Last Sunday morning, in hotels around Chelsea, watchmakers, watch writers, salespeople and PR bods will have been nursing sore feet and (in some cases) monumental hangovers. They’ll have been quietly whimpering into their breakfast eggs because they’d survived the final night of SalonQP, the international watch show and serious horology drinkathon.
At the Saatchi Gallery there were watches ranging from wallet-searing vintage Newman Daytonas to decidedly pocket-friendly Shinolas. And you could have done it with anything from a cocktail to a glass of Chivas Regal in hand. And, because it’s QP, it was OK to peer at what was on everyone else’s wrist, try on what you liked and not feel weird. In short, if you weren’t there you missed a treat.
The real SalonQP
But there are really two SalonQPs. There’s the official one with new PR-polished model launches, splendid free bars and backlit glass cases. Then there’s the unoffiicial one that happens over a drink or three, where you get to catch up with watchie pals and see what they’ve been up to.
Garrick. Making things harder
For example, the irrepressible Dave Brailsford and watchmaker Simon Michlmayr; the team behind Garrick watches. It’s always worth reserving judgement on a watch until you’ve picked it up, tried it and worn it. Garrick watches are one of the better examples of this. In pictures they’re understated, plain even. See them in the metal and they’re completely transformed.
They’ve been developing their new watch, the Norfolk, which they were launching at QP. Typically for Simon and Dave, they’ve done it the hard way.
For example, they could have nipped out and bought a few sets of off-the-shelf hands. But why on earth make it simple? Simon’s designed and hand-made, heat blued steel ‘maritime’ hands. He’s also making an properly enamelled dial for each watch, with the enamel built up on a silver dial blank. Simon explains, “It’s taken us a while to perfect this, because when you fire it first, the blank and the enamel warp one way. It’s the second firing that brings the dial back true.”
Inside you’ll find a NOS Unitas 6497 base movement, suitably beautified, with a screwed balance. And you’ll pay around £2,295 for this, a proper handmade English watch.
Himalayan watches and deep divers
The Norfolk was up-front in Garrick’s lineup, but get chatting to Simon and more interesting things appear. How about a heavily modified SM302 Hoxton? Rather than the standard Hoxton, a watch one can imagine happily with a martini in one hand, this one is more obviously rugged.
DLC case, fixed springbars, a NATO strap, oversize screw down crown and each of the chapter ring’s minute marker’s lume-filled. It needed to be rugged too. Simon is a serious climber and made this special edition for a friend who’s just brought it back from shinning up a previously unconquered 6,200 metre peak in the Himalayas.
The next watch out of Simon’s case was completely different. Where you could imagine the DLC Himalayan Hoxton happily propping up a bar in a Vinnie Jones ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ way, the Diver would be outside, looking for a fight.
The case is 904 grade stainless stainless steel. That’s the sort of stainless you use when 316 grade just isn’t tough enough. Seawater looks at 904 and slinks off to find a battleship to molest instead.
So far, the Diver has survived a depth of 1km without worrying too much. It’s not hard to see why. Even the bezel detent system (yes, there is one) makes a Deepsea look a bit lightweight and effete. To turn the bezel, you snick a stainless steel catch into place like a rifle bolt (you can do it in neoprene diving gloves – Simon’s tested it) and it locks tight against the bezel edge’s semi-circular indentations.
Garrick aren’t planning to put either of these into production, but it gives you an idea of the sort of sheer watchmaking ability Simon puts into their lineup.
Andreas Strelher and his Time Shadow
Chatting to Dave Brailsford by one of the corner stands was Andreas Strelher. Andreas has an ability to make watches that seem simple but aren’t. Look inside and they’re terrifying pieces of watchmaking ingenuity and engineering.
For example, you’ll find Andreas’ Sauterelle à lune perpétuelle in the Guinness Book of Records. Why? It has the most precise lunar complication ever built in a watch, accurate to 2-point-something-daft million years. Not the most practical complication, granted, but eye-wateringly impressive celestial horology. He has – currently – 14 watchmaking patents. He’s developed remontoire mechanisms that transmit perfectly linear power to watch escapements, remove stress on them and twin barrels that allow them to run at constant power for 78 hours.
Andreas was wearing his new watch, the Time Shadow. Typically simple and understated in appearance but hellish complex inside with planetary and conical gears. Typically elegant from the outside too. Again, as is nearly always the case at Salon, Andreas was happy to talk about his work, show his watch and even take it off his wrist to offer a try-on. That’s like meeting Roberto Fedeli in a supermarket carpark and him chucking you the keys to his LaFerrari.
Peter and Marie-Louise Roberts and the Mythique
Trying to stroll around the haute horlogerie wonderfulness downstairs were Peter and Marie-Louise Roberts. They kept trying, but so many people wanted to talk to them. Watchworld is full of lovely people, but Peter and Marie Louise must take the crown. Ain’t it always the way – the people with the most talent have the least to prove. If you need any justification for Peter’s ability, set aside a couple of hours, sit down with a decent malt and google “Concentrique Grand Complication 5”. If you’re not seriously thinking about selling a kidney to buy one after that, you have no soul. Go and buy a B’ling for Bentley and hang your head.
But this evening, Peter had something different on his wrist – one of his new Mythique models. Typically of Peter, he wasn’t flashing it around; you had to ask him what he was wearing. Based on a skeletonised Valjoux cal. 23 (the complexity of doing that should tell you enough), the Mythique is rather different from most skeleton watches. For a start, it’s a chronograph – most skeletons are dress watches. Then, the sapphire dial is frosted, with the two subdials, centre seconds, hour and minute hands on top. So it’s a skeleton that’s as easy to read and use as a solid dial. And, being one of Peter’s, it has a depth and handmade character that machine-made kit can’t emulate.
part two coming soon…