INRO & The Gilded Lily: The Art of the Watchstrap

LAPADA Member The Gilded Lily have found a perfect partner in Approved Service Provider INRO, who creates one-of-a-kind watch straps for their exceptional watches.

At The Gilded Lily, we have always included unusual wristwatches for ladies and gentlemen in our stock of fine jewellery. Whilst many dealers offer marvellous collections of well-known luxury brands, it has been our preference to show rarer things, special orders or watches that we know to have been from limited editions, or even unique, one-off, timepieces. Our preference tends towards the “watches as jewellery” gem set pieces, but we also have items in stock which we like for their elegance of form and function.

Over the course of time, it became apparent to us that customers for such unusual pieces were often concerned to ensure the most characterful appearance for their watches. Whilst we always offered to exchange worn straps with modern, sympathetic replacements, we found that the choice and quality of mass-produced bracelets on the market was very limited and left customers unimpressed. Our research showed us that before the Second World War, Gay Freres in Paris was the preferred watchstrap maker to the top jewellers of Montmartre and the Champs Elysée. In those days, chic buyers were offered timepieces without bracelet straps, and it was normal for them to work with their jeweller and the Atelier to achieve their particular taste. Sadly, that firm had long since ceased to be when we first sensed the need for such services and try as we might, we could find no modern equivalent. That was until, a few years ago, we were introduced to Nawaz Razaq of INRO London. By pure coincidence, this talented and energetic man was planning to create exactly that sort of bespoke Atelier, one capable of handmaking the highest quality of one-off leather and silk straps tailored to individual watches.

Often our watches are of non-standard sizes and have very unusual fittings. Their bracelets must be cut and fitted to awkward or highly individual lug shapes or buckle designs. In Nawaz, we found a fellow enthusiast whose attention to detail and design creativity matched our own aspirations. Not only that but as his Company grew, he accumulated a curated stock of materials and colour choices that allowed us to make personal designs for even our most discerning clients.

We have discovered that a beautiful new strap can transform a vintage watch and restore, even enhance its original glamour. We have become well known for doing that, and as a result, many of our customers have brought us their wristwatches for restoration and transformation. In response to requests from clients, we have also worked with Nawaz and his firm, INRO London, to make a patent fitting so that straps can be easily removed. This allows owners to choose two or more straps for a single watch and so be able to change its colour scheme to suit different occasions or wardrobes. It can be quite surprising to see the personality of a vintage Rolex, Omega or Patek Philippe, for example, change when its bracelet goes from green to pink or yellow to blue. Sometimes we have worked to achieve a close match or even a complimentary colour to the particular tone of a watch face. For other customers, we have achieved stitched patterns of contrasting colours in abstract or geometrical designs, the palettes are always selected specifically to work with the colours of the given watch. Texture, too, can make a startling difference; gross-grain silks bring a shimmering evening wear style to suitable watches, while strong leather patterns in alligator or Lizard, in striking colours or subtle traditional tones, make bold, energetic daytime statements. We find that our customers, unleashed to be creative by these infinite possibilities, often let their imaginations run wild. You, too, may be inspired to do the same.

Shown is a very rare Boucheron “Curvex” two-time-zone watch. We have never seen another example. The watch has two movements and two independently settable faces so the wearer can set the hands to show the time for two different locations in the World. For those lucky enough to have a home, say, in London, and another, for example, in Aspen or New York, this would be an invaluable instrument. The case is made of heavy 18ct yellow gold, so we decided to replace the tired, unoriginal stock leather strap that the watch came with when we acquired it with a different slip-fit strap, cut to the specific measurements of the fixed bar design, to provide a completely contrasting look. We are thrilled with the transformation in the finished article; it speaks for itself.