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Jean Rousseau Bespoke Watch Strap: Review

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

Just like bespoke tailoring, leather goods, to me, always have that enduring appeal which as you age and mature, it evolves with you. And if you're lucky enough, it even develops a character based on your habits, or better yet it accompanies you throughout a lifetime.

So far at The Suitstainable Man, I have more or less encapsulated the wonderful experiences I share with my garments from designing them from scratch and doing fittings to wearing them (and staining them). Hopefully, you've been enjoying such stories as much as I have been enjoying telling them.

In today's write-up, I will be taking this narrative a bit further, through a different angle, by sharing with you the story of my recent bespoke watch strap commission with Jean Rousseau.

Maison Jean Rousseau, otherwise just known as Jean Rousseau, is a French leathercraft house specializing in making small leather goods, both readymade and bespoke.

While the once-small Maison has now become an internationally-renowned brand, through its evolving expertise in crafting leather goods large and small, and with stores stretching from Paris, London, and New York to Toyko and Macau, it is its passion in watchstrap making that kickstarted the firm's humble beginning more than six decades ago.

Founded by the man, Jean Rousseau, himself, along with 20 other artisans, the Besançon-based firm was established in 1954. Since then, the company has gone through many ups and downs expansion, bankruptcy, revitalization, and finally being awarded the EPV label, otherwise known as the Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant, Living Heritage Company.

Needless to say, the EPV label, a mark of recognition given out by the French state to reward French firms for their know-how, is well-earned by Jean Rousseau. You wouldn't need to look further than its excellent techniques in crafting out-of-this-world creations, as well as expertise in working with unusual types of hides and shades of colors. (A choice of over 600 colors to be precise!)

This, of course, couldn't have been achieved without its knowledgable team of artisans, its state-of-the-art equipment, and most importantly, its in-house tannery.

So given the firm's rich leathermaking heritage (and the fact that I have already owned a readymade strap from them), I had a lot of confidence that the strap would turn out impeccably.

And so it did. From the patina of the watch strap to the stitching, every aspect of the watch strap is executed to the finest level. Let's break this down one by one.

Starting with the material of the strap, which is the vintage alligator brown from their vintage line.

What makes this strap, or this line of straps, so special is that each piece is handmade to have its own aged/ vintage-looking patina. This is especially the case for the alligator models (there are also vegetable-tanned calfskin models in the collection) as the skins within this collection are all created by a single artisan within the firm and are finished by hand by combining various colors that form the harmonious, vintage-looking appearance of the strap. All of this brings out the uniqueness of the strap.

Frankly speaking, although the patina turns out to be quite different from what I had expected in the first place, it is surely a welcomed one. While the shade of the model featured on Jean Rousseau's site is more of a medium-brown, the piece I have received is more of a deep, saturated burgundy-brown.

Truth be told, the shine of this saturated model certainly elevates the golden hue of the watch. I can't complain at all.

Moving onto the other technical details.

One of the options which you could select from is whether you'd prefer a turned edge or a cut-edge with edge paint. What the former refers to is that you would have the same piece of the leather extend beyond the top of the strap and cover the side edges.

In this case, I have chosen the latter. As you could see from the picture above, the edges are waxed and painted using the same color applied to the top of the strap. Thus forming a very neat look.

I personally prefer the latter for straps that have thicker edges (in this case, in their standard 3.5mm thickness) or a padding profile (the parts of the strap that are closing to the lugs are padded whilst the rest of the strap is flat). That being said, at the end of the day, both constructions are equally superb. It comes down to personal taste.

Cut-edge with paint looks just as nice on a thinner watch strap.

Elsewhere, I have chosen the side to be stitched rather than having no stitchings at all.

Generally, the no stitchings option works better with thinner or flat straps, such as a strap that you would pair with a black-tie watch. That way, the strap would be able to match the discreetness of your watch.

On the other hand, if you are pairing it with a thicker watch (and hence a thicker strap, from 3.5mm to 5mm, or above), stitchings look better in my opinion.

What's also worth noting is that you get to have the option to have contrasting stitchings. What the means is that if you prefer a sportier look (in this case I don't as it is a vintage dress watch), you could have the stitchings done in a different color than the strap. Some of the more common ones I've seen are red or orange stitchings on a blue strap.

One final technical detail that's worth specifying is the shape of the lugs.