Earlier this week, I picked up my first strap from the Hirsch Performance collection via UK retailer WatchObsession – the PAUL model with alligator-embossed leather. The idea behind this collection is simple: each strap features a ventilated Caoutchouc Rubber underside that both helps dissipate sweat from the wearer and improve longevity of the strap. This makes it ideal for use during physical activity, or generally throughout the hot summer months. After wearing the strap for a few days on my Sinn 656L (pictured below), here are my first impressions.
Upon removing the strap from its packaging, I was immediately impressed by how soft and flexible the leather was. Unlike most leather straps, which typically require a break-in period to soften the leather and have it conform to your wrist, almost no breaking in was needed for the Hirsch PAUL strap. The opposite side of the story is also true. After most leather straps are broken in, they tend to retain the curve gained from being on the wrist. However, this strap remains almost perfectly flat when taken off the wrist and laid on a table, as you can see above. Time will tell how long this fact remains true.
I also took notice of the texture of the strap, especially compared to a different alligator-embossed leather strap that I’ve previously owned from Hirsch’s LOUISIANALOOK collection. As you can hopefully see in the comparison photo below (the LOUISIANALOOK is on the left, and the PAUL is on the right), the PAUL is composed of a softer and more supple leather, while the LOUISIANALOOK leather is rougher with a shiny texture. Overall, the PAUL clearly looked and felt of higher quality. Of course I would also expect as much, since the PAUL retails for about three times more than the LOUISIANALOOK – $90 vs $30.
On the wrist, I would say that the PAUL wears surprisingly similar to any other leather strap. While I would not describe the rubber underside as soft, the ridged design gives the strap flexibility and actually makes it quite comfortable. Maybe it’s my eyes playing tricks on me, but it doesn’t feel like I’m wearing a rubber strap, even though rubber is making contact with my wrist. I found this to be the major appeal of the PAUL strap – it combines the durability of a rubber strap with the looks and comfort of a leather one.
Speaking of durability, it’s in the heat of the moment where this strap really performs. The rubber underside doesn’t absorb sweat and stick to your wrist like normal leather straps would. Not only is this more comfortable to wear, as you don’t have to peel the strap off your skin every couple of minutes, but it also increases the longevity of the strap. You can see in the comparison photo above that the underside of the LOUISIANALOOK strap, which I’ve owned for less than a year and worn probably less than 30 times, already has some discoloration due to perspiration. I expect that the PAUL strap should retain its look and feel for much longer.
In the few days that I’ve worn it, I am impressed with the quality of the PAUL strap and I am hoping to purchase some different colors and possibly other models in the future. The one complaint that I have is about limited sizing options. As I have a smaller wrist at 6.5″, I find that the 110/70mm short length straps are the best fit for me. Unfortunately, the PAUL, JAMES, and a single STONE model are the only ones from the Performance collection that are offered in this length. Aside from this, you seem to have a decent number of options between width (18, 20, and 22mm) and buckle (silver, gold, black). I switched out the buckle, so I didn’t bother commenting on the quality. However, it seems to be the standard Hirsch buckle that comes with many of their models, including the LOUISIANALOOK I previously purchased.
I will wear the strap for a few months and follow-up with a review on its long-term durability. Hirsch backs every strap in the Performance collection with a 30 month (2.5 year) warranty, so I am confident that the quality will hold up. In the meantime, I leave you to enjoy some more close-up photos of the PAUL performance strap.