Swellboy on… memorabilia watch straps

The curious phenomenon of attaching bits of leather jacket and jet upholstery to your wrist

In recent years there has been a trend for making watches with materials from evocative sources. Metal from a Mk V Spitfire found its way into a Bremont, while Napoleon’s DNA in the form of a snip of imperial hair is one of the horological components used by DeWitt.

strap. I have heard that in order to benefit MusiCares, which looks after musicians down on their luck, Nixon watches has hit upon the idea of something called the Rock Ltd Collection, for which Keith Richards, Ozzy Osbourne, Tom Waits, Pete Townshend, Eddie Van Halen and Ringo Starr inter alia have apparently donated old leather goods of the rock-star sort – guitar straps, leather jackets and, rather alarmingly, leather trousers – to be turned into watch straps (Keith Richards Sentry Chrono with jacket strap, £1,000, first picture). I am not sure I would like to have a pair of someone else’s heavily used leather trousers around my wrist, but then I suppose, in fairness, Nixon is not targeting me in particular.

However, it would appear that Philipp Ortwein of Junik in Munich is. He wrote me a very polite email, saying how much he liked my work – never a bad start – and then went on to tell me about his business making “limited edition watch straps” with leather that he says has “a real history” and “once graced the interiors of vintage sports cars and private jets”. I am always slightly suspicious of anything that “graces” anything, but I was reassured by his observation that “all straps are handcrafted in Germany with utmost focus on quality”. After all, Germans focus on quality like nobody else.

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I like the idea of using leather taken, say, from the seats of a Ferrari 308 (Cambiano strap, €179, second picture) or the cabin of a Eurocopter, but I am hoping that Junik can extend this further. Habitués of the Patek Philippe salon in Geneva will know that the walls of the historic 19th-century room overlooking the lake are lined with beautiful embossed leather panels of Córdoba leather. A strap made with leather from the very walls of Patek Philippe… now that is what I call real horological history.

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