I had heard of their work for a while but never actually got myself a Wotancraft strap until recently. Wotancraft does all type of leatherwork not just straps. Checking out their website you will see a lot of beautiful bags for photography. After speaking to the team at Wotancraft at length about all their different straps we decided on the Mario Arillo Vintage Strap. I do reviews on all types of straps and vintage reproductions like the iconic “74 Series” but never got the chance to try out another reproduction piece from Panerai’s history. Let’s take a little history lesson on who Mario Arillo is and why this strap was created by Wotancraft.
Mario Arillo was a Commander Mario Arillo of the Italian Navy was in charge of the submarine “Ambra” in 1942, and carried out successful assaults during WWII. The “Ambra” was modified to carry three S.L.Cs, the famous underwater manned-torpedo that could sneak past harbor guards and sabotage enemy ships with timed explosives. Frogman commandos would use their Panerai watches to time their escape from the blast radius, those watches were the standard issue equipments for their missions.
After the war, Giuseppe Panerai (the owner of Panerai equipments) himself presented a 6152/1 to Mario Arillo, a classic style with dark brown leather straps, with the GPF buckle that’s been used throughout the war on Panerai manufactured equipments. The “MARIO ARILLO” strap is the exact replication of an aged strap on the Mario Arillo 6152/1, authentically recreating the dark brown leather color, darkened burnishes, distress marks… all the details that make the Mario Arillo 6152/1 special among all the antique Panerai watches.
Here is some more information as well as pictures of the original watch and straps for comparison. http://www.watchtime.net/blog/vintage-panerai-die-arillo-luminor-referenz-61521/
It’s hard to start this review without talking about the amazing presentation and extras that come when you order this strap. Taking a look at the pictures you will notice the strap comes in a nicely created paper box which is an interpretation of the Panerai Equipment boxes used in the past. You have one end locked in with a button and strap that you open up to get inside this treasure box. The fun doesn’t end there, when you get inside you see a hand made leather pouch and S.L.C metal submarine keychain.
The pouch is made to resemble the WWII rifle magazine pouches used by the military but in this case it houses the strap which has been sealed in a waterproof bag along with 2 metal tubes if you wish to use them on the strap. The keychain which is the shape of the iconic SLC manned torpedoes features the Wotancraft name and also doubles as a bottle opener which is just another added bonus. Now that we have gone through the amazing packaging by Wotancraft, lets get on to the real goods, the Mario Arillo Strap.
So as we mentioned in the intro this is a replica of the original strap on a Vintage Panerai. The Mario Arillo is composed of two layers of dark brown leather that has been hand aged. The brown has been darkened to the point where it looks like patina from wear which is very close to the original straps color. Towards the lug side of the tail end of the strap you will notice 2 small lighter dots and one scuff mark. Those are not a mistake by the strap maker. They are actually the same markings you will see on the original strap.
The one thing that is different with this strap versus the original is that it is stitched with a thicker dark thread. The original was done in an thin ecru colored thread which you can see in the pictures. Although it’s not that big of a deal when you take the overall strap into consideration, it does deviate away from the original a bit.
The underside of the strap is a lighter brown color and doesn’t share the same dark aged look as the top side of the strap. Of course the original Mario Arillo strap does have the same aging becuase it was actually worn and has gone through a lot more wear and tear. It would be nice to have the underside just as distressed as the main side of the strap but there is a reason for it.
When Wotancraft started out in 2008 and launched their first lineup of hand-vintaged straps, it is the first time people in the Panerai community worldwide have seen such heavily distressed leather treatment, and there is a level of uncertainty regarding whether these straps are works of art, or just pre-worn straps. To show people the extent Wotancraft have went through to a make a brand new strap look like an antique, they eventually decided to keep the underside untreated, so people can feel comfortable knowing they are wearing a new leather strap.
On the tail end near the lugs you have it stamped with the words “X Flottiglia M.A.S Originale 1950”.
X Flottiglia M.A.S (Italian for “10th Assault Vehicle Flotilla”) is the very first frogman combat unit in the world, established just before WWII and specialized in underwater sabotage missions.
WOTANCRAFT prepared the stamping to acknowledge the deep roots between Panerai and the Italian Royal Navy. The very existence of Panerai diving watches was to serve the combat needs of these X-MAS frogman, when they had to dive underwater at night in the dark Mediterranean waters, using the glowing dial of their watches to time their operation & escape after planting explosives under Allied ships.
Originale (Italian for “Original”) is the series name of their authentic homage straps, where they replicate the leather straps that are seen on the famous antique Panerai watches.
The buckle side has “Wotancraft Atelier Hand Made Collection” stamped in it.
The strap is finished off with the correct time period GPF – Mod Dep buckle in a brushed finish. There are two keepers, one fixed and one floating. The edges of the strap are left unfinished which is also true to the time period and original strap. You may notice that the buckle side of the Mario Arillo strap is fatter than the tail end. Wotancraft calls it the “triple folding technique”, which is an actual derivation from WWII military surplus craftsmanship.
The Mario Arillo strap by Wotancraft measures approximately 4.55mm thick on both ends. My particular version of the strap is done in a retro length which is super long and lends itself to a nice large tail on the back end. The buckle end measures 100mm and the tail end is around 160mm.
The exaggerated length of these straps is meant to replicate the strap length on WWII watch straps, when the Italian X-MAS frogman had to wear the watch around the outside of their diving suits. All Wotancraft Originale straps can be made into “retro length”, for more fun in interpreting a Panerai watch in a vintage militaria theme.
Don’t worry at all becuase there are a number of sizes that are more standard available for those with smaller wrists.
When you first put the strap on you will instantly feel how comfortable the strap is. The cowhide that is used has been broken in nicely, most likely due to the aging process they put onto the strap. It conforms nicely around the wrist and even though it is a very long strap it doesn’t really effect me too much. It pretty much wraps all the way around to the front of the watch again and I was worried it might catch on things but I didn’t fall into that problem. I can definitely see this strap getting even better as it ages.
I fell in love with this strap right from the moment the package was opened. I was pleased with everything from the presentation to the actual strap itself. Although it doesn’t hit the mark as a 100% replica of the original strap, it takes nothing away from the build and quality of the strap. Since it has really exceeded all my expectations of a quality strap, I have no problem recommending Wotancraft’s work to any friends. All of the accessories that come with the strap are just an added bonus and definitely brings some added value for the price you pay. The strap is priced at $259 USD which includes the shipping around the world, box, leather pouch which can double as a watch travel case, and metal can opener SLC keychain. All in all it’s a well rounded product that you will be sure to fall in love with when it’s on your Panerai.
All Wotacrat straps and products can be purchases via their website.