If you’re a SalonQP regular, you’ll know what the fuss is about. Slowly but surely expanding in size and repute since 2009’s frayed-around-the-edges debut at One Marylebone, the Saatchi Gallery on King’s Road is now precisely the sort of slick, spacious, yet exclusive venue that London’s watch fans (both curious and diehard) and SalonQP’s bulging roster of brands deserve.
This year’s sixth edition, which opened with a glitzy cocktail bash last night and closes its doors tomorrow evening, is the biggest and best yet.
Not only is SalonQP the UK’s only exhibition devoted to unwrapping the opaque world of fine watchmaking, but in doing so it has become the world’s only truly hands-on expo. From major-league players such as Jaeger-LeCoultre, TAG Heuer, Montblanc and Zenith, through to boutique indies like Bremont, Nomos Glashütte and MB&F, public access to watchmakers, brand managers and – most importantly – the watches themselves is unprecedented.
“The secret of SalonQP’s success,” says its founder James Gurney, “is the simple fact we’re bringing a wide-ranging selection of watch brands into direct touch with an enthusiastic audience. It helps greatly that we have an environment that encourages visitors to engage with brand representatives on a personal level.”
The Salon borders on the overwhelming, whether it’s simply strolling through the intimate galleries and browsing the vitrines, attending the premier of TAG Heuer’s new film, taking part in a watch workshop, or enjoying a cheeky Chivas Regal cocktail at the Bremont stand.
So, if you only manage to squeeze in a few things, here’s London Time’s suggested itinerary. It should open the most jaded of eyes to the panoply of history, culture and human endeavour that modern watchmaking encompasses…
Montblanc Metamorphosis II
Montblanc's venerable Villeret factory has spent four years bringing 2010's Metamorphosis to production, borrowing traditional methods from the ancient art of the automaton to overlay two winged dials, which open dramatically like a theatre curtain, switching from classic time to chronograph in a few seconds (£215,000).
MEET a WATCHMAKER
It’s always worth a chat with the gnomic Finn, who left the top echelons of Swiss watchmaking 10 years ago to plough his own furrow back in Helsinki, crafting neo-Gothic art pieces inspired by the melancholy of the Finnish winter. Ask him nicely, and he might even show you the prototype of his next release: a brutalist tourbillon.
Gems of Time
New to SalonQP, a dedicated high-jewellery exhibition of sparkling stunners, featuring among others pieces from Bulgari (pictured), Cartier and Piaget. Curated by the Telegraph's Caragh McKay, it even features historical pieces worn by Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy.
A Raymond Weil worth £2,995
Complete a survey at the Raymond Weil stand and you could be the very first owner of a new special edition, launching into stores after SalonQP. The 2Cello timepiece in collaboration with the virtuoso Croatian cello duo is a titanium version of the Freelancer chronograph, with a four-string motif circling the dial .
De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon
This extraordinary chronograph (£218,700, pictured above), features five hands that all rotate from the central axis. It was a winner at last week’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, which is exhibiting all of its winners at SalonQP. The timepiece is exclusively available through Mayfair retailer William & Son, who will also be exhibiting Laurent Ferrier, H Moser & Cie, Breva and Graham (williamandson.com).
TAG Heuer V4 Tourbillon
Inspired by a V-configuration car engine, this is the world’s only watch whose geartrain is transmitted by belts, which are thinner than a human hair. Its four V-inclined winding barrels are powered by a linear, rather than rotating, oscillating weight.
LISTEN OUT FOR
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Sound Lab
The crowning horological feat is undoubtedly the ability to make a minute repeater, which chimes the time to the minute, on demand. Jaeger-LeCoultre has made more than 200 in its history, and its Sound Lab offers visitors a hands-on insight into the skills involved in assembly and tuning its gongs. Open today 4-6pm, 7-9pm and Saturday 12-2pm, 2-4pm, 4-6pm. To apply: email@example.com
Simon de Burton’s Wars and Watches seminar
In the centenary year of the start of World War I – the war that brought the watch from the pocket to the wrist – renowned watch journalist Simon de Burton looks at the relationship between watches and conflicts, and the classic models that started life with military purpose. Starts at 2.30pm today.
THEN KICK BACK...
...at the Harrods Lounge and Bar
Situated on the ground floor, this Timothy Oulton-designed gentleman’s club will provide respite from the hubbub of the show and showcase a number of rare timepieces, including the Bremont Wright Flyer and Breguet’s Ultra-flat Automatic Tourbillon.
Now you have no excuse: City A.M. readers can gain free access to SalonQP today, 12–6pm and Saturday, 12–6pm, by presenting this edition of City A.M. on arrival at the Saatchi Gallery, along with a business card. This offer does not extend to evening sessions. salonqp.com