It was a distinct feeling of déjà vu: there was only a week between the SalonQP and the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), but I couldn’t help having what I might define as a total recall or at least partial recall moment, when eight out of 14 categories were won by brands that exhibited in London (A. Lange & Söhne, Chopard, Zenith, Habring2, Romain Gauthier, Ressence, Voutilainen), with the corresponding prizes awarded to timepieces I had been looking into.
Bonhams was one of three auctioneers present at the Saatchi Gallery, alongside Fellows and Rolex Replica Watches of Knightsbridge. © The Kalory Agency
And then there were the differences, of course. After all, we’re talking about two completely distinct and thus non-comparable types of show, even though I’m definitely more inclined towards the British humor on display at the Saatchi Gallery than to admire master of ceremonies Frédéric Beigbeder’s jokes at the Grand Théâtre de Genève. And it is precisely the Britishness that makes SalonQP so unique and different from any other Replica Watches exhibition in Europe – alternating daring colorful fashion with irreprehensible style in the corridors, promoting a series of talks and panel discussions in the seminar room, celebrating the independent brands like probably nowhere else. All in a jolly good mood, permanently holding a drink in one hand while getting up close and personal with exquisite horological machines.
Jazzy ambiance at the Bremont space. © Miguel Seabra/Espiral do Tempo
It is indeed a decidedly different show: apparently not as commercial as the best-known trade fairs in Switzerland, yet clearly steeped in watch culture, probably because it was sparked by the editor of a watch magazine and not by a consortium of brands or an exhibition organization. Moreover, almost coinciding with the cancellation of the Geneva Time Exhibition, came the announcement that SalonQP and QP magazine had been acquired by The Telegraph Media Group – an acquisition that is expected to boost the event’s visibility and importance, hence putting the show’s mentor under added pressure, since he will have to do even better in 2014.
TAG Heuer was one of the heavyweights exhibiting; the price per stand was reportedly between 10,000 and 60,000 pounds, depending on size and location. © The Kalory Agency
I sat down with QP editor James Gurney right after the event closed, for a fresh assessment of the various aspects that moulded the event. Here are his answers:
On what this year’s edition had to offer compared to previous years:
Obviously the biggest change is that we had 76 brands, 20 more than last year’s – which is a huge change. What’s nice is that a lot of those extra 20 brands came to us before we could call them. And we’ve added some interesting elements: we had a charity auction that went off very well; the seminar programme we ran was just phenomenal with 30-40 people in each one and that’s been so encouraging. There’s been more interest around it, but for me the really biggest thing is that the crowds coming through the door were just a bit younger and more stylish, including plenty of collectors and genuinely interested individuals. And if you talk to the brands, their response will be that they’ve had high-quality interest. We don’t get huge numbers through here, but we try to make it a very engaging experience and it seems to have worked. We have definitely stepped things up a notch and we will face an even big challenge next year.
On the acquisition by the Telegraph Media Group:
The show was planned and put together before the acquisition of QP magazine and SalonQP took place, even though I knew it was going to happen. But we are now a part of that Group and that means we naturally have our own expectations, since they’ve got great resources for us to tap into. There are a lot of lessons for us to learn from the Group, the exhibitors and the audience, so we’re going to set the bar very high – I don’t know quite where it will be yet…
Chopard was another of the marquee names displaying its creations in a large space at SalonQP. © The Kalory Agency
On the set of brands exhibited:
If I look at this year, we are short of one or two heavyweight brands. It would be lovely to have Audemars Piguet, or Patek Philippe, or Hublot. There are a few other brands we might have had taking part this year; there are brands that we need to keep talking to: if we were to get a few of those and keep the fabulous range of independent and medium-sized brands, that would be really good news. Sometimes it’s just not part of their plans, although several brands that weren’t here this year have faith in our idea and want to come back. The media coverage and interest we’ve generated plus the involvement of Harrods makes a fairly compelling argument for taking part. We can use this space much more efficiently and cope with more brands without encountering any problems at all.
A view from the imposing Saatchi Gallery on King’s Road, located in the prestigious Chelsea area and close to Sloane Street. © Miguel Seabra/Espiral do Tempo
On what makes SalonQP so unique:
I think the seminar programme. We tried to push the cultural part; we worked very hard with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (responsible for the exhibition Horology, A Child of Astronomy) to make that happen and they have been really enthusiastic partners of what we do. This is about the brands and their replica Omega watches and the audiences engaging with them, but if we have these other elements going on it makes for a richer event. The way for the audience to become keener clients of our exhibiting brands is for them to become more passionate about watches, to understand the history better and to enjoy it more; if people come here and enjoy the experience, they will be more passionate about watchmaking and that will drive more interesting business.
Horology, A Child of Astronomy – a Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie exhibition drawing parallels between the cosmos and the measurement of time. © The Kalory Agency
On the star(s) of the show:
The one name that everyone is taking away as a really growing star is Schofield Watch Company; their success is about the depth and richness of their story. But I walk around and find watchmakers here such as Kari Voutilainen, Andreas Strehler and Roger Smith. Hearing these ‘horological gods’ express how keen they are on what we do has been great fun. We give brands a frame, they put the picture in and that’s the really exciting thing. The real highlight for me was having a gallery full of some the most creative people on the planet – and they’ve all come to my party. How pleased can one person be?
The Romain Gauthier stand. One week after, its Logical One was awarded the Men’s Complication Watch Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. © Miguel Seabra/Espiral do Tempo
On the revival of the British watch industry:
It’s funny because it’s suddenly happening very quickly. There is a long, long way to go before we have a proper British watch industry again, but the seeds are they – and everything is growing. To see all that starting to develop, I couldn’t be happier. They’re all sharing experience and expertise, and if a proper industry comes out of that, it’s that sharing and openness between them that will make it happen.
On the comparison between SalonQP and other shows:
I hear great things about the Mexican show, I haven’t been to Munichtime, while I’ve been to Belles Montres. We came straight from Replica Watches publishing rather than exhibition staging, and maybe that is the difference. I’ve regularly attended Baselworld and the SIHH as well as several other events, and everything I was thinking of doing was going to have to live up to that standard. We have to find our way into that world: if you come from an exhibition background you’re starting from the same building blocks as a ski or a car show, whereas I’m only coming from watches. If there’s a difference, that would be it.
A tired but happy man at the end of his three-day event: James Gurney will remain the director following its acquisition by TMG. © Miguel Seabra/Espiral do Tempo
Conviviality is the undeniable hallmark of SalonQP; the size of the show is ideal for the average aficionado to stop at every booth on display, see what the big brands and the micro brands have to offer, acknowledge the traditional and the cutting edge, celebrate the debut of star timepieces, realize how such an event can be a launch pad for new brands – as well as taking time to socialise in such a great atmosphere. The location also matters, with the pedigree of Saatchi Gallery and trendy Sloane Square contributing a lot to the aura of the show. Moreover, the fact that Saatchi is a name derived from the Turkish word for ‘watchmaker’ makes it even more fitting! The event at the ‘Gallery of Watchmakers’ is evolving and it’s been great fun watching it – no pun intended!