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The art of the leather strap by Hermès

The leather straps on Hermès watches are crafted with as much care and using a similar array of beautiful leathers as the famous Kelly and Birkin bags. Leather artisans at Hermès' Swiss workshops put as much care into making a little watch strap as they would any other product to bear the Hermès stamp. To say that Hermes is obsessive about how it makes any one of its products is something of an understatement. A visit to La Montre Hermès in Switzerland confirms that the leather watch strap alone is a metier in its own right. Watches and  straps are the only product that Hermes produce outside of France as the company likes to keep a close eye on every detail and phase of production. But with watches, the Paris head quarters decided that Switzerland was the right place to produce watches up to the standard of their other products. Overlooking lush green meadows and nestled amongst rolling hills, the Swiss countryside is the backdrop to La Montres Hermès where all its watches and leather straps are made. The women stitching, gluing, perforating and stamping the straps are the same artisans you would find at the Hermes leather workshop in Paris where the Kelly and Birkin bags are made. The straps are made with the same level of detail and in a delicious array of colours and finishes. The process starts in the leather storage room which is climate and humidity controlled to ensure that the precious stock of skins is kept in optimum conditions. Here you will find glossy pink alligators, butter-soft goat skins and sturdy Barenia leathers. These leathers come from around Europe as well as Hermès' tannery in Italy and the array of colours would satisfy the most capricious client. In fact, you could commission a watch strap to match your Kelly bag for the ultimate in colour coordination. The leathers are then cut, and you can only get about six straps from one alligator belly, and made into a sandwich of leathers to ensure durability and comfort. The linings of Hermès straps are all made from Zermatt leather as this very soft leather is suitable for the very sensitive skin on the wrist. One of the house classics is Barenia leather, a thick brown leather that ages with a rich patina. Slightly oily to the touch, it is completely natural and so ages with a rich sheen that gets better with time. It is made by just one tannery in the Alsace region of France that hold the patent for the secrets of this process. Once cut and assembled, the pieces enter the workshop where the highly trained leather workers, all wearing burgundy aprons with big pockets, start their magic. The woman I spoke to had trained at a leather-working school and then at the Hermès handbag workshops in Paris. Hand stitched, hammered, glued, filed, sealed and painted each strap is made from start to finish by the same person. Much care is taken over the look and feel of the both the outside and inside of the strap. I love the fact that the loops that hold the end of the strap in place are finished off with a little "H" hand stitched on the inside that only the wearer will ever see. Concentrating on just a few square centimeters of leather the workers move about their ample work area and bench, reaching for hammers, files, heated tools and little pots of glossy paints in a tightly controlled process of making the perfect strap. The straps are polished with beeswax and then they go to quality control. Only those straps worthy of the 'H' stamp make it through and each strap bears a date stamp.

  • Hermès Cape Cod on a red leather strap.
  • Hermès H-Heure Bourganvillier on double strap.

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A visit to Hermès workshops in Switzerland reveals how this company makes its very own leather straps and they are nothing less than you would expect from the company that makes the Kelly and Birkin bags.

Hermès Cape Cod on a red leather strap.

Hermès Cape Cod on a red leather strap.

Hermès H-Heure Bourganvillier on double strap.

Hermès H-Heure Bourganvillier on double strap.

La Montre Hermès in Switzerland has its own store of hides from which to make the wide range of watch straps.

La Montre Hermès in Switzerland has its own store of hides from which to make the wide range of watch straps.

Once the leather has been cut and layered with the inner material and lining, it is sent to another workshop for stitching.

Once the leather has been cut and layered with the inner material and lining, it is sent to another workshop for stitching.

All edges of a strap are finished off to the highest level and no detail is overlooked to create a leather good worthy of the Hermès stamp.

All edges of a strap are finished off to the highest level and no detail is overlooked to create a leather good worthy of the Hermès stamp.

After the hide is selected the ideal segment of leather is chosen and prepared for pre-cutting with metal stamps.

After the hide is selected the ideal segment of leather is chosen and prepared for pre-cutting with metal stamps.

Hermès Clipper Automatic on Barenia leather strap with overstitching.

Hermès Clipper Automatic on Barenia leather strap with overstitching.