There’s no such thing as an afterthought at Rolex HQ. Each separate element that goes into any one of their designs has a purpose; whether it’s to improve the aesthetics or the functionality, everything has to earn its place.
Rolex’s range of bracelets are no different. The trinity of metal bands outfitted across the various models in their catalog—the Jubilee, the President and the Oyster—are themselves minor works of art and masterpieces of engineering excellence.
But while the metal bracelets are the most recognizable, and rightly so, Rolex’s leather straps receive the same obsessive level of scrutiny and perfection. Nowhere near as abundant, the watches they are attached to are chosen with the utmost care to enhance the overall look and feel.
Substituting a watch’s metal bracelet for a leather strap gives you an entirely new watch, in the same way that the appearance of a suit is completely altered by different styles of shirt and tie.
There’s just something a bit more business-like about a black leather strap. They give sports models a soberness that only increases their versatile nature and they can tone down the flamboyance of a yellow gold case or diamond accents on a dress watch.
Here at Bob’s, we have a number of beautiful examples of Rolex’s finest, complete with leather bands. Below, we’ve highlighted three of our favorites. Let us know what you think, and drop us a note in the comments section about your own preferences.
Sky-Dweller ref. 326139 on a Black Leather Strap
Is there any watch in the whole of Rolex’s sports archive that looks better on a leather strap than the Sky-Dweller 326139? The off-beat design of the dial, a challenging aspect for many an enthusiast of the crown, finds the perfect complement in the ref. 326139 when it’s matched to the rich black alligator band.
It leaves the watch with a more balanced and harmonious feel, still an eye-catcher but with a subtly understated presence when compared to the all-metal versions.
As well as affording a new, less controversial appearance overall, a leather strap on the Sky-Dweller also has some practical advantages. By far Rolex’s most complicated creation, it is also one of the priciest, thanks to its mainly precious metal construction. The gold-rich case gives the watch a significant weight which, when coupled with the hefty original Oyster bracelet, starts to add up and have an effect after a few hours on the wrist.
By switching to a lightweight leather strap, the Sky-Dweller becomes a much more comfortable all-day wear.
That level of comfort is increased even more by Rolex incorporating the Oysterlock clasp into the band. An invaluable feature of the metal bracelets, it not only secures the watch with a vice-like grip, the patented Easylink mechanism allows for the strap to be extended by up to 5mm to compensate for the changes in the wearer’s wrist throughout the day.
For sophisticated travelers, the Sky-Dweller ref. 326139 is the ultimate companion—an achingly stylish timepiece of outstanding functionality, and comfortable enough to wear all day, wherever they are in the world.
Cellini ref. 5115
All of Rolex’s Cellini range, their line of elegant dress watches, are fitted with leather straps. Showcasing the brand’s softer side, they are a world away from the likes of the ultra-tough Submariner or GMT, and even the swanky luxury of the Datejust or the President Day-Date.
The Cellini collection, named after the 16th century Italian sculptor Benvenuto Cellini, is as tastefully simple as Rolex gets. Their purpose as pieces of jewelry to be worn on special occasions rather than as tools to help you through the day is underlined by their status as the only pieces in the brand’s lineup not to be housed in an Oyster case. The slim profile and graceful contours are designed to slip under a shirtsleeve for those events where black tie isn’t optional.
The ideal watch, then, for a leather strap. With their modest size, a metal bracelet would always look out of place, distracting from the refined look of the dial and the flowing lines of the case.
Our reference 5115 is a great example. The 32mm yellow gold model released in 1999 features a supple black leather Rolex strap that contrasts beautifully against the crisp whiteness of the face. Long, slender hands sweep over gold hour markers, giving an extremely legible readout, with the large ‘VI’ index being the only quirky detail on the otherwise unadorned façade.
The manually winding caliber and lack of a seconds hand only emphasize its position as an out and out showpiece—a watch for watch lovers and for those looking to top off a formal outfit with the final exquisite touch.
Oyster Perpetual ref. 6090
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual series made its debut in the 1950s as a line of simple, no date, three-hand automatic watches. With the earliest examples available in either 34mm or 36mm, the range is still going strong today, made from a countless variety of different materials across five sizes.
The vintage models are now much sought-after classics, prized among purists for their elegant minimalism and classic good looks.
Here at Bob’s we have something a little special from the Oyster Perpetual family. Our ref. 6090 from 1963 is faced with a beautifully preserved creamy honeycomb dial, topped with markers and arrowhead hands in yellow gold. The waterproof 34mm case is accented by what has become known as Bombay lugs, an Americanized version of the French word Bombé, meaning rounded or swirled. It’s the sculpted proportions of these lugs that gives the 6090 an extra presence on the wrist, making the watch appear larger than its, by today’s standards, modest dimensions.
Another tastefully refined dress watch, its original bracelet has been lost to the mists of time and been replaced with a new, genuine Rolex black leather strap. Made from the highest quality hide, it’s finished off with a gold-plated tang clasp to complement the case.
A flawless example of a rare treat, the Oyster Perpetual ref. 6090 makes for an enticing investment.
Black leather straps bring a new dimension to traditional Rolex watches. What are your thoughts on black leather straps for your watch? Do you prefer metallic bracelets? Comment your thoughts below.