Worn & Wound’s Highlights From This Year’s SalonQP

Perhaps rather surprisingly, London doesn’t play host to many sizable watch shows. Despite the many boutiques and watch enthusiasts on the streets, opportunities for the two to collide at a large scale event are limited. The annual SalonQP exhibition in November provides a welcome opportunity for an open and receptive watch lover such as myself to peruse, try on, and chat about a range of horological goodies all under one roof.

This year’s event was the first under new management and the shift in focus that the change in stewardship brought about also saw a notable absence of some of the show’s previous stalwarts (I’m looking at you, Nomos). This switch-up did make way for some fresh experiences, even if the three brands that made the biggest impact on me are not new—in fact, all three started out many moons ago, and with two of them experiencing a resurrection of sorts in recent years. 

First up is Vertex. Vertex was one of the original “dirty dozen” manufacturers producing purposeful wristwatches built to military specifications in the 1940s. Another victim of the quartz crisis, the company closed its doors in 1972. Fast forward to 2017, when Don Cochrane, the great-grandson of Vertex founder Claude Octavius Lyons, relaunched the brand with the M100—a tribute to a watch from over seven decades before.

The new MP45 from Vertex.

This year, Vertex looked back to an observation watch commissioned by the War Office in 1945 that never saw the light of day due to the end of the Second World War later that year. The MP45 is a monopusher chronograph in the same style as the M100 that preceded it, and it is the first watch to use the SW510MP single-pusher chronograph caliber from Sellita. The single pusher to start/stop/reset the chronograph is positioned above the crown on the right hand side of the asymmetrical case. The watch will be available with either a manual or automatic version of the SW510MP, with both variants visible through a display case back.

The previous Vertex M100, which caused quite a bit of controversy with their “invite only” sales model.

Previous Vertex models have only been available via a slightly unusual and controversial “invite only” sales model, but the MP45 is being opened up to general sale, with a price of £3,750 and deliveries starting from March 2019. 200 units will be produced with the manual movement, and 200 with the automatic.

Looking at the list of exhibitors before the event, I was very keen to check out Ball’s offerings. It wouldn’t be fair to describe Ball watches as rare, but the dealer network and stock availability in the UK aren’t that wide-reaching.

Next up is actually a release from last year, the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II—a big name for a big watch. But for such a chunky watch (42 millimeters in diameter excluding the long crown guards and accompanying locking mechanism, and 53 millimeters from lug-to-lug), it wears surprisingly well—thanks to, in no small part, the steeply curved lugs.

Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II.

Ball’s use of tritium tubes is always impressive and the AeroGMT II has it in spades, but the uniqueness of this particular watch comes from the use of tritium tubes within the sapphire-topped bezel. Also worthy of praise is the excellent transition from the domed crystal to the bezel.  The Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II comes in at just over $3,000.

Tritium tubes doing their thing.

A newer release from Ball is the Trainmaster Endeavour Chronometer. This watch pays homage to Harrison’s Chonometer Nr. 4 that was on board Captain James Cook’s 1968 expedition to the Southern Hemisphere, which aimed to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun and to also seek out new lands. Despite the presence of a date window at 3 o’clock, James Cook’s signature in the lower half of the dial, and the prominent use of tritium tubes, the enamel dial somehow manages to retain much of the elegance of the Harrison Clock from which it borrows.

Trainmaster Endeavour Chronometer.

In addition to the successful aesthetics, the watch features a COSC-certified Ball RR1101-C movement, shock resistance of 5,000G, and is antimagnetic to 48,000 A/m. To celebrate the 250th anniversary of Cook’s voyage, the Trainmaster Endeavour Chronometer is limited to 250 pieces, and unfortunately (for some), it is a UK-only release, but I would expect there are ways to get your hands on one if you really wanted.

Favre-Leuba lay claim to being the world’s second oldest watch brand tracing their origins back to Le Locle in 1737. A victim of the quartz crisis, Favre-Leuba changed ownership several times in the last few decades before the Tata Group seemingly gave it a kick and brought the brand back fighting.

The general look and feel of the watches owes a lot to the brand’s golden era of the 1960s and ‘70s; especially dive watches of that time. There’s the retro-futuristic Favre-Leuba Raider Harpoon, a beast of a dive watch with a patented way of displaying the time. Understanding that a dive watch should clearly display the minute hand against the dive bezel and provide some sort of indication that the watch is running, the Raider Harpoon does away with extraneous information—or rather, it pushes that information off to the side.

Favre-Leuba Raider Harpoon.

The single large hand you see is the minute hand and it acts as normal. The seconds register is simply the disc at the center with a small pointer and three cut-outs, which is just enough to observe movement. The real ingenuity comes in the form of the ring displaying the hour markers. This ring rotates and almost keeps pace with the minute hand, completing 330 degrees of rotation for every full 360 degrees of the minute hand. When the minute hand points to the top it will be pointing squarely at an hour marker. When it is pointing down (at 30 minutes past an hour), it will be halfway between two hour markers as appropriate. Neat stuff, and all based on the Sellita SW200 caliber with proprietary modifications.

The bold and funky style is matched by the equally bold specs. The Raider Harpoon is water resistant to 500 meters and comes equipped with a helium escape valve operated by a second crown. It measures 46 millimeters in diameter with a thickness of 16.5 millimeters. Prices start from 4,450 CHF, which is about the same in USD.

Watch shows like this are always fun. Whether it’s the unfathomable thinness of the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra-Thin Automatique, the liquid-based engineering of HYT, or the beautiful simplicity of a Laurent Ferrier dial, for a fleeting moment the price tag doesn’t matter. After a few hours back in the real world it’s something of a relief to find that the watches at the more affordable end of the spectrum left the most lasting impression, and in the case of 2018 it happens to be ones that are tapping into a rich history to help create modern, interesting, and well-made timepieces the average watch-buyer can aspire to own.

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Brad stumbled into the watch world in 2011 and has been falling down the rabbit hole ever since. Based in London, Brad's interests lie in anything that ticks, sweeps or hums and is slightly off the beaten track.