My favourite material is "ammo leather". Ammo leather has become a common name among watch enthusiasts to describe vintage leather from old military bags, primarily ammunition pouches. Very high quality leather, made to last in rough conditions.
I get my bags mostly from military surplus dealers from across Europe. All my bags have been used in service and all have beautiful patina.
Because of age and use, every ammo bag is unique. If you find a colour you like amongst the pictures in my Instagram-feed I will try my best to find a similar hue. Most likely it will not be an exact match and the signs of wear (and any stamps) will differ.
I line all ammo straps with natural veg tan cowhide. It gives a slight contrast between the surface- and lining leather but, most importantly, it gives you clean naturally tanned leather against your skin.
Swiss ammo leathers are probably the most famous one. There are a few types of Swiss ammo pouches out there, the ones I use look like this:
The ones I have date back to the 1960s and I get them in a variety of hues, from very light tan to really dark brown. In general, the Swiss ammo leathers are very clean and have no unpleasant smell.
In short, a very nice leather of extraordinary quailty. Unfortunately, the Swiss pouches are harder and harder to come by which is reflected in the price.
I reuse most parts of the bag when I make a strap. The most attractive part is typically the back where you will find a few stamps. All bags are marked with the maker's mark, the year the bag was made and a Swiss military insignia. The layout of these stamps may vary greatly and quite often the year the bag was made will be integrated with the maker's mark.
Please be advised that I have started seeing a fair amount of fake "Swiss ammostraps". The telltale signs of these will vary but look for extremely uniform leather and markings that look exactly the same from one strap to another. Needless to say, all my Swiss ammo leathers are the real deal.
I hold the Swedish ammo leathers close to heart, no surprise. The bags date back to at least the 1970s and were made to hold four clips for the Swedish sub machine gun, M45CG. These bags are made from very high quality Swedish vegtanned leather. They have been used extensively over long periods of time back in the day when Sweden had compulsary military service for all young men.
The heavy use is reflected in the bags. They are often quite dirty and scarred. They have been stored in weapons caches for long periods of time giving them a distinctive smell that will stay with the finished strap for quite a while. I thoroughly clean the leathers before I make straps out of them, an arduous process, but the smell will stay for a while still. Underneath all the grease and dirt I typically find a very nice and healthy leather full of character making my Swedish ammostraps a beautiful, rugged and durable choice.
The French ammoleathers you don't see as quite often as the Swiss. They are commonly referred to as "painted french ammo" due to the fact that the leather is not dyed all the way through. The leathers I have are not in fact painted, they are what is called pigmented leathers. The French bags are usually in really good shape, typically in light brown colours - a personal favourite of mine.
French ammoleathers are typically very clean and have no unpleasant smell.
There are, of course, many other types of ammo bags and pouches available out there. I have chosen Swiss, Swedish and French to date. They are good looking and large enough to lend themselves to watch straps.
Please have a look at my Instagram for hundreds of images of finished straps from these beautiful leathers!