From watches encased in icebergs, to mechanical spiders and a celebration of chronographs, Sam Kessler selects his highlights from London’s biggest watch fair: Salon QP
As Salon QP 2015 closed its doors – or at least, those of the Saatchi Gallery – for another year, London’s most important horological showcase drew to a close. As ever it was, for me, the ideal balance of breadth and intimacy; there were far more brands to see than SIHH, yet it wasn’t as gratuitously vast as Baselworld.
Despite lasting just three days (two and half if you’re being pedantic), there was more than enough to see over the three floors and 11 galleries, including timepieces encased in ice and a good number of dark and stormies. Each of the 90 or so brands was vying for attention, and not always with simple watches; there was even a Ducati green screen photo set-up, courtesy of the bike-maker’s partnership with Tudor.
Needless to say Rolex’s younger sibling was riding high on the success of its recent entry to biennial charity auction Only Watch, where it submitted a version of the Black Bay Heritage that crested at around 107 times its estimate. While that particular watch wasn’t there Tudor managed to make an impact with its North Flag, which was frozen into an ice sculpture. Taking 50 hours to make and with a 70-hour power reserve on the watch, the watchmaker must have had a perfectly-timed freezer full of them.
Even though it didn’t go to the lengths of presenting glaciated timepieces, it was impossible to miss MB&F at Salon QP – partly due to the striking display of a giant arachnid clock, toy robot and miniature space station… For me however, it was MB&F’s unique take on the perpetual calendar that was the highlight.
Yet if we’re talking showstoppers, there was one watch that was on the tip of every horologically-inclined tongue: Harry Winston’s Opus 14. The series has always been the height of the Swatch Group-owned brand’s collection, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this.
Modelled after a jukebox, the watch allows you – at the press of a button – to switch between three discs on the dial. One shows the date, another shows a second time zone, and the third simply bares a Harry Winston Star. I spent a good 10 minutes just playing with the thing, watching the arms move vinyl-esque discs back and forth. It’s far easier to use than it is to comprehend.
There were still a couple of pieces at the show that might give Harry Winston’s Opus a run for its money. Antoine Preziuso’s Tourbillon of Tourbillons for one, over in the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève winner’s enclosure; Montblanc’s Tourbillon Cylindriques Geospheres Vasco da Gama was another, having being brought back in the nick of time from Hong Kong watch fair Watches and Wonders. It is a breathtaking feat of engineering.
Montblanc had some other lovely, albeit simpler pieces at Salon QP, including the new 1858 collection, which pays homage to the Villeret manufacture that was previously home to Minerva. While it may be part of Montblanc now, Minerva was once a pioneer in the development of the modern chronograph.
The chronograph was, incidentally, the subject of this year’s showcase from the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie dubbed ‘inside the second’, and came with a Minerva in tow. The showcase also included Omega’s spacefaring timepieces, Zenith’s still unsurpassed El Primero and an original ink timer for horse racing – one of the earliest second timers created by Nicholas Rieussec.
Zenith had more to celebrate than most in this year’s Salon QP; it’s not often any brand reaches the 150-year milestone. To mark the occasion, Zenith has released the Academy George Favre-Jacot. Named after the maison’s founder, the watch is like a toned-down version of the Christophe Colomb Hurricane, taking away the gravity control (and a huge chunk of the price tag) but keeping the stunning Academy aesthetic. There are worse ways to celebrate…
One of the darkest of horses this year was representatives of Saxon watchmaking NOMOS Glashütte. The German watchmaker had a phenomenal show with the release of its Neomatik collection (Read PORT’s coverage of the Neomtaik collection here), complete with an in-house ultra-thin movement. The brand may not have had a haute horlogerie showstopper, but the crowds at the second-floor stand showed they didn’t need one.
While one of the quieter brands this year, Bell & Ross had a particularly impressive showing, veering away from its simpler cockpit-inspired pieces towards tourbillons and gold, though still firmly rooted in aviation. The BR-X1 pieces – particularly the titanium – are stunning, though the BR 01 Skull Bronze is impossible to miss. The steampunk timepiece follows on the heels of a number of bronze watches from IWC and Zenith to name just two, but none are quite as ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ as this.
As ever, Salon QP offered no end of watches, both the simple and refined – from NOMOS Glashütte to the highly complicated, and to those bordering on the absurd. As SIHH looms in the distance, and with all the promise Richemont has to offer, QP has provided more than enough food for thought in the meantime.