STRAP VALUE: Hands-on Review of Erika’s Originals MN Parachute Strap
Tudor’s recent announcement of the new “Black Bay Bronze” model got me REALLY excited. I really am not a fan of the bronze watch trend and personally feel the Black Bay Bronze was an odd release that felt like Tudor jumped the shark a bit.
The draw, to me, was the potential to pick up one of their OEM green-yellow-green woven nylon straps on the secondhand market, a la the Marine Nationale parachute strap that French soldiers would affix to their Tudors. (Why isn’t anyone talking about that strap? Its awesome!)
To my surprise, I happened upon a much cooler (and affordable) alternative made by Erika’s Originals!
Erika got a surprise start in making her Marine Nationale (MN) watch straps when a watch watch collector in her town of Valencia, Spain commissioned one from her to complement his MN Doxa with its original strap. The collector wanted an adjustable strap that he could wear up and down his wrist as he pleased. Not a simple stitched together loop that would probably be too tight or too loose.
Erika took on the project. She began searching for the right material and happened upon some old parachutes and low altitude static lines from which to harvest the original elastic webbing.
“I did a lot of experimenting. The Nato with a twist seems an obvious choice but since the material is elastic, a regular buckle does not work and the double layer of webbing makes the watch swing back and forth. Since I had all that nice original 1970’s parachute hardware (I took off the parachutes I bought) I started experimenting with that.”
After only a few prototypes, Erika ended up with the perfect adjustable Marine Nationale watch strap made entirely from the original parachutes she purchased.
The Doxa owner and pleased customer posted a picture of his Doxa with the prototype of the strap on Instagram; Erika’s e-mail inbox flooded with messages from New York, Paris, Stockholm and Singapore.
Materials: The MN straps Erika is selling today are sourced from 1970s parachutes — most of which were never used but stored for over 40 years. Nevertheless, she is still buying older parachutes, as well. Not only are original parachutes used for her straps, but hardware from these parachutes are also used for the strap’s clasp and adjustments!
“Sometimes I am able to buy parachutes that have the early 60’s webbing. It comes with a red stripe but has a different, more khaki, shade of green. There is a waiting list for these.”
All straps are hand stitched with French Linen thread, without any use of a sewing machine. By hand stitching her straps, Erika can closely control the quality and appearance of her product.
Upon ordering, Erika requested my wrist measurement before fulfilling my order to ensure that the micro-adjustable strap would fit properly to my wrist. She also allows the customer a choice between olive green or yellow contrast stitching. For what worked out to be about $52 USD after conversions (free shipping included), I am completely blown away with the product I received. The fit is immaculate and the MN vibe on my Tudor Black Bay Black is undeniable.
Within just two days of placing my order, Erika alerted me that my custom strap had been completed and shipped. Nine days later, the strap arrived in the mail via USPS.
As I awaited the delivery of my strap, I had a couple of worries. I was concerned that the elastic would be too thin and flexible for my watch to feel secure and that the 21mm width would be too narrow and awkward for the 22mm lug width of my Black Bay. I’ve got to admit, the elastic strap is flexible, yet wonderfully rigid. The elastic is very heavy (I’d guess about 3mm thick). The stretch to the elastic is enough to allow comfortable wrist movement, but not too much as to feel cheap or too light.
As for the 21mm width, there is a bit of a gap between the 22mm lugs and the strap. While this typically drives me nuts, I will say that this does not bother me as much on a strap as thick as this one. The strap is substantial and heavy enough to still feel solid
Slight gap between the strap and the 22mm lugs
Perhaps my favorite detail on this watch is the ingenious way that Erika designed the micro-adjustment of the clasp. The size of the strap is very easily adjusted even when the watch is on-wrist, much like the strap length adjustment of a duffel bag. The utilitarian hardware gives the strap a very tool-like aesthetic while wearing quite comfortably at the same time; it does not come in any direct contact with the skin.
Overall, Erika’s MN-style parachute strap is shaping up to be the new daily driver for my Tudor. It adds a great, authentic, vintage characteristic to the watch while staying in-step with the history of the Tudor’s Submariner line.
Please give Erika’s Originals a look! This is a truly unique piece of history that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
High quality strap, high quality customer service, highly recommended!