Straps are often a point of discussion when it comes to watches and especially when it is about vintage time pieces. A good strap and then I do not mean, well made, but good from a style point of view, can add só much to the presence of the watch. Nowadays almost any brand presents its entire collection on alligator straps, no matter what kind of watch it is. Usually black or brown alligator. A good looking, but safe solution, since most people prefer alligator over anything else. The larger brands often have a variety of colours available and just a few types of leather. In general it is alligator and if you’re lucky you may find some calf leather straps. Going beyond this traditional path, sets the owner apart from the crowd. Not only when an unusual colour is chosen, but especially when the right type of leather is selected for the piece.

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In case of the JLC Reverso Rouge, a re-issue of the 1934 model, I was not that thrilled with the black alligator strap, that was supplied with the watch. Mainly since alligator does not match the style of the thirties, the period when the watch was designed. So I chose ‘strap maker’ Jean Rousseau in Paris, to see what were the possibilities.

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Jean Rousseau is a well known French leather-goods company with shops in Paris, London and Tokyo. The company was founded in Besancon, where at that time many watch companies were based. The company specialized as a maker of watch straps for individual watch makers and brands, but in the mean time Jean Rousseau also produces great belts, wallets, phone cases and more. Personal service and advice is what sets Jean Rousseau apart from other makers.

Jean Rousseau is a very good strap and leather accessories maker, where it is possible to order on line, or where one can discuss straps in person, in their Boutiques in Paris, Tokyo or London. Their collection of leather types is really huge, from goat to calf, to all kinds of reptiles and even buffalo or elephant. Ordering in one of the Boutiques is really convenient, since the staff will give all kinds of advice, when they see the watch in person. But the online website is very user friendly too and this time I chose to order on line.

For this Reverso the strap had to be as plain and simple as possible, so I opted for embossed calf in dark green. The green makes a nice combination with the red dial and it can be worn with actually any other colour. A leather like this is available in a variety of colours, from black to green and dark brown to a soft tan. Calf or goat is in my opinion a great match for a reissue model like this.

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Same feelings with the Cartier Tank Mono Poussoir. This watch is also a perfect re-edition of a model from 1933, so the alligator that was supplied with the watch, was historically not a great match. It is too rich and too modern for a vintage looking time piece like this. The watch should look as vintage as it could be. After going through the JR Catalog, I found this matt buffalo in a wiskey colour.

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To make it even more vintage looking, I opted for hand stitching, that gives a marvelous effect, especially when the strap is a bit wider. Since most Cartier watches are equipped with an adjustable folding buckle,

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it is comfortable when the strap part that is folded back on the inside, is as short as possible. This is one of the advantages of ordering a bespoke strap from Jean Rousseau, everything can be done.

Eye for detail. Even the inside can be done anyway the client likes. Nice example is this really simple Must de Cartier Tank from around 1978. The watch came originally with a nice black lizard. The wish was to get a same kind of strap, but with a larger scale.

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The black Python did the trick nicely and was complimented with a bordeaux red lining of calf leather. May be not that important, but it does give this simple watch something extra.

Another alternative for the regular and popular ‘large scale croc look’ is Crocodile flank. The leather is taken from that part of the body, where the scales are much smaller. This gives a different and less recognizable look, while it is from the same reptile.

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It is often seen as a less quality, because of the size of the scales, but especially on smaller watches like this Santos Dumont and Tank Chinoise the result came out quite smart.

These examples are just a few possibilities that give an idea, what the right strap does with a vintage or re-issue time piece. It goes without saying that the sky is the limit when something very special is needed for a Franck Muller Crazy Hour, or another flamboyant time piece.

–GEO is contributor of Revo-Online & Revolution Magazine and passionate about Cartier, independents and fine watchmaking,
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