For those who wonder is choosing a watch strap made from alligator skin a good idea, today we’ll help you clarify the answer. So let us first tell you more about the alligators as specie. Alligators are part of Crocodilian family, along with crocodiles and caimans. What differs the former from the latter is the shape of their snouts due to the different food they eat. Alligators prefer to eat turtles and snails and therefore have flat, wider snouts than crocodiles and caimans, because it allows them to crush hard shells more easily. Crocodiles prefer to eat fish and have pointed, V-shaped snouts. But that's not the only thing that makes a difference between these species.
Alligator species exist over 65 million years, which means they were here even when the dinosaurs existed. And they remained pretty much the same as in that time, although some subspecies are now extinct. Two living species we know today are American and Chinese alligator. The Chinese alligator is smaller than the former – it rarely grows more than 2.1 meters in length, while American can reach more than 4 meters. Since they are reptilians, that means they are cold-blooded. They live in fresh water habitats, such as rivers, lakes and swamps. The average lifespan of an alligator isn’t officially recorded, although the oldest specimen is thought to be an alligator called Muja, who is at least 80 years old and lives in a zoo in Serbian capital, Belgrade.
Alligators are farmed for ecotourism, their meat and their skins. Many people may wonder is hunting alligators for their skin even legal. As they were endangered species at some point, their commercial use today must follow certain criteria, called the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention, shortly known as CITES. That means that commercial farms have to satisfy the requirement of a viable next generation progeny for the alligators. Simply stated, alligator farmers have to secure the survival of the alligators in same or higher number in the future. Still, hunting alligators from the wild isn’t legal, as that can’t be regulated with CITES. Since crocodiles' and, especially, caimans' skins are cheaper than those of alligators, black market sellers often switch them to pass them for an alligator skin to an untrained eye. What differs alligators’ and crocodile’s / caiman’s skin, besides the looks, is that alligators’ skins are rated higher and, consequently, are more expensive. The skin of an American alligator is rated as the most luxurious of all Crocodilians, because it’s the most durable, ages most nicely and is the most flexible of all three species.
Regarding the looks, alligator skin has recognizable umbilical scars, which look like a web between their square tiles. It is more visible than in crocodiles and caimans and it serves as the first sign of a genuine product. When their skin patterns are in question, an alligator has more natural tiles with uneven lines at their base. Caimans and crocodiles have more uniform skins, since the pattern on the belly is almost identical to the one on the back and each tile has a small dot, which is basically a place where hair follicle existed earlier. In alligators, belly and back skin tiles are not the same. Besides, both alligators and crocodiles have similar small bony bumps on their back, which are called back horns, but they have different patterns on their necks. Alligator has 2+2+2 horns in rows, while crocodile has 4+2 and caiman 4+4+2 horns. Therefore, many shady dealers sell skins deeply cut, so that the ridge patterns on the neck aren’t visible.
The skin from the sides of an alligator is most commonly used as it is less expensive than those cuts from the belly and back. But it is still far more better regarding its attributes, and thus more expensive, than the skin from crocodiles, not to mention caimans. Below you can see watch straps made from side alligator skin, which has rounder and smaller scales and therefore is somewhat lower rated than other cuts.
The skins of Caimans are rough and stiff because they contain a lot of calcium in their scales and therefore are less usable in leather industry, thus are less expensive and used mostly as a material for cheap end products. Crocodiles are mostly farmed in Thailand and their skins are commonly used in leather industry, as they are not too expensive. But, most luxury brands use alligator skins - talk Hermes luxury bags etc. because they are far more appreciated in all terms. So, to resume, the main differences between the leather made of hides of these three species are:
Reliable sellers use only genuine American alligator skin (actually those from Mississippian’s’ alligators from established farmers are the most common) as their trade is extremely well regulated by the laws. Quality raw hides are then handcrafted and aged through process called vegetable aging. You can read more about that process in our Blog article here.
Genuine Mississippian's Alligator skins are rated as premium luxury leather material. While the belly leather is the most expensive, its back cut with bony bumps, or as we also call them - ridges, give a bit more wild appearance. Due to their processing method, these skins get to keep their unique colors and patterns and only get the vintage look while staying super durable over time. Plus, since they are processed without chemicals, they are suitable for persons with sensitive skin and prone to allergies. And all these facts explain why picking an alligator watch band is not only a good idea, but also a great investment and stylish addition to any look.
Plus, maintenance of alligator watch straps is more than easy: Just wipe them with a damp cloth from time to time and leave them to dry on air. Avoid using any chemicals, expect occasional treat with conditioning cream.