Last week I attended the London-based horological fest, SalonQP 2013. It provided journalists, retailers and watch collectors with a close-up view of some of the latest timepieces to tempt would-be purchasers.
The exhibition offered much diversity with watches ranging from the accessible to the financially elusive. Exhibiting brands included some subsidiaries of the “big three” groups, LVMH, Richemont and Swatch, as well as the small independent brands with their talented artisans freely chatting with fascinated watch fans attending the show.
There was much to see, with exalted craftsmanship exemplifying no-compromise finishing and Métier d’Art wonderfully demonstrated by brands such as Vacheron Constantin and Julien Coudray.
A common misconception is that watchmaking has not changed much over the years. However, this is far from the truth. Indeed, just in the way the Ford Model T bears little resemblance to today’s car, so the same could be said about modern wristwatches. We have seen new technologies used in watch construction, new materials and innovative design language.
An interesting aspect of SalonQP is the relentless drive for enhanced accuracy shown at the event and, in particular, two very different approaches adopted by Andreas Stehler and Hoptroff.
SalonQP 2013: Andreas Strehler Sauterelle
Andreas Strehler is a watchmaker of world-renown. This year, Andreas Strehler won the prestigious Prix Gaïa in the category Artisanat-Création. He has been actively involved in helping large brands bring some of their halo pieces to market. Stehler has worked for Harry Winston, creating their incredible Opus 7, as well as H. Moser & Cie, Chronoswiss, Maurice Lacroix and Maïtre de Temps to name but a few.
Andreas also makes a limited number of very exclusive timepieces for his own clients and these watches bear his own name. The latest model, Sauterelle, launched earlier this year, was the focal point of Stehler’s exhibition stand at SalonQP. The Sauterelle, meaning grasshopper, referring to the jumping action of the satellite gear on the model, features a Remontoir d’égalité.
The problem with many watches is that the mainspring, when fully wound, transmits too much energy to the escapement, whereas when it is nearly depleted it provides insufficient energy. The resultant variation in amplitude impairs the accuracy of the watch.
By fitting a satellite wheel to his hand-wound movement, the Saturelle’s movement is able to proportion energy in precise doses to the escapement. This is achieved by the satellite wheel being charged by the mainspring and then transferring this energy into a precise pulse every second. The constant amplitude confers enhanced accuracy.
The Saturelle features hour and minute hands as well as dead-beat seconds. However, beyond the incredible technical prowess of this timepiece, one should not overlook the amazing craftsmanship. The exquisitely decorated movement is testament to Strehler’s adept talent at hand finishing.
Admiring the movement, courtesy of the sapphire caseback, one cannot fail to be impressed by the hand bevelled bridges, expertly decorated with Côtes de Genève motif. The twin barrel covers are readily visible with spiral-shaped snailing standing testament to the quality of the finishing. Strehler indulges the eyes with a clean appearance to the movement, with many components openly revealed to enchanting effect.
SalonQP 2013: Hoptroff No.10 – Cruise Control
I often restrict my discussions to mechanical watches. The sight of an oscillating balance wheel and pulsing hairspring always encourages a small grin to appear on my face. However, in this instance, I feel there is justification in discussing a watch that does not feature an escapement.
Richard Hoptroff is the founder of London based newcomer, Hoptroff. He launched his brand at SalonQP 2013 with four new models.
Three models incorporate quartz movements and bluetooth technology. However, it was his No.10 model which provided much intrigue when I saw it at the show. It is the first atomic pocket watch.
I visited Richard’s workshop earlier this year and was amazed to hear of his plans. A Symmetricon atomic physics package is at the heart of the behemoth timepiece, measuring 82 mm in diameter and 25 mm in height.
Originally developed in collaboration with the US Department of Defense, the atomic physics package has been used in cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles to provide navigational abilities, even in areas where GPS radio jamming devices are in operation.
In this instance the atomic heart of the timepiece confers a level of unprecedented accuracy. The No.10 model is said to lose / gain only 1.5 seconds per thousand years. The front of the dial features a total of 28 functions including sidereal time, longitude, latitude, moon age, local tide height, humidity and temperature.
Hoptroff was clearly keen to show the No.10 model at SalonQP 2013, even though the second dial to the rear of the No.10 was missing and will not be completed until 2014. The watch displayed at the event had no caseback attached, leaving the inside of the watch exposed, with the silver coloured Symmetricon hardware on show.
The planned second dial will bestow an additional 20 functions once available. I cannot think of another timepiece equipped with so many functions. Indeed, it would arguably be impossible to grant this number of functions to a mechanical timepiece, however, based on the relentless innovation seen in the watch industry of late, this may ultimately prove to be incorrect.
One aspect is certain, no mechanical watch will ever rival the accuracy of the No.10 Pocket Watch.
SalonQP 2013: Closing remarks
The allure of horology is that time is conveyed with charm. Accuracy, whilst important, is not the only raison d’être for purchase. Many people will select watches because of their attractive aesthetics or the perfectionism pursued, and delivered, by their talented creators.
Nevertheless, the pursuit of enhanced accuracy should be applauded. Andreas Strehler and Richard Hoptroff have evidently been successful in their desire to achieve this goal. Whilst both have adopted very different approaches, they clearly have shown their innovative prowess and will hopefully continue to exhibit inventive flourishes of genius for many years to come.