Strap School is now in session!
by AurelioS - The Strap King
Well, since I've been coronated as the 'Strap King', I might as well live up to the billing here-and-there. I'm putting this together to aid fellow Panerai fans in their search for straps - I mean, there has to be an alternative to $200++ OEM Panerai straps, right? Well there certainly is!
But more than anything, this is primarily meant to be a 'primer' of sorts for rookie Panerai owners - folks that could use a little direction in answering "Who is 'Dirk', and are his sharkskins better than 'Don's'? And just who is DON for that matter, anyway??". Well, we'll get into who they are, and which is better (the answer might surprise you....).
There are many places to acquire straps for your Panerai. What I've done is narrow the field to just a handful of dealers that are 1) easily and quickly available, 2) offer top-flight service, 3) have a good selection and 4) offer a quality product. There are other places to acquire straps; however, I think these will cover you for the most part.
Also, just to get these 2 points out of the way, as to avoid
I'll be talking about LUG WIDTHS, not watch sizes. Lug widths is the space between the lug's where the straps attach to the watch case. Some people will say "I'm looking for a 44mm strap..."; what they really mean is that they need a 24mm strap to fit their 44mm watch. 40mm Panerai's, on the other hand, take 22mm straps. I've included a few in here as well.
Secondly, all straps here are regular length. What this means is that the strap measures "115x75" (in mm's). The shorter number signify's the part that the buckle attaches to. You'll have to measure your wrist and tell your prospective seller what size strap is best for you. For example, I have a 7.5" wrist, and a regular fits fine. A larger wrist, such as 8 inches, would likely need a 120x80; whereas a 7" wrist could likely use a 115x68 or 115x70.
Here are the players in this party:
An overseas firm that can custom make just about any kind of strap you want.
Contact: Lou@Sirtoli.com; Commonly found on TimeZone.com, offering a wide selection of genuine crocodile, sharkskin and calfskin leather straps. One of the larger selections going.
Time's Running Out
Contact: email@example.com; Another well-known and great source of straps, including alternate materials & accessories such as carbon-fiber style straps, extra screw-pins and tubes - I'll get into those in a bit; you'll definitely want some!
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; Maker of thick, solidly built calfskin, sharkskin and nubuck straps. The current rave of Paneristi fans all over.... not cheap, but worth it ~
Contact: email@example.com; Offers cheapie calf-style leather straps - certainly worth a look ~
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; Will be offering 24mm straps in the near future, but I was able to snag a nice 22mm strap that's worth mentioning here.
Contact: email@example.com: Offers Morellato croc-style AND genuine crocodile straps, as well as deployants. Commonly found on TimeZone.com, as well.
Ok, the watches are naked - so here we go!
Here you'll find a few interesting offerings.... since it seems the materials are more commonly available, this is one of your best "bangs-for-your-buck". My favorites, in order of preference:
1) Don's sharky.... At $50, this has to be one of the best bargains out there. As you'll notice in the pic with the blue version the sides are treated - a nice sign of quality touches. As well, the stitching is well done. For the strap itself: it's thick, but not too stiff that it takes 3 days to break in; the underside is padded and comfortable; and is available in various colors (ie. black, blue, grey-sueded - my current fav!, red, med. brown, green). Only drawback, and this is more related to him across the board, is that this is only a little more than a hobby for him. I wish he could take it to the next level.... his inventory, for example is inconsistent. Guess his stuff is in demand - a problem we'd all want. In his defense, if you e-mail him he WILL remember you and notify you when something requested/ordered has come in....
2) Dirk's "Vero Squalo".... A very close second, borderlining on a tie. Sorry, but when we're in the neighborhood of $140., I expect a lot. And this strap really does deliver; however, Don's strap is a better value, period. Dirk's main advantage is that the waterproof construction, with its better backing making the difference. I've recently soaked the hell out of one and it held up decently. But as for the outer material, Don's isn't far off. Bottom line - if your daily activities include continuous immersion in the ocean, for example, then you might be better off with a 'Dirk' strap. However, if you're like me - a Don's is just as good.
Another plus - Dirk attaches the old-school "Pre-Vendome" style buckle on all his straps:
3) Sirtoli's "Matteo" ($33. A more-expensive version is available: the "Miguel", at $55. A little nicer outer material, but essentially the same. That one is available in blue or black only)....
Good marks for various colors, consistent inventory, and fantastic customer service. The quality is is not as nice as Don's - don't get me wrong; it's good stuff and at $32. per, it's pretty cheap. But after two different straps (both new), I noticed tiny little cracks near the buckle pin holes as if these were dried up from sitting for a while. Hardly noticable and nothing serious (or even worth complaining about) - but I've never seen that with any other strap. Both the Matteo and the Miguel are available for watches up to 22mm lug-widths; nothing for 24mm yet.
Plain-Jane, you say? No way... here's another avenue where you can change up your watches appearance, just by putting on a different colored strap. And these also give you the 'old school' look - what the original Panerai's REALLY looked like when they first came out.
1) Numero Uno: Dirk's "Kodiak".... by far the best calfskin you can buy. At $110, that should be the case; however, this time Dirk has exceeded expectations easily. How? Again, that better construction for waterproofing (and also longevity); thick and sturdy; ages gracefully; and gives the watch 'character' as well - his straps come with the 'old-style' buckle that looks like a can-opener. Not kidding - I've used one once in a case of self-defense.
The only drawback is that buying them isn't as easy. He only sells minimums of 2 (not a big deal, but multiple straps can run up $$ quickly), and payment must be done via bank wire-transfer. The upside to this is that you can 'piggyback' others on a deal; there are MANY on various forums (including the Panerai enthusiast's site) that are always willing .
2) OEM Panerai.... Solid construction and stitching; available easily. The downside is that it isn't as thick as a Dirk, nor the water resistance of the outer leather material. For example: when I originally purchased my PAM 3, I had it on the orange-tan strap. It started to drizzle 15 minutes after I left the store (I didn't care - I had my new toy on!). Well, I couldn't help it - but 1 drop fell on the watch's strap and stained it permanently. I couldn't believe it! Not even a half-hour old, and the strap had a mark. Never able to get that out, I eventually sold it off. OEM Panerai calf? Stick with black ~
3) Don's calfskin.... Simple, sturdy and solid. A definite step up from Enzo's strap; if Enzo's could be equated to a 'Volkswagen', then Don's would almost be considered an 'Audi'. Again, the man surely gets top grades for value ~
4) Sirtoli "Bappo".... Decent quality; not typical of their higher-end stuff (ie. crocs), but good. 60% as thick as a Dirk strap, but almost as comfortable, and they break in a little faster. Available in 4 colors - black, blue, brown and an orangey-tan. At $32. each, a great alternative to $100++. Panerai calfskins ~
5) Enzo's calfskin..... Here's the underdog that is a deal in itself: 3 straps for only $25! That includes shipping, and with NO Paypal fees! The man's crazy; then again, we're not talking the Rolls-Royce of straps here. The strap discolors and 'creases' a little faster than the others (see side-by-side pic; the left-hand strap is only 3 days old!). However, the upside is that it's thick (needs 2 days to break in at MOST) and solid - all for $8.33 each! They come in black, brown or my favorite - mustard. The most fun strap out there... yeah, you'll be buying replacements more often than others, but you're still way ahead of the curve. And how can you not like that mustard color?? :)
The fancy stuff. A nice look whether it's going on a GMT, Power Reserve or even Submersible. This one is easy ~
1) OEM Panerai..... Who else? Expensive? Hell yes! But they sure now how to put a sweet-looking croc strap together. As stiff as Jimmy Hoffa, but that pain is over in 2-3 days. Top-notch stitching; many colors available, as to also cater to the ladies - red, baby blue, even bright yellow! The disadvantage is that 1) at $225 or so, you'll soon start to look for alternatives QUICKLY if you want mutiple straps, and 2) the underside stains rather quickly. With the upcoming warmer season, you'll see what I mean. Not pretty! If Panerai could use the same underside as a Dirk sharkskin, then they would never have a strap in stock. And you wouldn't want to look elsewhere. Period.
2) [tie] Sirtoli "Marco" and "Andreas" ("Nikos" or "Pericles" also available, but only up to 22mm; see his site for more info)....
If the Andreas was made in 24mm, that would blow the Panerai's away - comparable top-flight construction and stitching; and a better underside that resists discoloring and staining better than the Panny OEM's... for half the price. But, alas - we only have the Marco's to live with for now. These are excellent quality, and I think a much better value than the Banda straps ($99. shipped). Also well-padded and comfortable; somewhat soft, so there is really no break-in period at all.
The "Marco" straps, in various colors:
Some shots of the high-end Sirtoli, the beautiful "Andreas":
Here's a shot of the "Pericles" strap - all have white stitching for a sportier look:
2) [tie] Don's matte-alligator strap.... I would say with good confidence that this is better than Sirtoli 'Marco', but behind the 'Andreas', so tied for 2nd. At $80. ($20 less than the 'Marco'), this is an outstanding value... seems Don has THAT down pact! Well padded, decent stitching, sides treated and loop-ends that are larger than normal to allow tubes to easily fit. A nice touch on his 24 & 22mm straps (see 2nd pic).
4) Banda.com.... Advantages: custom made sizes, colors, stitching color, tapering or not, buckles or deployants, nicely padded and comfortable - no break-in period needed at all. All for $75-80. shipped! The downside is that the quality is only slightly above average. Stitching isn't always lined up - a small thing, but something that is noticable. Also, the quality of the outer material is pretty good, but no where near the quality of an OEM, Sirtoli or Don's. Consider these if you're after an uncommon color ~
5) Don's crocs.... The only item Don sells that isn't as top notch as other firms/dealers' offerings. His crocodile (outer material that has smaller scaled patterns, as compared to the large-scale alligator) looks cheap. Hey, let's not kid ourselves - they're only 1/4 the price of Panny's leathers. You get what you pay for; do yourself a favor and spend a little more for his alligators, or for the Sirtoli 'Marco'
6) Morellato's "Croc-style"..... A good 'bang for your buck' strap. Hey, they're NOT real crocodile - but at $25-30 each, who cares? You should consider these as option if you really abuse your straps, want to see if a different color is you, or you just don't want to drop $100. or more for something new. Morellato does offer real crocs (available through Ron Z.; check out his ads on TimeZone) that are VERY similar to the Sirtoli Marco's - both in price and quality.
Alternative materials, accessories
In no particular order.........
Don's Hirsch Carbon Sport (available up to 22mm; 24mm might be possible via special order):
Banda's "POLY-TEXTURED" (Water-resistant, with a rubber liner. VERY comfortable):
Dirk's "Nubuck", in dark-grey (Outer material is sueded - very cool; also sea-water resistant for 50 hrs!):
My Watchmaker's "Dakota" (An intentionally designed strap with wrinkles, to give it an 'antique look'. I like it!):
Generic buckles, available from Don. About $9. each (in polished or brushed finish):
Tubes and screw-pins ($6. each or $10 for a set; worth while, as it's easier to swap out straps, and more importantly protects the lug end of the strap from pulling and helps prevents tearing):
Ron Z's deployant (he now has them to fit 22mm buckle ends; $35.
I also have to mention the "WatchBuckler's" offering as well. I haven't tried it out - as I am sure it's top notch quality, if I'm going to drop $200. on a deployant, I'm buying OEM. His end pieces are in gold, which is a nice touch. But IMO, if he were to offer something in the neighborhood of, say, $100. and just made it all SS - I'd bet he woldn't be able to keep ANY in stock. Just a thought ~
Well - that's all, folks ~
Hope this helps you in your quest; a new or different style/colored strap can change the appearance of your watch dramatically!
And, don't forget - it's also a little cheaper than another watch altogether ;)
Well, unless you're me.....
All the best!