The Coronado Leather Company was formed in 1981 in San Diego, California. Born of a small assortment of craftsman committed to producing high quality leather bags, the company has grown to offer a wide assortment of quality goods, but they have kept their focus on leather bags for both men and women. In particular, Coronado has created a niche for itself in the concealed carry leather goods industry (as in: a really cool, high quality leather item to conceal your firearm) for the responsible citizen and for law enforcement officers.
In addition to the aforementioned niche, Coronado Leather is also a company devoted to producing the highest quality goods with the highest quality raw materials. Coronado recently sent to BestLeather their Swiss Military Saddlebag as well as their Americana Large Duffel. This commitment to quality was immediately apparent after examining these two bags. For the purpose of this article, we’ll be taking a look at the Swiss Military Saddlebag, with a review of the Large Duffel to follow-up in a week or two.
The Swiss Military Saddlebag from Coronado is a replica of the same named saddlebags from the 1920’s to 1940’s. A snippet from Coronado’s site explains, “Originally used by the Swiss Army as saddle bags for donkeys and horses, they were later converted as functional briefcase/saddle bags by adding a leather strap (something that was not originally included). In wanting to maintain the authenticity of the original saddlebags, Coronado has designed the bag with almost 100% accuracy to the original.
In learning this, I took to the internet to see if I could find some of these original saddlebags, and sure enough, what I found were bags that looked exactly the same as the one we were sent by Coronado, albeit in a little rougher shape. I was amazed at how good some of these bags appeared, despite being almost as old as my grandparents. This is a testament to an excellent design and the use of high quality leather.
The design of the saddlebag is somewhat unique in that it consists of one compartment only, which can be expanded or contracted by cinching or loosening the side straps. There are also two 1¼” straps sewn to the inside of the bag, which can be used for securing notepads, a small tablet, or something similar. The bag also has sloped side panels, which lowers the front panel about 2” from the back of the bag. This was a smart design, especially if you were reaching into the bag while sitting on your horse or your ass (pun intended). Even though most of us would not be using it that way today, I still like the ease of accessing the contents of the bag with a lowered front flap, while you are walking and wearing the bag over your shoulder.
Another interesting feature of the bag is the top flap. Instead of using one single piece of leather from the back of the bag all of the way to the top flap, Coronado’s Saddlebag uses two pieces that are stitched to a third, 1” strap. Durability buffs may cringe at this, suggesting that this design makes the flap weaker–a complaint that does have some merit–but it does make the bag more flexible at the top and also allows the flap to fold completely back and lay flat against the back of the bag. This design allows for slightly greater function and is worth the incremental decrease in durability. The fact that many of these original Swiss military saddlebags are still around, and are even resold completely intact, suggests that there is no need to worry about the top flap coming apart.
Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. In creating high-quality leather goods, this maxim certainly holds true, and it is no exception for Coronado’s Swiss Military Saddlebag. If there was only one word allowed to describe the utility of this bag, it would be simple. It is meant to hold several things in one compartment and be incredibly durable. It does just that. It has no zippers or snaps, which are some of the more common items that can break on a bag, which increases the chance of the bag lasting generations.
The bag has two ¾” straps used to close and secure the bag, which you can quickly unbuckle and undo. In fact, I was able to buckle up and then undo the straps with just my right hand, while the bag was slung over my shoulder, which is very useful for somebody on the go.
One of the most, if not the most, beautiful aspects of the bag is the leather itself. This bag has been in my office for about a month now and I find myself glancing at it every once in a while and admiring it. The bag is made from ten ounce Horween Chromexcel leather. This is the thickest Chromexcel leather you can buy and is significantly thicker leather than most full leather bags are made from.
Chromexcel has been produced by the Horween Leather Company for nearly one hundred years, with a very similar recipe over its existence. With that type of pedigree, you can safely assume a high quality leather that lasts. Chromexcel is combination tanned, meaning it is both chrome and vegetable tanned. This produces a leather that has some of the more supple aspects of a chrome tanned leather, but the durability of a vegetable tanned leather.
Straight vegetable tanned leather that is ten ounces thick will generally be extremely rigid and very difficult to work. It is not something that you would typically make a bag that you walk around with. The combination tanning allows for a bag that has very thick leather, which I still cannot take my eyes off of, but is also very functional and supple. To boot, the leather is also “struck through”, which means the color of the bag is dyed through to the middle of the leather. Most tanneries do not take this extra step and when you cut into their leather you see the color on the top and bottom of the hide, but a blue or tan center. This is another reason that Chromexcel is a classy choice of leather for this bag.
HARDWARE AND THREAD
All of the hardware on Coronado’s Swiss Military Saddlebag is solid brass and is nickel plated. Like the bag itself, the hardware is somewhat subtle and is not oversized or overbearing. The buckles are ¾”, as are the strap rings. True to the original design, Coronado uses a rivet where the back flap and the side panel meet, as a measure of durability and strength. There are a few places that an additional rivet would be useful, namely to help fasten the front or the back straps. Instead, Coronado uses thick #270 polyester thread in these places, as well as wherever stitching is required. I would imagine that a rivet would be used in normal circumstances, but in wanting to stay true to the original design, they were not. And again, who can argue with a design that has already stood the test of time.
The Swiss Military Saddlebag from Coronado Leather is a beautiful bag based on a classic design. The design is simple, true to its ancestors, and is made with some of the most durable, high quality leather you can find. It is built to last generations, just like its namesake. It is also made by a company that stands behind its products with a lifetime guarantee, making the decision of buying this bag a much easier one. If Leonardo were still around, I would not be surprised to see him toting the Swiss Military Saddlebag from Coronado Leather.