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Expert tips: How to care for your leather watch straps

An expert from Santoni – the Italian shoe company that makes straps for IWC – on keeping your watch straps in tiptop condition and why metal bracelets are a no-no for him.

“I think leather makes one look more like a gentleman,” declares Andrea Casavecchia, the regional director of Santoni Asia, when we ask him to weigh in on a familiar debate: Leather strap or metal bracelet? Certainly, as part of an Italian company that has specialised in handmade leather shoes since 1975, Casavecchia might be a little biased, but he has a point.

Checking out the latest IWC watches bearing Santoni calf or alligator straps at a recent showcase at the IWC boutique at Marina Bay Sands, it’s evident that a well-made leather strap significantly adds to the appearance of a timepiece. And just so you know, in its workshop in the Italian region of Marche, Santoni employs 30 artisans who specialise in crafting watch straps for IWC, as part of an exclusive partnership that began in 2011. Here, Casavecchia tells us how he keeps his watch straps looking new after years of use, and why he doesn’t do metal bracelets.

Santoni Asia regional director Andrea Casavecchia (left) and IWC Southeast Asia MD Matthieu Dupont, at the IWC and Santoni artisanal showcase at Marina Bay Sands.

1) How do we prevent straps from falling apart after prolonged exposure to sweat? 

Leather products are natural and, like all natural products, are prone to deterioration. I recommend not wearing your watch 24/7. Give it a break and let it dry properly after you wear it. This will help all skins last longer. I have watches that I use maybe once a week, and after five years, the strap still looks the same. It’s not plastic; you can’t wear it 365 days a year and go swimming with it.

An artisan from Santoni’s workshop in Italy accentuates the alligator skin’s veins using natural paints during the IWC and Santoni artisanal showcase.

2) What else can one do to take care of a leather strap?

When you polish your shoes, polish your watch strap at the same time. Use a neutral (no-colour) cream on the watch strap and polish it using a soft cloth.

On the wrist of Andrea Casavecchia: The IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition “Antoine de Saint-Exupery”, fitted with a Santoni strap, of course.

3) What happens if my Santoni strap gets damaged anyway?

If you see stains or scratches, just bring it to our shop and we can repaint it for you.

4) Do you ever wear metal bracelets?

I don’t use metal bracelets, but it all depends on one’s individual style. To me, it’s more classy to see a man wearing a watch with a leather strap; it makes one look more like a gentleman. But some younger men wear watches with metal bracelets and look very nice. I like the Portofino models with the hand-painted testa moro (dark brown) alligator strap, and also the “Rudolph Caracciola” Ingeneiur Chronograph, which has a special strap – although this strap isn’t made by Santoni (laughs).

The IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Monopusher, with a dark brown alligator strap by Santoni.