Nubuck vs Suede vs Alcantara: Are they all the same?

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 profile photo Nenad Pantelic • September 8, 2023

Olive leather watch straps by Artisan Straps
Olive nubuck watch straps by Artisan Straps

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.

The Breakdown Table

Here is a simple-to-follow breakdown of the most important characteristics of each material.

Suede Nubuck Alcantara
Material Natural leather Natural leather Syntetic material
Comfort Above average Average Average
Breathability Breathable Breathable Less breathable
Style Dressy & elegant Elegant & Casual Elegant & Casual
Variety Average Average Above average
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.

Suede Watch Straps

brown suede watch strap
Brown suede watch strap with full stitching by The Strap Tailor


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.

Alcantara Watch Straps

blue alcantara strap
Blue Alcantara strap next to the rolled sheet of material


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.

Nubuck Watch Straps

Grey nubuck leather watch straps
Grey nubuck leather watch straps by Esprit Nato


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.

Bringing It All Together

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.