How to Up Your Watch Game with a Shell Cordovan Strap

By Montredo in Watch 101
May 10, 2019
How to Up Your Watch Game with a Shell Cordovan Strap


Even at a fleeting glance, Horween shell cordovan is the type of leather that really stands out. Its glossy finish, refined texture, and durable nature also make it the leather of choice for high-end shoe manufacturers like Alden. Above all else, it’s the perfect choice of material for anyone that wants to showcase their wristwatches tastefully without being too conventional.

Horween Shell Cordovan – Leather with a Gloss Finish

The time when “Genuine Leather” labeling meant high quality is long over. This doesn’t only just apply to shoes, jackets, and belts, but also to leather watch straps. Consequently, a tremendous amount of low grade material has flooded the market over the years, there is now an even greater appetite for premium leather products.

The name shell cordovan originates from the Spanish city of Córdoba, where horsehide leather has been manufactured for hundreds of years. Ever since then it was particularly prized for its notable durability. As far as leather goes, the craftsmanship going into producing shell cordovan is just as important as the quality of the base material. 

Horween is a traditional tannery from Chicago, Illinois, whose name in connoisseur circles is the definitive seal of quality and it’s one of the few remaining producers of shell cordovan. Compared with other types of cowhide leathers, it exclusively uses herbal substances in its production process. During these so-called vegetable tans, standard paper sized “shells” soak for four months in a bath of water, oils, and plant-based tanning solutions.

The end result is a natural product that is more compact and tear-proof than almost any other kind of leather. Its high concentration of fat content makes it particularly resistant and gives the leather strap its renowned look. While some types of leather eventually develop creases over a short period of time, Horween shell cordovan’s subtle sheen still remains flawless even after many years have passed. In fact, if properly taken care of, shell cordovan only gets better with age. 

For more information on how to best care for your Shell Cordovan and other types of leather straps, click right here.

Versatile Elegance and a Touch of Vintage

A watch strap made from shell cordovan embodies a distinctive and vintage inspired elegance and is a great choice to tone-down the rigidness of a dress watch.

On the one hand, we recommend avoiding large or bulky sized watches as shell cordovan straps are softer and more flexible than most others. On the other hand, vintage timekeepers are a perfect match as their unique character can be emphasised by an aged looking cordovan.

Inspiring Shell Cordovon Leather Combinations

Shell Cordovan straps go very well with clothes that are on the more elegant side of the spectrum. Particularly well-suited are retro inspired outfits that lean heavily on the fashions from the 1920s and the 1950s. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that shell cordovan leather shouldn’t be combined with casual clothes. 

In contrast to different types of reptile leather, it can also be worn with less formal outfits and it can add a very distinctive touch to cargo shirts, jeans, as well as boots and derby shoes. Even monochromatic, basic t-shirts aren’t off-limits. However, if it’s a dress down outfit go for a NATO textile, sporty calfskin, or suede leather watch strap instead. 

One of the challenges is to find a guiding theme for all leather components. Of course, not everyone has shoes or belts made from this unique leather laying around at home. As a matter of principle it should be worn together with other varieties of smooth leather. However, patent leather isn’t necessarily a good fit as shell cordovan has a significantly softer gloss. As always, the colours of every single leather piece should be thoughtfully coordinated as much as possible with one another.

ZOLA Watch Straps Made From Horween Shell Cordovan

ZOLA wrist watch straps made from Horween shell cordovan are smooth, soft, and have its well-known and distinctive gloss. The black ZOLA GINEVRA Shell Cordovan Strap is available in sizes of 18, 20, and 22.