‘If you can learn to do a saddle, what’s a watch strap?’ Sabel Saddlery are a bespoke strap maker based in Walthamstow, East London. A relatively small operation run by Mia Sabel, each strap is handmade to each customers specifications, with one-on-one consultations encouraged to ensure the best possible outcomes.
With an array of different leathers available, and many styles to choose from, this really is the ultimate in watch customisation. Having first encountered Sabel Saddlery, and Mia herself, at SalonQP 2016, I was keen to learn more about the company and what they had to offer. A few weeks after our first meeting, I found myself travelling to the East End to check out the workshop & see what went on behind the scenes. Tucked away in a residential area not far from the station I was welcomed by Mia & her photographer, Colin.
The workshop, situated in a quant lodge at the end of the garden, is filled with dozens of hides, sample straps and various vintage leather cases & products Over a cup of tea we discussed the origins of Sabel Saddlery, where the business is & the state of leather craft now, as well as their plans for the future. While not desperately close to the city centre, Mia assures me their location in Walthamstow is well thought out. Little to my knowledge, the area is bustling with creative personalities, from writers to architects & everything in between.
They’re also a mere 22 minute underground ride to Oxford Circus, and with the recent addition of the Night Tube, are very well connected. Not that this relative outpost should put you off of a consultation with Sabel as, for a fee, Mia is willing to do call outs to London & further afield. What’s more, with a concession in Bentleys, an antique store based near Sloane Square (Zone 1), it is much easier for clients to see what Sabel can put together.
In fact, it was this collaboration with Bentleys that helped in the visual appeal & ultimate success of SalonQP 2016 for Mia & her team. Sabel’s journey started when Mia left her job as a graphic designer for a financial company in Canary Wharf. Although successful, she longed for something more, and so took a year out to work with horses and refresh. This hands on lifestyle perhaps influenced her overall decision to choose a hands on craft as the basis of her next career move. Millinery, Tailoring & Saddlery all made the shortlist of interests, but the latter came out on top as she was most passionate about this craft.
A 2 year full time saddlery course at Capel College in Enfield followed, with what should have been a further 2 years apprenticeship thereafter. However, due to the fact Mia had to support herself throughout this period, she instead trained for one year whilst working for herself as a Saddler, making trips down to Salisbury every month or two to be assessed by a Master Saddler, and continued to work for a year after while still being assessed before being granted qualified Saddler status.
With much competition from Saddlers in the area, Mia decided to diversify her skills using her knowledge from repairs of antique luggage, saddlery & her own design background to look at what was causing many watch straps to deteriorate and eventually break, and remove the weaknesses in order to create unique straps that would truly withstand the test of time.
Of course, customer demand also drove her in this direction, but it’s that same customer demand that will continue to help grow this now established business. Having originally followed the basic template of a watch strap and giving them 9 holes, Mia began to think about designing them more like Bridles, that is to say, tailored to the wearer.
She gradually reduced the number of holes down to one (though additional holes can be put in at the customer’s request), and therefore each strap is measured to fit the individual perfectly, leaving no excess.
The most basic strap option allows the consumer to choose the colour on the top of the strap, as well as the lining & stitch colour. The single keeper is stitched in as there is little need for movement without strap overhang, and the entire strap is hand stitched by Mia herself. Prices start at £175 (at the time of writing), and include consultations and fitting at her Walthamstow studio. It’s also worth noting that while Mia does have people around her to help with the overall process of her bespoke straps, she still makes every single one herself by hand.
Having been so impressed with my experience thus far, I have opted to have a strap made by Mia for a newly acquired vintage timepiece. I will document the entire process of this in a follow up article over the next few months, so check back regularly for updates!