Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that as an avid watch collector I love also to find interesting straps for my watches. My search for the worlds finest watch straps is ever ongoing, but have I got a step closer to finding the finest watch straps available? Have I found them? I possibly have, but only time will tell. Let me tell you the story of my visit to one of the most exclusive British bespoke leather goods manufacturers – Inro London.
I had been speaking to Inro, a small family run bespoke leather goods manufacturer based in London who’s aim is to be the very best producer of small leather goods in the world. Their philosophy is a simple one – everything is to be produced with the very best materials and every technique is to be done by hand, no corner cutting, no short cuts. They specialise in one off bespoke pieces from iPad cases and phone cases to document files, wallets and of course watch straps (although they prefer to call them leather bracelets for watches). This philosophy pays off as their work really is very special and each piece unique, which is exactly what I wanted as I was looking for a bespoke strap for a very unique watch of mine – my 1966 Breitling Navitimer 806 which has a lovely patina to the dial making is a total one of a kind and I wanted a strap as individual as it, so it had to be bespoke.
Picture the scene – having arranged to meet with company founder Nawaz Razaq at their workshop in London I was full of excitement to see what this intriguing company was all about. I was warmly greeted by Nawaz and he took me to his bijoux loft workshop. Skylights flooded the room with natural light and gave fantastic views over the Capital’s rooftops, not to mention the view of Wembley stadium. My senses were on overload, the smell of the various leathers in the workshop, ray, alligator, calf to name only a few. The colours of the leather dyes and the silk and linen threads, all the hand tools and the big weathered litho-stones that are used for cutting and working the leather. I immediately had so many questions!
Amidst the hand tools and hides of leather I was introduced to some products that were in the workshop, either waiting for collection or still being made for clients. Because the focus is on unique bespoke products no two products were alike. The only thing that was common to all pieces was the exceptional quality. You won’t find a stock of standard work, or off the shelf patterns. If you want a piece of Inro leatherwork you have to put some thought into exactly what you want and choose your exact specification – this really is “Bespoke by Appointment”.
There are many things that set Inro aside from the vast majority of luxury leather goods brands and I will just explain a few. First and foremost is the mantra that every piece should be unique, and this goes way beyond just making lots of aspects of the design customisable, Inro takes things a step further. Every single piece of leather is hand cut and every piece of stitching is done by hand. Their is no sewing machine in the workshop and their are no stamps to cut patterns. Further still, you will find no colour charts to choose from, but instead every piece of leather is hand dyed in the workshop to your individual colour which will ensure that your watch strap is as unique as your fingerprint.
With scaled leather (croc, alligator and lizard) they painstakingly dye the patination between the scales with a fine artists brush (and even with cotton buds) to bring out the texture of the leather allowing the scales to be emphasised. Because this process is so time consuming and takes a great deal of artistry this attention to detail is seldom seen in leatherwork but the results really are spectacular and produce truly one of a kind bespoke pieces.
Then there is the quality of the materials and the workmanship. There are no compromises here either. Only the very best materials are used, the softest leather, the finest leather dyes and waxes. The hand stitching is all done with either linen or silk thread – even some of the most prestigious brands cut corners here and use nylon or polyester, but not Inro, they do things right!
The other thing that really stands out on Inro products is the hand burnished edges of the leather. Most straps have the edges painted in a rubbery type of plastic material which looks ok to begin with, but over time deteriorates and cracks. The correct way to finish the edges of leather is to burnish them to give a polished and sealed edge. Burnishing is a time consuming process which is why most leather workers skip this stage and cheat by painting the edges with plastic, but when you see and feel hand burnished edges you instantly see a difference in the finish and appreciate the time and craftsmanship that has gone into the making of each individual piece. an Inro strap will have around 3 hrs spent just burnishing the edges and this extra effort really shows.
So, back to the matter in hand… I was looking for a unique strap as individual as my Breitling and sitting with the master craftsman who was going to make my strap the world was my oyster as this strap would be tailored to my exact wants.
The Navitimer is a tool watch, a watch with a purpose as a pilots watch and so I didn’t want anything too dressy – so scaled leather was not for me. I opted for calf which is subtle and understated, but supple and soft so is both tactile and comfortable. Being a tool watch I tend to wear it casually and always with brown shoes and so a rich warm brown was chosen.
The black dial has sub-dials, which once were snow white but have aged to a warm golden colour and so the choice of a complimenting contrast stitch on the strap was an obvious one and silk thread was chosen to marry the soft golden colour. Silk was chosen as it has some natural stretch to it which makes it perfect for watch straps which need to be flexible and shape to your wrist.
The dimensions of the strap were taken from an OEM Breitling strap that I was using as it worked dimensionally for me, although if the strap needed to be longer or shorter then this could all be done. The tip of the strap was chosen to be pointed but I equally could shave chosen a squared off end design.
With bespoke straps can you get away with one solitary buckle hole, positioned to fit your wrist, and your wrist only. No fussy spare holes and a certainty that the strap is bespoke to you. However, I opted for 2 holes as I tend to loosen my straps slightly on hot days, but no more than two holes was necessary.
The result… well the results speak for themselves. Soft, supple and super comfortable. Understated British elegance at it’s best. Beautifully finished and exactly what I was looking for, a unique, one off, custom strap for my one of a kind watch. My Breitling was a special watch to start with, but with the Inro strap it really is something else. Inro really do make superlative quality products and should you choose to have a strap made by them you will be made to feel as special as your new strap. The best custom leather watch straps in the world? Certainly a contender!