Watch collecting can be a weird sort of hobby. Though technical and horological accomplishments would ostensibly be among the most desirable qualities in watches, despite our most well-intentioned attempts at objectivity our emotion, sentimentality and subjectivity are almost inseparable from the opinions we form. Manufacturers and sellers are of course well aware of this and are quick to shamelessly capitalize upon it, obfuscating reality here and there with just enough deception and half-truth needed to make a quick buck off of us enthusiasts.
So it can be pleasing in a way to see one of these blatantly exploitative abusers exposed. Especially one who goes by the name “Outstretchedhands” — as in hands outstretched for your money!
A little over a year or so ago Duncan “Outstrestchedhands” McMorrin (owner of divestraps.com) began touting straps he termed “Kevlar” straps. His posts annoyed many forum readers, especially when started shilling them first in discussion forums with photos describing them as the “ultimate” dive strap and other hyperbole with some (admittedly) beautiful photos shortly before offering them for sale. It didn’t help that they were paired with a garishly outsized cam type buckle whose size and dimensions would make its wear in real-world situations highly impractical, and then later with Panerai-knockoff buckles. It didn’t help that he insisted upon referring to them as “the Ted Su Kevlar Dive Strap” (who’s Ted Su?) and then later, bizarrely, “Ted McSu” – presumably of the Highlander McSus? Related to the McHuangs I wonder?
A few months later some very serious doubts emerged concerning the honesty and transparency of his description, namely whether or not they were actually Kevlar® at all. Duncan stuck to his guns, maintaining adamantly on numerous occasions though offering no proof that the straps were indeed Kevlar despite the doubts, derisively dismissing critics as internet kooks with axes to grind.
The word “kevlar” (lowercase ‘k’) gets used frequently but improperly to refer to all sorts of products, designs, and materials. The original Kevlar® (uppercase ‘K’) of course refers exclusively to the trademarked DuPont brandname for the para-aramid fiber developed in the 1960s. Though the original patent has expired and similar fibers can now be made by any manufacturer, even referring to them as “kevlar” (lowecase ‘k’) is still an improper use of the registered, trademarked brand name despite the frequent (mis-)use among sellers and marketers. Many makers even refer such materials as “Coramid” or such to avoid trademark infringement, at least when it actually contains a para-aramid fiber similar to DuPont’s Kevlar.
And even so, Kevlar is far from an ideal material for watch straps. As stated in the Omega X-33 article, Kevlar can be stiff, itchy, and prone to durability problems in an uncareful design:
Despite its “bulletproof” mystique and high strength-to-weight ratio (roughly 5 times stronger than steel on an equal weight basis), Kevlar can be a temperamental fiber to work with in finished products and textiles and is not without vulnerabilities. Kevlar is susceptible to breakdown from ultraviolet light exposure and long-term water exposure or repeated washings, especially if the design of the finished product does not “seal” the Kevlar fibers well through lamination or other means.
So Kevlar is far from an ideal material for use in dive straps at all with its susceptibility to degradation from water exposure. Ironically, if Duncan “Outstretchedhands” McMorrin’s straps had actually contained Kevlar as stated they might even be less suitable for their supposed application!
All else aside, the straps themselves aren’t too bad in and of their own right. Decent construction, well-made and likely durable enough, but just not Kevlar® or even kevlar. Another possible shortcoming is the one-size-fits-all approach to sizing: the uniform 24mm width has to have notches cut in the lug ends to fit the more common 22mm and 20mm lug sizes on most watches, which can lead to a somewhat unfinished appearance especially with the large cutouts required on a watch with thick 20mm lugs. Oddly, Outstretchedhands/divestraps.com also ships his without holes punched unless explicitly requested, perhaps because they were originally shipped with the outrageously sized tongue buckle. And of course the typical end user would likely be quite challenged to punch holes in a strap that was actually made of Kevlar®.
Last week Bob of Broadarrow.net began offering what for all the world appear to be identical straps for $20, apparently sourced from the same supplier [EDIT: please see addition below regarding sources] complete with a deliberately infomercial-esque spoof description. Based on the ridiculous “Ted McSu” designer name of the others, these seem well on their way to becoming known as the “McBob” strap. Attentive readers will note as well that that the description explicitly states ” Contains no Kevlar™” despite all of Outstretchedhands’ prior protestations to the contrary.
I wonder how Outstretchedhands’ customers will feel when they realize they’ve been overpaying by a factor of more than 700% for a strap that’s not what is was advertised to be at all?
[EDIT: In light of recent developments in the interest of clarity I feel I should add: when I say “apparently sourced from the same supplier” above, I am expressing my own opinion that with the distinctively atypical styling and the enormously similiar appearances it seems extraordinarily likely in my opinion that these have shared or closely related production or distribution channels. This opinion is not based on input from Maratac or any Maratac employee, agent, or distributor.]