Ever since it became the fashion to wear your watch on your wrist rather than in your pocket, leather has been used by watchmakers the world over.

Attach a leather watch strap to your favourite timepiece today and you instantly give it a touch of timeless class.

It’s easy to see why leather has remained such a popular material for so long: as a natural material it is both breathable and comfortable, and unlikely to cause any allergic reactions or skin complaints. It is also highly durable, as the dense fibres of good quality leather make it resistant to the wear and tear of daily life. And of course, leather has high aesthetic appeal as well; there is a reason that leather remains the material of choice for many luxury brands.

Seiko Presage on Kington Short - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

Despite all these qualities, leather is perhaps a little more susceptible to the stresses and strains of life than synthetic alternatives, such as rubber. For us, this is actually part of the appeal of leather: the material gently changes hue and texture over time, responding to your movement and touch. Wear a leather watch strap for any period of time and it becomes uniquely yours, inscribed with your personal story.

As romantic as that sounds, there will of course be parts of the story you want to edit out – the spilled drink or the trip in the mud – and so you will almost certainly want to breathe a bit of life back into your favourite old leather watch strap from time to time. In this post, we’ll take you through how to do this, before offering a few tips on how to prevent your leather watch strap becoming too damaged, and recommending some replacement leather watch straps if there is little chance of reviving your existing one.

Refreshing your leather watch strap

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The most effective way to revitalize the look of your leather watch strap is to give it good clean. With leather being such a sensitive material, you’ll need to follow some careful steps to avoid causing further damage. Note – dunking it in water or using chemicals are not recommended!

Step 1

First, remove your leather watch strap from the watch and wipe it down with a dry, microfibre cloth. Using a microfibre cloth will mean you avoid scratching the leather if there are any specks of dirt on the surface, but will be sure to get all the dust off.

Step 2

Dampen a soft cloth such as a jewellery cloth, and perhaps add a speck of natural soap to its surface. Using gentle circular motions work your way up and down the strap until you have evenly covered all the surface.

Step 3

Take a new cloth, dampen it and using the same technique as before, gently wipe the soap from the cloth. The leather will darken slightly with the moisture.

Step 4

Place your leather watch strap in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Don’t be tempted to put it on a radiator, or blast it with a hairdryer, as this will cause the leather to age and become brittle faster that it naturally would. Just let time do its thing, and you’ll have a leather watch strap with a new lease of life!

To keep your leather watch strap looking its best, you should carry out this cleaning process regularly – once every couple of weeks or month depending on how much you use it. This might seem like an arduous task, but for us it’s another of the pleasures of owning a leather watch strap – the process of caring for it over time simply makes you appreciate it more.

You might also want to protect it further by conditioning or waterproofing your strap. If you choose to do this, always follow the instructions on the product you are using carefully.

Prevention is better than cure

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Now we’ve explained how to get your leather watch strap back to its best, we thought it would be worth sharing a few tips on how to prevent damage and wear and tear as well. Leather being the material it is, a leather watch strap will always show some signs of aging, but there are steps you can take to minimise this. Here are five of the best ways to avoid damage to your leather strap.

Don’t wear it too tight.

Geckota Winstone (MKII) Racing Leather Watch Strap - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

Leather naturally stretches over time, but by choosing a loose fit, you can avoid the material becoming too stressed. If comfortable, always opt for the loosest buckle hole that will best fit your wrist. This will also help you avoid pulling the hole out of shape.

Don’t wear it for housework and chores

The Besford and Painswick Watch Straps - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

If you are cleaning the house, washing up or waxing the car, it’s best to remove your leather watch strap. Leather doesn’t take kindly to the chemicals used in most cleaning products, and blemishes can be difficult or impossible to remove.

Have alternative straps

ZULUDIVER Iridescent Herringbone NATO Strap - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

Leather absorbs moisture, dirt and oils from the atmosphere and your skin, and after a while this can start to affect the look, feel, and even smell. Sometimes it just needs a break, which is why we’d recommend having an alternative strap or two that you swap over. A rubber or NATO strap makes a great alternative for sports or other activities where you may be likely to get wet or dirty. Having an alternative leather strap that you swap over regularly can also help extend the life of both straps considerably. If you are the kind of person that likes to have just one strap at a time, regularly resting your leather watch strap, ideally in a drawer overnight will help restore it too.

Limit exposure to light and heat

Chronoswiss Watches - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

Sunlight and heat can dry the fats and oils in leather, which can make it brittle faster. If possible, try to minimise the strap’s exposure to both, either by concealing under a cuff, or having an alternative strap for outdoor use.

Choose a good quality leather watch strap

Not all leathers are created equal. Making the right choice when you buy will give you a leather watch strap that looks great for longer. Poor quality leathers tend to have more fat in them, which, as outlined above can cause them to become brittle faster. Better quality leathers have a higher grain, which means the fibres are denser and the leather is more durable. Doing a little research into where the leather from your strap comes from can help you find the best quality leather watch straps.

The Otley strap on The Zenith El Primero - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

If you feel you have tried to revive your old leather watch strap and are struggling to get some real life in it, at WatchGecko, we have a fantastic range of high quality leather watch straps at affordable prices for a replacement. The leather we use comes from some of the most renowned European tanneries, and suppliers to some of the best-known luxury brands, so you can be sure you are getting great quality at an accessible price. Browse our extensive collection of genuine leather watch straps here.