Sometimes, I don't want to wear alligator or calfskin leather. I often grab a casual strap with a matte finish, steering clear of shine and gloss. Nubuck, Suede, and Alcantara come up as the go-to options. But are they truly identical?
Nenad Pantelic • September 8, 2023
At first glance nubuck, suede, and Alcantara may seem alike. But, beneath this shared look, each strap has some unique qualities, and specific pros and cons.
Did you notice that so far in the article I wrote 'Alcantara' with a capital 'A'? That's because Alcantara is the brand name.
Alcantara is a synthetic material made from a blend of polyester and polyurethane. The ratio is approximately 68% polyester and 32% polyurethane.
It has a similar look and feel to suede, but it is a completely synthetic material.
Nubuck leather is a type of top-grain leather that is made from the top grain of cowhide. It is similar to suede in that it has a soft, velvety surface, but it is made from the outer side of the hide rather than the inner side.
The surface of nubuck leather is sanded or buffed to create a smooth, velvety finish. Nubuck leather is generally considered to be more durable than suede, because the fibers in the outer side of the hide are stronger than those in the inner side.
Suede is pretty common type of leather. It has soft, velvety texture. It's made from the innermost layer of animal hide, typically obtained from the skin of cattle, sheep, or goats.
Suede is, unfortunately, more delicate than other types of leather, as it is more vulnerable to to staining, water damage, and wear, so it often requires special care and maintenance.
Here is a simple-to-follow breakdown of the most important characteristics of each material.
|Material||Natural leather||Natural leather||Syntetic material|
|Style||Dressy & elegant||Elegant & Casual||Elegant & Casual|
|Durability||Below average||Average||Above average|
|Maintenance||High maintenance||Medium maintenance||Low maintenance|
|Cost||Above average||Average||Average & Affordable|
Now we are going into the specifics. It's time to dig deeper and explore the finer nuances.
1. Dressy & Elegant Look: Suede brings elegance and sophistication. Its velvety surface adds a touch of luxury to any watch. Suede is great choice for formal occasions or dress watches.
2. Comfort: Suede is soft and comfortable against the skin. It molds to your wrist and fits nicely.
3. Breathability: Suede is a natural material that allows your skin to breathe.
1. Durability: Suede is susceptible to wear and tear, particularly when exposed to moisture. It can easily become stained, making it less suitable for daily wear.
2. Maintenance: Suede requires regular cleaning and brushing to maintain its appearance. It's not the best option for those who prefer low-maintenance straps.
3. Limited Versatility: Due to its delicate nature, suede may not be the best choice for many different types of watches (sports, field, pilot, diver watches), as it can easily get damaged.
1. Durability: Alcantara is a synthetic microfiber material. It can withstand daily wear and resist stains and abrasions.
2. Variety: Alcantara is available in a wide range of colors and textures.
3. Easy Maintenance: Cleaning Alcantara is a breeze. A simple wipe with a damp cloth can remove most stains and keep it looking new.
4. Cost: Being a synthetic material its production is not expensive compared to natural leather.
1. Less Breathable: While Alcantara is durable, it is less breathable than natural materials like suede or nubuck. This can be a drawback.
2. Less Luxurious Feel: Despite its durability and versatility, Alcantara may not offer the same premium feel as suede or nubuck.
1. Both Casual & Elegant Look: Nubuck is often described as a hybrid between suede and regular smooth leather. It is not too dressy.
2. Durability: Nubuck is more resistant to wear and moisture compared to suede.
3. Comfort: Nubuck is soft and comfortable, much like suede, and it also molds to your wrist over time for a great fit.
1. Maintenance: Nubuck requires regular cleaning and maintenance to prevent it from losing its texture and color. Stains can be challenging to remove.
2. Cost: Nubuck tends to be more expensive than some other watch strap materials, but it's still cheaper than suede.
3. Limited Variety: While nubuck comes in various colors, it may not offer the same variety as synthetic materials like Alcantara.
As we know, in horology or in any other field, versatility is key. Just like a well-rounded watch collection, which might include dress watches, dive watches, and sports watches, nubuck, suede, and Alcantara watch straps all have their place and time.
Overall, all three materials have their own unique characteristics, and the choice between them will depend on the specific application, your finances, and personal preference.
Explore, experiment, and enjoy the fun practice of matching your watch to your mood and moment. With nubuck, suede, and Alcantara, you have the tools to make a perfect pairing, one strap at a time.