One of the best pieces of advice my father-in-law ever gave me was, “We’re not wealthy enough to buy cheap things.” So, when I found a strap company that used this bit of wisdom as their motto, I had to find to find out more. Enter North Street Watch Co.—a strap maker based in the United States.
North Street is a purveyor of many different sorts of straps, including OEM replacement straps and a Ready-Made Value Series. Both of these offer a full gamut of watch bands, ranging from rubber dive straps to nylon NATOS, and leather rally straps to stainless steel bracelets. North Street even sell SmartWatch bands. But, really, it’s in the brand’s NSW Collection that North Street separates itself from the herd.
The NSW Collection is entirely handcrafted in America by a group of craftspeople in the brand’s hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut. And when I say handcrafted, I mean everything is done by hand. Each strap is individually measured, cut, dyed, painted, and sewn. If you want old world techniques, look no further than North Street.
The process begins with the selection of hides. Company representatives travel to boutique tanneries around Europe gathering a scrupulous selection of skins, which are then transported to the brand’s factory in the United States. There, a team of six artisans who, together, share more than a century of leatherworking experience, set about the business of making watch straps.
A particular quirk about the brand is its penchant for creative colouring. As such, you won’t find any simple descriptors in the NSW catalogue. Instead, each model in the collection is tied to a specific time and place in Fairfield County, usually within a stone’s throw of its shops in Greenwich. This is why you get “Conyers Farm,” “Grahampton,” “Stanwich,” and “Valleywood,” instead of the more pedestrian brown, light grey, navy blue, and green.
The strap sent to me by North Street, for example, is the Tod’s Point. The sand-coloured band is inspired by one of four local beaches that overlooks Long Island Sound and the distant Manhattan skyline. It is fashioned from nubuck and has a lovely soft texture which is finer than suede. The website bills it as the perfect companion for “your tropical Speedmaster, [or] your classic Datejust,” but I found it to be perfect on the vintage-inspired Ossington from Locke & King, and a delight on the Seiko SPB147 Diver.
This strap has a 20mm lug width but is also available in 18 and 21mm. It has a classic taper to 16mm at the buckle and comes standard in a 115mm/75mm split. The band thickness is just under 3mm and courts the best of two worlds, being both supple and robust. You can purchase the strap with either polished or brushed hardware. Both buckles have an organic “H” design and eschew branding of any kind.
Straps from the NSW collection also have individually hand painted edges which are colour-matched. The liner is comfortable, and all models come with quick-release spring bars.
The silhouette of the Tod’s Point is clean and graceful. It has a definite casual vibe that reminds me of days at the beach. The band was also perfect out of the box and required no break in period.
What I appreciate most about the NSW Collection—and of hand made products in general—is that they feel alive to me. Items that are made by machines have a uniformity and a consistency that is admirable, and even necessary in some processes. However, the tiny imperfections of a handcrafted product give it personality. Leather, itself a material with character and individuality, cries out for that personal touch.
The Tod’s Point, and all other straps in the NSW Collection, retail for $138USD. But you get what you pay for. For more information, please visit the brand website.
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