The watch collecting hobby has dozens of sub genres such as dive watches, vintage watches, chronographs, specific brands and even straps. As predominantly leather clad watches like those from Panerai have increased in popularity so in turn has the practice of fitting new and varied straps to these watches. The Paneristi are not alone in this pursuit of the perfect strap as many sport watches look great on a leather strap and straps can range in price from just a few dollars on eBay to custom straps that can cost several hundred dollars whether they are OEM (from the watch manufacturer) or from designers like ABP Paris.
I have been wearing dive watches on leather straps for a while as I find it very comfortable and generally like the casual appeal of a chunky leather strap. A few months ago I started looking into custom options for a leather strap that could fit a few of my dive watches while not costing more than the Seiko that would wear it. In the past I have owned a few different examples of the Hirsch Liberty leather strap and while they are very nice for the price (around $40) they do tend to wear out and the stitching is only available in contrast white which gives almost any watch an aviator or Breitling aesthetic.
My search lead to Toshi Straps, a small operation out of London, England where a man named Richard Beard is making custom crafted leather straps for order via his website. Toshi’s site allows you to choose the leather, stitching, buckles, and keeper orientation so you have a strap that looks the way you want. Straps can be made to a variety of sizes and there are options for the length of the strap as well so you don’t end up with a strap that is too long in the tail or sits lop-sided on your wrist. I easily ordered a 22mm strap made of matte black leather with black stitching and fitted with one sewn in keeper and one floating keeper. Once the order was placed I received ample communication and excellent customer service as the strap takes about two weeks to be finished before being shipped. Editors note: Toshi Straps did not supply a review sample or any promotional consideration for the strap I ordered, it was ordered because I really wanted one and I bought it with my own funds.
I have now been wearing the strap on whatever was available in the Watch Report garage, most notably a Seiko SKX007 and a Benarus Remora. The strap is about 4mm thick and the matte black leather has a very fine grain and no visible natural markings, these straps are oiled by hand so mine was little stiff but after being worn for a couple of weeks the strap has softened up and is very comfortable. With a hand made strap you get little details that aren’t present on mass produced leather straps. The keepers, for example have had their edges (where they meet to form a loop) shaved so they fit together and don’t overlap and increase in thickness. The floating keeper is finished with an “x” shaped stitch and the head of the strap (with the buckle) is signed “Toshi Straps”. It is really a joy to wear and the matched stitching is really a nice subtle design that will age well and will match many different looking watches.
My Toshi strap did not have any fancy buckles or heavy customization and I paid a completely reasonable 60 GBP (~$100 USD), for that price you get a watch made of the material to select, the stitching you prefer and the length to give a perfect fit and Richard guarantees his straps for life. This is definitely the next step up from what is offered by Hirsch or Di-Modell and Toshi straps are priced far below the hundreds of dollars you can spend on an OEM strap from many well known brands. If you are searching for something to breathe some life into a watch you have been ignoring or just want some new shoes for your favorite diver, check out Toshi’s site for a gallery of their creations.