean Blue, €39

Suede Strap Vintage Ocean Blue

Similar to the Jean Rousseau version, this lovely suede strap from Watch Bandit is all natural, using non-harmful tanning products to get the right finish. And what a finish it is; the Vera Pelle leather not only has that tactile lustre that suede’s known for, but the colour is magnificent. If you’re wearing anything remotely nautical, there’s not much better.

Better yet, it’ll also last. In fact, treat it well and it’ll age as well as your watch, gaining a nice patina over time. It means that, aside from the natural tanning employed, this is a strap that’ll last a lifetime and there’s not much more sustainable than that.

Available at Watch Bandit.

Votch Piñatex Strap, £30

Votch Pinatex Strap

If you want to cut out leather entirely then simply making it sustainable won’t do; you need an alternative. Well, look no further than this novel strap from vegan strap specialist Votch. Rather than the usual plasticky faux leathers, Piñatex is made from pineapple leaf fibres, a by-product of the fruit farming process.

Even if you didn’t know that, this is still a good-looking, intensely masculine black strap, complete with a blacked-out buckle ready for a stealthy, under-the-radar kind of watch. The only downside is that, being a natural material, you need to take care of it – so no diving!

Available at Votch.

Outerknown Econyl® Yarn Nato Strap, £140

Outerknown Econyl Yarn Nato Strap

Don’t worry, there is a purely environmentally friendly alternative to your usual rubber diving strap, too. In fact, each strap you buy from sustainably focused surfing brand Outerknown – via watchmaker Breitling – helps clean the oceans. That’s because the innovative Econyl® Yarn is created from nylon waste recovered from fishing nets and other detritus found in the sea.

The result is a strap that’s not only naturally at home in the water, but also comes in a variety of bright colours perfect for a funky, retro diver. My pick of the bunch is this unmissable orange and yellow piece, though there are more subtle pieces if you can’t handle the brightness.

Available at Breitling.

Geckota Greenwood Mkii Deployment Strap, £58

Geckota Greenwood MKII Depolyment Strap

If you really want to hammer home the hipster vegan vibes, then look no further than this striking, rustic looking strap from online retailer WatchGecko. Made of 100-per-cent cork (other than the stainless-steel deployment clasp, obviously) it’s naturally waterproof and lightweight. As cork’s not the nicest material against the skin, it’s also lined with soft Vegan-friendly PU leather to sit comfortably against the wrist.

Available in either bamboo or agave cork, my votes for the latter, with a slightly lighter colour and more regular grain. Either way, these aren’t straps for anyone that wants to fit in. Still, at least if anyone asks you can tell them that you’re saving the world, one strap at a time.

Available at Watch Gecko.

About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.

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