Guest contributor John Galt spent some time at London’s SalonQP watch exhibition last week-end experiencing the best of what the UK watch scene has to offer. Here’s what he had to say about the event.
In just three short years QP magazine has established their annual watch exhibition, the SalonQP, as one of the premiere events on the UK’s – and indeed Europe’s – watch calendar. This year the two-day event was hosted in the stunning Saatchi Gallery in London, a fitting venue for a truly incredible display of some of the world’s best pieces of Haute Horologerie.
The UK only show – dedicated to the fine art of high-end watchmaking and all the artistic works that it entails – featured exhibits from a number of the major players, from Lange & Sohne to Zenith, as well as displays from a several home grown talents including the phenomenal talents of the late George Daniels to the more modern designs of Grahams London, plus talks and debates covering a range of topics including the quartz crisis and the continued resurgence of German watch-making.
From the moment you walk up to the Satchi Gallery you are struck by its sheer size and impressive presence. Yet this awestruck feeling is almost all but forgotten as soon as you step through the doors into a horological wonderland. The impressive displays containing some of the world’s best timepieces contrast starkly against the whiteness of the gallery, creating an almost surreal effect.
The first stand I came across was that of Italian jewellery and watch-maker, Bulgari. On display was their breathtaking Gerald Genta Magsonic in rose gold featuring a Grande Sonnerie Tourbillon movement complete with Westminster Chime grand and little strike on four gongs (pictured at top). Each piece takes a full year to create and finish and is presented in a special box designed to amplify the sound of the chimes. Of course to get the watch out of the box you first need to scan your finger through the fingerprint recognition software. Not bad for £535,000, although my personal favorite is the Octo Chronographe Quardi Retro jump hour in Rose Gold with leather strap.
Bremont’s first bespoke Marine clock, hand-painted by rock’n'roll legend Ronnie Wood.
Next up is Bell & Ross, showcasing a custom motorcycle complete with a watch on the tank, then on to the superb Tag Heur Mikrotimer Flying 1,000th concept which records time to a mind bending 1,000th of a second. A stop at the Harry Winston stand affords an opportunity to gawk at their unique creations which dazzle with both their complexity and their quality. Harry Winston weren’t the only ones packing some star-power however, with UK watch-maker Bremont touting their first Marine clock collaboration with rock ‘n’ roll legend Ronnie Wood – who was of course on hand to lend his support.
A welcome innovation to the show is the addition of the independents gallery, providing a dedicated platform for these high-end niche brands, from the well-established but no less awe-inspiring MB&F with their futuristic Thunderbolt to the up-and-coming Schofield Watch Company who launched their new Signalman GMT timepiece available in stainless steel or DLC which I’m sure will take off after the show if the owner and designer are anything to go by. Also on show was the exquisite Chapter One Round from Maitres du Temps, featuring a world first combination of complications: tourbillon, monopause chrono, retrograde date and GMT with 2 rolling bars for day and phase of moon.
The newly launched Scholfield Signalman – limited to just 300 pieces
Of course it’s not just about looking at finished products, although that is a very enjoyable experience in itself (believe me!) there are also a number of opportunities to learn more about the complex art of watch-making. You can take advantage of the rare opportunity to participate in a Master-class workshop run by the prestigious Jaeger-LeCoultre – creator of the Reverso timepiece among others, or watch in awe as Corum’s master watch-maker assembles the unique golden bridge movement. Montblanc’s Monique Wyssmueller was also on hand to demonstrate the art of balance springs – a key component responsible for a watch’s timing.
Also for the first time in the UK the Fondation de le Haute Horlogerie staged an exhibition of the history of watchmaking, including rare and important pieces from both Swiss and English collections, a unique event indeed.
The Final Word
With a show like this over 2 floors there is a stand and a watch to suit everyone’s taste, be they traditional or cutting edge. No sales at the show means just friendly and knowledgeable brand representatives on hand who are more than willing to show and explain to you timepieces that you normally wouldn’t ever get to see or hold close up (at least not without the aid of a black American Express card). I personally came away from the show with significantly more knowledge of the inner workings of a timepiece and a renewed appreciation for just how much work it takes to make each of these exquisite creations.
The show runs once a year in London and for anyone with a passion for horolgy attendance is a must.
For more information please visit the official SalonQP website: www.salonqp.com