Shell cordovan is a vegetable-tanned leather that comes from horse rump (aka butt). It is one of the most desirable leathers out there due to its unique gloss surface finish, and high durability. While Horween is the first tannery to produce shell cordovan, our shell comes from a Japanese tannery, Shinki Hikaku. Shinki shell is incredibly clean, with a semi-gloss luster that offers a superior level of water resistance. Shinki shell has a more refined look and feel, as compared to the rugged and rustic vibe of Horween shell.
Shell cordovan is often used in the footwear world, with Shell Cordovan shoes costing quite a premium over the non-Shell versions. Take a look at this non-Shell Allen Edmonds Park Avenue ($425) versus the Shell Cordovan version ($695). The fact that Shell Cordovan doesn't crease creates a wonderful look when worn in on shoes. It rolls (you can thank me later!)
But of course, it isn't just shoes and boots that uses Shell Cordovan. Briefcases, duffel bag, wallets, and of course, straps. If you had clicked on each of those links, you would notice a trend - the prices are all sky high. This is because of the limited supply of Shell Cordovan. Firstly, leather is a byproduct of the food industry, and with more people eating cow over horse, there's just less horse leather to go around. Secondly, each horse can only produce 2 pieces of Shell Cordovan (one from each butt cheek). Thirdly, it takes a very long time (a 6 month long process) for the unprocessed rump leather to become Shell Cordovan. Fourthly, there are not many tanneries that are able to produce Shell Cordovan (apart from Horween in USA and Shinki Hikaku in Japan, there's also Rocado in Italy and Clayton in UK). These have all led to the high price of Shell Cordovan (raw material prices are around $100/sqft).
So why did I decide on using Shell Cordovan for my first collection of watch straps? The purpose of Delugs is to bring all the wonderful leather currently used by the leathercrafting world to the watch community. To allow people to experience a different class of leather. To move people away from generic calf leather. And most definitely to move people away from "genuine" leather. In many ways, Shell Cordovan is the pinnacle of "top-grade leather" and the leather I would love for people to discover. However, for most people, it is just too prohibitive to fork out over $150 for a Shell Cordovan strap. I'm hoping that with my cheaper prices, I can reduce that barrier to entry and open the eyes of the watch family to the multitude of amazing leather out there.
*Unfortunately, only M size is available at this point in time.