An enthusiast’s guide to SalonQP
SalonQP is THE watch event in the UK. Running from 3-5 November 2016 at the Saatchi Gallery, London (Sloane Square) it’s hosted by QP magazine. I went along on Friday to take a closer look at what all the hype was about.
I honestly didn’t know quite what to expect on my first visit to SalonQP, but I ventured along on a typically rainy British day to find out, and boy was I rewarded. The stunning Saatchi Gallery plays host to a vast array of watch brands & boutiques, acting as a frame for these exquisite works of art. With the likes of Nomos, Patek Phillipe and F.P. Journe there really is something from just about every tier of the serious watch world on show.
Even as a newcomer, at no point did I feel intimidated by the watches or the people presenting them. Throughout the day I tried on numerous watches, with a combined value easily exceeding £1,000,000 (Yes, ONE MILLION POUNDS), but the real value of this event is being able to talk to likeminded people and getting stuck into some very interesting conversations.
I only attended the exhibition areas during the Friday daytime session, but with a number of seminars on over the weekend and evening social events, this really is the place to mingle with the people in the biz. Throughout the day I had the immense pleasure of bumping into none other than Francois Paul Journe (F.P. Journe) and Robert Loomes (Robert Loomes & co), which just goes to show not only what a prestigious event this is, but also how these giants of the industry are just as keen to interact with us as we are them.
I had initially planned to take in one of the afternoon seminars, but soon abandoned that plan once I became aware of the vastness of what was on offer and with so little time to take it all in. Spread over 3 floors and several gallery rooms, I started off by looking into Sabel Saddlery. These guys offer a superb range of customisable straps and were holding workshops across the weekend to give the audience a taster of how they produce there products. Unfortunately for me though, they had no places remaining.
I then ventured onto Junghans and Nomos where I had the opportunity to try out the Max Bill range from the former and agree a deal to review more watches with the latter (so stayed tuned for more from Nomos soon!). I have to admit, these are two of my favourite brands at the moment, not least because they offer their core designs in a spectrum of sizes, and I firmly suggest checking either one of them out if you’re in the market for an affordable timepiece that can hold it’s own against some of the big boys.
I continued my journey into an area of some extremely high end brands. Jaquet Droz had demonstrations of enamel dial painting going on which was absolutely mind blowing, whereas F.P. Journe gave me the opportunity to try on some of the most spectacular watches on the market (and meet the man behind it all). However, in terms of customer service, one brand blew it out of the park for me; Bovet.
Bovet are a brand that, before looking into them at SalonQP, I knew very little about. Being presented by a gentleman named Tiago & his wife, I was taken through the history of the brand and viewed several of their timepieces. Now, when I say timepieces, I mean timepieces, as the majority of their collection is made up of watches that transform into desk clocks and pocket watches without the need for tools and in a matter of seconds.
The stand out watch from Bovet for me has to be the shooting star. This beauty, limited to only 50 pieces in 2016 and retailing for nearly a quarter of a million pounds, has just about every complication you could ask for including world time with ultra compact 24 cities indicator, hemispheric precision moon phase, 5 day tourbillon, jumping hour and retrograde minutes. All that in one package almost makes it feel a value prop. Almost. All in all though, the unique engineering and magnificent level of detail really make these the ultimate ‘wild card’ watches, and is one brand I’m sure to follow much more closely now.
My next stop took me to Fellows Auctions, a watch and jewellery auction house based in Birmingham. With a watch auction taking place every month, they had a few of the pieces due to be sold on 29th November, and I had the immense pleasure of trying some on. Not only did I get my hands on a brand new 2016 Rolex Daytona expected to fetch between £9,000 – £14,000, I also tried on two Paul Newman Daytona’s from 1968 (£45K – £65K) & 1969 (£50K – £80K). The likelihood of me ever coming across another one of these unicorns in my lifetime, let alone two, is minuscule, so I made sure to make the most of my time with them!
Following on from this I happened to run into Robert Loomes and his new watch, the Stamford Original, with a movement made entirely in Britain. This really is some feat, especially from such a humble watch maker. The man himself is extremely proud of what he has achieved, and rightly so. I very much look forward to seeing what more is to come from Loomes, and I would urge all those who are unfamiliar with the company to take a closer look.
Before heading home after a long day I had time to fit in visits to three more highly prestigious brands; Urban Jurgensen, Arnold & Son and MB&F. Urban Jurgensen offer some immensely beautiful watches with a very classical vibe. I’ve wanted to have a look at these for some time having first been made aware of them by a good friend, and they did not disappoint.
Arnold & Son was another brand that had exceptional customer service, with the history of how John Arnold, along with Breguet, is hugely responsible for the mechanics of the modern watch being expertly told. The watches on display were absolutely exceptional, and in many ways reminiscent of modern Breguet pieces, whilst clearly holding their own identity.
If Urban Jurgensen and Arnold & Son were to represent the finest in refined and delicate timepieces, MB&F would be their polar opposite. The watches, along with desk clocks and other offerings, are among some of the most remarkable feats of engineering I have come across, though they do lack a certain finesse. The representative who assisted me agreed that these really are for the collector who has everything and just wants that something more. Whilst they aren’t the prettiest watches I’ve ever come across, they’re certainly beautiful in their own right, and I can only see them continuing to thrive, even at their supercar prices.
Beyond watches, the amenities on offer at SalonQP are somewhat limited. There is a cloakroom available to store your coat, of which I was extremely grateful having come in from the pouring rain, and of course there are toilets. Refreshments are lacking, with a few alcohol vendors promoting around the gallery and one bar serving a limited (and overpriced) selection of small plates. There isn’t an obvious place to grab a glass of water either, so I would suggest bringing a bottle with you.
With so many brands vying for your attention, expect a plethora of publications, including magazines and brochures, to come your way. Whilst many of these will be provided in handsome bags, I would wholeheartedly suggest bringing a sturdy bag of your own to store these in due to the sheer volume and weight, which of course could be stored in the cloakroom if required.
All in all, I had a fantastic time at SalonQP and I gained a vast amount of knowledge along the way. Whether going alone, as I did, or in a group you will undoubtedly find yourself chatting to likeminded people throughout the day whilst experiencing some of the finest and most exclusive timepieces in the world. I’m absolutely certain I’ll go again in 2017, perhaps to a day & evening event this time, though I fully advocate forward planning for workshops and seminars as these can book up quickly. I believe SalonQP is a must for any UK based watch fans & aficionados, and I hope to see many of you there next year!