In the market for a watch strap that doesn’t exist yet? It’s time to dial into the feed of Drew Boen, watch collector and custom strap maker. We hear he’s in such high demand that you may need to exercise a little patience while you wait, but while you do, enjoy some of the best wristshots on Instagram.
NAME: Drew Boen
OCCUPATION: Full-time private jet manager, part-time maker of custom watch straps.
LOCATION: San Francisco Bay Area
You make watch straps. Tell us about that.
I LOVE straps – all my watches are on straps 99.9% of the time, and I think a nice combo makes the watch pop. Although I do appreciate a good bracelet, personally I just don’t like wearing them. I’ve been making my own straps since 2009, when I couldn’t find many all-canvas straps; they all seemed to have leather backing back then. When I first started, I used some techniques I learned in aviation when I worked as a sheet metal mechanic. It kind of worked! The quality of my work definitely improved after I took several weekend leather-working classes.
You’ve made straps from old belts, attache cases, rifle slings – where do you source your materials?
I’m a big fan of re-purposing old leathers and canvases. A lot of my materials come from military surplus stores, vintage fairs and online auction sites. I’ve had a couple of projects where a customer sent me his father’s military-issue duffel bag to be made into straps, with special instructions to use original markings and stains.
And where do you sell your wares?
Right now most of my sales come from repeat customers, IG and watch forum friends. I don’t have a website and don’t plan on it anytime soon. I’m only capable of making about six to eight straps a month, so as soon as I have eight up, I stop taking orders for a while.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, lots and lots and lots of straps. I also have had a few offers to do some collaborations, but I have commitment issues. I struggle to find the time to commit to deadlines, as I’ve pretty much been working two jobs for the past two years – as well as strap-making.
Ah yes – tell us about your day job.
I manage operations of a large private jet – a GulfstreamG550. My duties are adhering to federal regulations, managing flight crew, managing maintenance, scheduling, accounting, sales and acquisitions – because the owner likes to flip planes like I do watches! I started my career as an aircraft mechanic and worked my way up (which only took about 20 years).
What’s your daily watch?
To be honest, I tend to switch my watch every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I don’t really wear any of my watches for specific task or activity, but for anything rigorous I tend to stick with a Seiko. But if for any reason I were forced to go with only one watch, it would have to be the Panerai PAM 61 as I feel like it best fits my style, and is pretty much the ultimate watch for strap fun.
What’s in your collection?
Currently, I’ve got:
Panerai PAM 61
Glashütte Original Worldview
Rolex Milgauss GV
SS Rolex Daytona (slate dial mod)
Bronze Oris Carl Brasheer
IWC 3786 dopple chrono
IWC Ingenieur 322701
Ti Omega SM300
Doxa sub300 50th anniversary
That’s a good mix. How did you get into watches?
I’ve been interested in watches for as long as I can remember. I remember receiving a Spiderman watch when I was six years old, absolutely loved it! I wore a Citizen as a pre-teen that looked like a Movado museum watch. I mostly gave up on them as a young adult – I was barely able to feed myself let alone delve into watches. Then I came back to them. First off, I like the idea of fashion accessory that serves a tool function. And second, when done right, it’s a piece of art, an engineering marvel. I’m a big fan of mechanical components that work flawlessly, and I’m also in awe of impeccable craftsmanship.
What’s your daily ride?
I have a couple – a 2000 Nissan Frontier 4×4 and a 2014 Lexus GS350 FSport. I tend to drive the truck more, as I have a special connection with it. It was my first ever new vehicle, and I paid for it in full the day I picked it up. I’ve driven 280k miles with no major issues, and I used to take it up to the mountains every weekend to go snowboarding in my younger days, before I had kids.
And how do you unwind, these days?
Besides family time and horology ogling, I love exercising, particularly weightlifting and high intensity cardio training. I also find hiking a great way to wind down. For me, strap-making always calms me down after stressful day at work, and is a great side hobby.