I think that it is safe to assume that, if you are reading articles here on WWR, you are in to watches. Yes, we all have our own favorite styles, complications, and brands, but it all falls under the umbrella of watches. Are you as in to watch straps are you are the watches themselves? I have come to realize that I am (Hi, my name is Patrick and I’m a burgeoning watch strap collector).
In many ways, watch straps allow us to scratch that same itch of hunting down the perfect watch for our needs, albeit at a much lower cost of entry. When it comes to inexpensive, bang-for-the-buck straps, Crown & Buckle has long been my go-to place. That meant it was with great interest that I read about their new premium offering, the Crown & Buckle Black Label collection. Today, we will have a look at two of their straps, and a watch pouch, from that line.
As I mentioned above, Crown & Buckle has long been the champ for quality, affordable straps. Fortunately for us (and our wallets), while the Black Label collection is indeed pricier than prior offerings, they are still very much affordable when compared against similar offerings that are out on the market. The first of the straps (made in Spain) we took a look at is known as their Condan ($80) strap, and is one of two suede (the other being the Finn) straps that Crown & Buckle have produced. Why suede? Well, it gives you a much different look and feel given the texture, and that’s what straps are about – mixing things up.
For purposes of testing out the Black Label Condan, I paired it to the venerable (and always-recommended) Seiko Orange Monster. I know what you’re thinking – what am I doing pairing a suede leather strap to this dive watch? Well, I do not know about you, but for me, the Orange Monster lives very much the life of a desk diver. There’s no better way to signal this that putting a leather strap of some sort on it, and this crazy-soft suede Black Label strap did so in style. That softness is the first thing I wanted to touch on. Due to how suede is made (and even with the leather backing on the strap), this is the most flexible (non-textile) strap I have ever put on. It immediately wrapped around my wrist, and stuck nicely in place.
I will admit – the suede of the Black Label Condan was a marked contrast to the Orange Monster. While the dial is glossy and screaming orange, the strap is muted and matte, absorbing the light that hits it. For some, it might be a bit too dark for the watch, but I liked the pairing, and I feel that the white contrast stitching by the lugs picked up enough of a color change to tie it to the case. This also meant that it worked well against the Michelsen Arctic Explorer, with the dark suede tying in nicely with the black accents on the dial.
Then again, that was not the main strap I was testing out on the Michelsen. No, that honor goes instead to the Black Label Quinn ($85). You see, I have long been on the hunt for a good strap for the Michelsen, and I had recently decided to try out something in grey. That meant that Crown & Buckle offering up an option in grey was one I was definitely interested in checking out. And, wouldn’t you know it – the grey is a perfect color for the Michelsen. What makes the Black Label Quinn so unique is the surface finish. It is what is known as “reverse pebbled”; this means that rather than raised patterns, they are debossed. This makes for a really sharp look to the strap, as well as an interesting texture.
The Black Label Quinn, while not nearly as flexible as the Condan, is still a fairly soft strap. The 2.5mm thickness meant it felt initially stiff, but allowed it to easily conform to my wrist. On the wrist, my earlier comments about the looks of the strap were only reinforced. This leather manages to give the look of an exotic animal skin due to it’s patterning, which again mixes things up a bit. While some might think that the grey is a boring choice, I think it was a perfect one to go with for me. It offers the versatility of a black strap (in that it will go with just about anything), but with a softer touch to the look. Frankly, if you have a white-dialed watch in need of a strap, consider the grey Quinn.
While these straps from the Crown & Buckle Black Label collection are certainly the stars of the show, they are not the only leather handiwork showing up in the collection. As it turns out, they are also producing watch pouches, and we were able to check out the blue Adalwin ($50) pouch. In this case, the supple exterior leather of the pouch was in an awesome blue shade (disclaimer: blue is my favorite color), with the interior in a tan suede. That interior material is really the important thing. Being suede, it means it will gentle against any watch you may slide into it. I also like the fact they stayed with a natural material, rather than going with a microfiber lining, as it reinforces the premium feel.
I see the Black Label Adalwin pouch (and it’s brethren) as being a nice travel option. No, this is not something you will expect massive protection from, so it should not be banging around in the bottom of your bag. Reasonably packed, though, this is a tidy way to pack along another watch for your trip, and perhaps even another strap (or two). I can also be a handy way of keeping things organized at home, as I found myself storing the straps Crown & Buckle sent over in it while they were awaiting my testing.
At the end of the day, there really is nothing I can find to say against the new Crown & Buckle Black Label collection. Sure, I might like to see some non-tapered options in the straps, but that’s a minor thing. What Crown & Buckle has managed to do here is take their established model – offering affordable straps with individual looks available in multiple sizes – and taken it to much more of a luxury look and feel, while still offering tremendous value.
While you might be headed over to Crown & Buckle for a new NATO for the summer, definitely give the Black Label collection a gander, and give it a think as to what might work out for when the weather turns cooler. I think these hold their own quite well against other custom leather straps I have tested out, and I am curious to see what our readers think about this new offering – will you be jumping in and checking them out, or are you going to stick with their textile offerings? Inquiring minds want to know! crownandbuckle.com
Tech Specs – Black Label Straps (Condan and Quinn)
- Price: $80 (Condan), $85 (Quinn)
- Thickness: 2.5mm
- Length: 115/75mm (Reg.)
- Widths: 18×16, 20×16, 22×18 (lug x buckle)
- Buckle Type: Vintage Style
- Buckle Finish: Your Choice
- Type: Leather 2-Piece