Here in Britain we may have small, lethally expensive houses, tiny, pocket-sized cars and perpetual rain – but we do have SalonQP. That makes London – for three days at least – the best place in the world to be if watches are your thing. Any watch brand that’s worth a look – from A. Lange & Söhne to Zenith – is there.
It’s fortunate that none of the watches at SalonQP are for sale at the event. The combination of free-flowing champagne and some of the world’s most gorgeous haute horlogerie would be lethal. Instant bankruptcy. Totting up my mental wish-list, even from the first stand I visited, saw me £35,000 down but smiling very happily indeed.
For those of us who spend most of the year furtively glancing at the wrists of strangers, it’s wonderful to be amongst fellow addicts for a while. And it’s not just the watchmakers and brands who man the stands – it’s one’s fellow guests. There aren’t many places where you can stop someone, admire their watch and have them offer it to you to try on. SalonQP – the ultimate refuge for the seriously afflicted watchnerd.
The exhibition this year was back at the Saatchi Gallery on London’s King’s Road. Spread throughout the large neo-classical building there were enough watches to keep even the shortest attention span happy for a whole evening.
Salon isn’t just a chance to look at remarkable watches; makers encourage you to unstrap your own watch and try theirs. Even those with the stiffest price tags were eager to let us watchnerds play. That saw me, in under half an hour, with just under £200,000 of Julien Coudray wonderfulness, a £10k JLC Reverso and £12,500 of white gold Nomos Lux on my wrist. The Coudray was quite remarkable. A platinum (yes, you read that right) movement, decorated entirely by hand, running at 28,800 bph. And you know what? If I’d had £200k lying around I’d buy one in a flash.
Nomos were there too and, for me, their watches (and their team) are always one of the real highlights of Salon. Hands up – I’m a huge Nomos fan. There is a genuineness and sheer love of watches that simply makes you want to get involved. An example… I’d visited SalonQP last year and had a conversation with Merlin, one of the team. We’d talked about the brand, of course, but also my ancient Russian motorcycle and sidecar with which I’d threatened to visit them in Glashütte. As I walked up to the stand this year, Merlin shook my hand warmly and opened with “Well, you’ve not been to see us yet on that bike of yours!” He then ran through the new Gold Collection with me. Watches with movements with twin mainspring barrels, sunburst polishing, screwed gold chatons and swan-neck adjustment. Again, if I’d had just short of £12,500 in my pocket, it would have changed hands even without the champagne.
Nomos are offering some of the classiest, minimalist designs and most beautiful in-house, precision-finished movements. And for prices that make them some of the best value timepieces out there.
Jaeger LeCoultre were equally keen to thrust horological gorgeousness my way too. As a Reverso fan, I took off my Classique and tried the new Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Duoface. It’s hard to be objective, so I simply won’t try. If you get the chance, the sheer precision of manufacture, quality and design of JLCs like this need to be tried on.
Newer brands were showing off their models too. And here the Brits were out front. Bremont not only had their Bletchley Park commemorative Codebreaker on display, but it was great to see Giles English, one of the brand’s two founding brothers, there too. For me, that showed the brand – and Giles’ – passion for Bremont and the event. Of course, one would expect the founder of a brand to be at Salon, but Giles stacked his Tiger Moth in August this year and was very badly injured indeed. It was great to see him in action again.
There were even younger brands making the most of Salon. Henley-based Pinion Watch Company launched there this year. Founder Piers Berry was showing off his remarkable new Axis model. Why remarkable? Piers has been determined to produce everything himself – from the watch designs to every piece of publicity and the brand’s website too. They’re heavy, tightly-made, legible as you like and have a real classical, aviation-style. They’ll be on sale in the UK in December this year. I’m anticipating a queue.
Salon is a place for the unusual too. Chopard’s Technical Development Manager was kind enough to explain the story behind his L.U.C 8HF – a watch that runs at 57,600 vibrations per hour. The watch on your wrist now, assuming it’s mechanical, will probably be running at a little over half that rate. But that level of accuracy is sundial-paced compared with London-based Hoptroff’s atomic pocket and wrist watches. Terrifying accuracy isn’t enough, so the No 9, despite being an apparently classical analogue watch, will tell you the percentage share price change since last close of trading. Oh, and the solid gold cases are 3D printed. Doesn’t get much more unusual than that.
The lovely people from Russian manufacture Konstantin Chaykin were there as well, with their Cinema watch (see the video). At the bottom of the Cinema’s dial is a tiny sub-screen which shows a moving, stop-frame animation. It’s been made as a tribute to the American inventor and photographer Eadweard Muybridge – his animation of a galloping horse was one of the first moving pictures. You wind the movement one way to power the watch, the other to power the animation.
There’s a joy to SalonQP that is distinctive. It comes from that word – so massively overused and devalued by marketers – passion. The people representing brands love what they do. Those of lucky enough to be invited love it too. If you have the chance next year, it’s more than worth the time in the air.
by Mark McArthur Christie