I only own one AE belt (a black classic wide or w/e it's called) and it started cracking after only a few wears. Compare that to Trafalgar belts that I own and there's no cracking after ~2 years of wear. Unfortunately they don't have a walnut color that I think would match.
Does Trafalgar still make theirs in the USA? The last one I bought turned out to be Chinese-made so I returned it. And, you might have just gotten a bad AE. It's certainly been known to happen with the shoes . . .