London’s Saatchi Gallery was once again the setting for the sixth edition of SalonQP, the United Kingdom’s premier horlogic event. Mounting the steps and passing beneath the grand columns of the beautiful old building set the scene for a gala of watchmaking within, and with more than eighty brands exhibiting, as well as welcoming the winning timepieces from the recent GPHG awards ceremony, this year’s event was the largest so far.
Noticeable this year too were the prevalence of independent brands throughout the gallery, and significantly a hall given over to the esteemed Académie Horlogère des Créativeurs Indépendents (AHCI), where members of the invitation-only institution gathered in their biggest presentation yet in the UK as they gear up for its 30th anniversary next year.
With so many exhibitors ranging from the large mainstream brands such as TAG Heuer, Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Hermés, Tudor and beyond through to brands whose very existence is down to the passion of one individual, SalonQP 2014 had something for everyone, and for those who came to see what their favourite brand name had to offer, so the smaller guys also got the chance to widen those visitor’s awareness.
The ground floor was mostly occupied by those internationally recognized brands which can be found in the finer High Street specialists, and on display here was Piaget’s impossibly slim Altiplano with it’s 2.35mm wafer-thin movement. Just across the room a series of vitrines housed the winners of the Aiguille d’Or winners from the recent GPHG awards. For the most part, these pieces remained behind glass all weekend although the presence of Bart and Tim Grönefeld meant that at least I was able to appreciate their sublime award winning Parallax (and One Hertz) up close and personally.
Around the corner, Jaeger-LeCoultre once again had their pr machine in full swing, taking up most of a room with their presentation which included a mobile workbench where intrepid amateurs could try their hand at haute horlogerie watchmaking.
Making their public debuts at the show were Zenith’s stunningly beautiful Academy George Favre-Jacot piece, featuring chain and fuse system and the watch which opens the brand’s celebrations for their 150th anniversary which will dominate 2015 for Zenith.
Elsewhere, master watchmaker Emmanuel Bouchet, architect of the Harry Winston Opus 12, unveiled his own Complication One, with its captivating central secondary escapement governing the hours, minutes and seconds, each on their own sapphire displays.
Nomos of Glashütte had a large range of their pieces on show again, but the ‘True Blue’ dials being used in the stainless steel Zurich Worldtimer and the drop-dead-gorgeous Lambda Deep Blue were stunning to handle and wear – all too briefly.
Of course whenever the chance to slip a De Bethune timepiece onto one’s person arises, it is always worth abandoning whatever else one might be doing to avail, and the DB28 Maxichrono and Dark Shadows limited edition with those looks and floating lugs were high up on my SalonQP bucket list.
A little further on and up a couple of flights of stairs (why do healthy people use elevators in a three-story building?) more horlogic temptations awaited. Stepan Sarpaneva entertained his many callers with his distinctive raised single eyebrow and new pieces which commemorate the life and achievements of Sarpaneva’s childhood idol 1970’s Finnish motorcycling legend Jarno ”Paroni” Saarinen with a super cool limited edition S.U.F. Paroni, its dial a tribute to the colour scheme on his helmet as he became the only Finn to be crowned World Champion back in 1972. Naturally the offer to try on his awesome new Korona K0 Moonwatch, which features both red and white gold moons, a grand feu enamel dial beneath the dlc stainless steel cage-like dial and lashings of Super LumiNova proved way too much to pass up on.
Urwerk’s otherworldly EMC Black and UR-105 were also must-sees, the former having just scooped the Mechanical Exception Watch category award at the GPHG. Its mechanical movement has been married to a tiny electronic monitor which, when charged by winding the side-mounted lever arm, ‘reads’ the balance like a disc, so the wearer can receive updates on the movement’s accuracy via a +/- indicator and recalibrate if required by hand.
Englishman Giles Ellis, owner of Schofield Watch, delivered a passionate and compelling seminar ‘The Devil is in the Details’ which provided an insight into the molecular processes he and his Company employ in the design of his timepieces, including his new Schofield Beater; a watch designed to take the wear and tear of daily use and improve with age as it gains its character!
Making its debut appearance at SalonQP 2014 was the AHCI, and put on a presentation of traditional watchmaking in its truest form. These watchmakers manage to dream up and design, then prepare detailed calculated drawings of every single component before getting down to the metal and the lathe as they set about machining those components from blocks of metal into everything they will need to build their new timepiece.
Co-founder Mr Svend Andersen was joined by more than a dozen Académie members including Gaïa Award winner Kari Voutilainen whose Finnish upbringing combined with an encyclopedic knowledge of Swiss haute horlogerie influence his unique and world renowned timepieces.
Paul Gerber and his protégé Marc Jenni – himself a full and very much hands-on member of the AHCI – were also in attendance with their collections. The Gerber Modell 41 may not look like it is much out of the ordinary, but the little pusher at the 2 o’clock which allows the user to choose between dead beat seconds or the continuous sweep more associated with a mechanical timepiece belies the stupefying complexity within that understated case.
Marc Jenni faces interesting times ahead as he was recently issued with a stupid cease and desist order, forcing him to relinquish his family name, which has been associated with watchmaking for 300 years, by the Jenny family, owners of Doxa. His gorgeous watches are immediately recognizable thanks to his signature crownless winding and setting system and should definitely bear his name.
Marco Lang, owner of Dresden based Lang & Heyne had his extraordinary Augustus 1 with him; its two discs with dates and events which are important to the owner making this a personalized timepiece like few others.
From Russia the quietly spoken Konstantin Chaykin had several pieces on show, from his Lunokod through to the magnificent Carpe Diem and his latest single hand (yet still hours and minutes) Genius Temporis, each one demonstrating the breadth and scope of his incredible talents.
Speak with Vianney Halter for any length of time and it soon becomes obvious that his watches assume his own personality. Like his timepieces he is a wonderfully engaging and ebullient character who left the rule book behind long ago. The original Deep Space Tourbillon was a boyish ‘have to see’, but also his Antiqua Perpetual Calendar has also long been a fascination to me and to see it in the flesh once again was an opportunity to step back in time.
Of course there are many others as well. Unfortunately far too many to name in one short article, but throughout SalonQP 2014, there were wonders to behold and with AHCI, a marvellous glimpse into the world and life of the true independent watchmaker.
And of course. I did. Because it was there, and because it is what it is, and because it would be rude not to, Max Büsser’s collective of friends had the spacey artlogerie MB&F HM6 in the house and occasionally there was enough of a clearing around it to grab a few images. You maybe thought that a SalonQP article could end without mentioning it? Hardly.
What James Gurney and his team have pulled together in the last six years is pretty damn impressive. Undoubtedly the premier UK watch event, its size, setting and quality of its exhibitors should see SalonQP continue to grow in stature in the years to come. 2014 marked yet another successful year and with over 7000 visitors across the two-and-a-half days it was a win-win event for exhibitors and visitors alike.