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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Based on my search, this topic has been done here before but the threads seem to get off topic before there’s much of an answer or consensus.

I’m only interested in the functional difference between authentic alligator straps and their much cheaper embossed leather counterparts. Will gator last longer? Is it more wear or water resistant? What are the actual useful benefits of real gator? Etc.

Or or is it just a pricey luxury strap material that feels better and looks better (arguably I’m sure)?
 

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There is a thread on the site where a member rated his Top Ten Alligator straps ever but sadly it is now missing his wonderful photos because of photobucket or whatever he used. Maybe the text from that thread might be helpful. He has owned some incredible ones.
Personally I have only owned one Hirsch faux Gator embossed and one IWC genuine alligator to compare. The difference is extraordinary. I only seek out top quality leather (Santoni, Casa Fagliano et al) and or the IWC Alligator from now on. The comfort and wearability is the deciding factor. I will see how worn out they get over time.
I am almost as equally happy to wear my watch on a quality NATO as well though so that gives me the yin yang effect.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Interesting. I’m debating between a Hirsch embossed leather and a Hirsch real alligator. So, though your IWC is not a Hirsch, you find the alligator to be more comfortable and wearable. Is the gator more flexible on your wrist? Or breathable? What makes it more comfortable?

At 5x the price of the embossed ($45 vs $255), I’m really trying to decide if the alligator is worth it.
 

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The IWC Alligator feels “natural” and it wears like a legitimate luxury product that you would expect. I highly considered a Hirsch Viscount which is one of their top line genuine Alligator straps but I found the IWC first at less than half the price of the Viscount. See if that thread helps also.
From what I recall the OP really liked some custom ones and one was lined in a beautiful red leather. I would also pay close attention to the quality of the lining as well as the outside appearance.
I only have one watch so I splurge on straps and gild the lily.
 

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Only you can know whether it's worth it. Straps are a consumable item and I, for one, am reluctant to spend >£50 on a strap. The difference between a nice embossed (ie Hirsch) and the genuine article is usually obvious side by side, though not always. If it's a black strap, I'll wager you wouldn't be able to tell. A Hirsch embossed (ie Duke or Grand Duke) are well made, look good and do the job. In my experience real croc/gator doesn't last any longer than embossed calf.
 

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Only you can know whether it's worth it. Straps are a consumable item and I, for one, am reluctant to spend >£50 on a strap. The difference between a nice embossed (ie Hirsch) and the genuine article is usually obvious side by side, though not always. If it's a black strap, I'll wager you wouldn't be able to tell. A Hirsch embossed (ie Duke or Grand Duke) are well made, look good and do the job. In my experience real croc/gator doesn't last any longer than embossed calf.
I will agree the Hirsch Duke is an excellent value strap indeed!
 

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I would also pay close attention to the quality of the lining as well as the outside appearance.
To me, this has more to do with comfort than the top leather.


I only have one watch so I splurge on straps and gild the lily.
It seems like you don’t really need another.
Nope, after flipping 40 plus watches in 3 years I go one at a time now and my current one really hits the mark for me. Strap changes help keep it fresh.
 

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In my opinion authentic alligator or crocodile straps are much better and more comfortable but when it comes time to replace them they are very expensive.
This is why they are usually replaced with
much cheaper and harder embossed leathers, when it comes to water resistance all leathers will fail with the exception of Shell cordovan.
In my experience living in South Fl. the humidity and the sweat will destroy an alligator or crocodile strap in no time, usually the embossed leather will last a little longer.
That's the reason I only wear leather straps during the winter and if I wear leather in the summer is only Shell cordovan.




 

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I've tested most types of strap (I change straps very regularly) and find Alligator and Croc the most comfortable and durable (for what they weren't intended) I spent a week in the Balearics, most of it in the sea (snorkelling) or swimming pool, wearing an Alligator strap the whole time (strap was purchased on eBay from Vietnam for circa £20.00) apart from gaining a weathered look (which I like) there were no notable differences with no separating of any joints, stitching or bonding.

Recently I have been wearing Hirsch Baron Alligator, it has been in swimming pools and salt water (not long exposure as for the first strap) and that also has remained unchanged save for a weathered look. Cost was about £125.00 and I would expect many years service.

In my opinion, and based on my observations to date, Alligator and Croc straps are as versatile (and far less fearsome and dangerous) as in their natural, wild form and habitat.

Weathered look - All straps weather over time and I cannot be sure how each strap would have fared without the water contact. However I can state that the straps that come in to contact with water regularly look no better or worse than those that don't.

What you do notice is that genuine Alligator and Croc straps look far more natural after a few months wear than the embossed ones as the scales edges lift slightly giving life. The embossed ones remain static and can look a little unnatural with wear.

Whether you would want to use on a watch that is subjected oil, chemicals etc is doubtful but I suspect you wouldn't want to expose your wrist to those things anyway.
 

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Late to the game but I would say the difference is blatantly obvious on all levels. Once you really know what to look for you spotting an embossed strap off a picture alone is not that hard, even if it is black. The thing is though the question is less about the embossing and more about the leather that got said embossing. Companies selling a strap for less than 50 USD are not using high quality leathers for these embossed straps.

So will a 30-50 dollar embossed strap (or really any 30-50 dollar strap) hold up when compared to a 150+ dollar legit alligator (or honestly any higher end leather) strap. No, not on any level. It will not look anywhere near as attractive, it will not have a good feel when touched, it will be less durable overall, it absolutely will be less water resistant, it probably will be stiffer and less comfortable to wear, you will probably get that god awful sweat stain eating oyster glove lining crap, etc etc.

If you do want to buy an authentic alligator strap I would not buy from Hirsch though, their prices are unreasonable in my opinion. Many custom makers out there can get you just as good a hide, strap, better finishing, and well custom options, for less than the cost of a Hirsch Viscount.

That said there are high end embossed straps if you want maximum durability/rugged leather, with just the look of alligator or croc. For example....



That said, those straps cost more than 50 dollars. Sometimes just as much as the real alligator, but the trade is you get a "durable" leather.
 
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