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Month: November 2012

SalonQP 2012 Part 2 – Prime time

The Meridian Watches MP-09

Due to a slight delay at the entrance to the the Saatchi Gallery (the security guards waited for the clock to strike six before letting any of us in to SalonQP), I missed the official launch of Meridian Watches. This was rather a shame, as I’d been hoping to witness the unveiling of the Meridian Prime, an almost entirely English-built watch, heralding from Norwich. Meridian’s founder is Simon Michlmayr, a second generation watchmaker and Fellow of the British Horological Institute, who has been running his own watch and clock repair company since 1986. I spoke briefly to Simon at SalonQP, and he was kind enough to allow me to take a look at his watches, movements and accessories and to tell me a bit more about Meridian, and their future plans.

A special non-luminous dial for SalonQP 2012

The idea behind Meridian Watches was to find a way of manufacturing high quality, hand-produced watches, that the owner could wear day-in, day-out, using all-English parts (except – currently – for the movement) at a reasonable cost. Simon brought in a business partner – Richard Baldwin (a keen watch collector and CEO of Arcadia Watches) and started sourcing appropriate partners from across the UK with whom to work. Their search has yielded a collective that includes a hand-made leather strap-maker (Steve O, who will be well-known to Panerai owners), an optics company that supplies military contracts, an additional webbing strap-maker who also produces their cotton/canvas watch-roll (Carl Evans of GasGasBones fame) and even a leather passport holder (from Bond Street brand, Smythson). On top of this, Meridian hand-make strap-changing tools which are included with each watch, and have also hand-produced their buckles. These latter items are a fantastic example of the Meridian ethos – each of the eleven elements of the buckle is hand-machined, and then assembled in Norwich. There is no doubt that a cheaper buckle could have been sourced, but Simon has focused his attention on making every part of these watches feel like they have been crafted for the owner. This also extends to the hands, which are hand cut, colleted, polished, treated and coated in SuperLuminova (TM). It’s a very artisanal approach, and one that I find increasingly attractive.

SalonQP 2012 Part 1 – U-Boat Watches

SalonQP 2012, the London watch show that has gone from strength to strength over the past four years, finished last weekend. Organisers say that more visitors than ever took advantage of the opportunity to see over 30 brands and 20 independents in the wonderful surroundings of the Saatchi Gallery.

I’ll be posting some more in depth articles  over the coming days and weeks, but realised that I hadn’t even covered some of the highlights and other interesting things I’d seen. A quick caveat – these pieces / brands interested me. They may not all be haute horologie, but that doesn’t stop them from being interesting. And as a #watchnerd, I’m finding that things are increasingly interesting. So interesting, in fact, that I completely failed to visit quite a large number of brands at QP – even though I spent three entire sessions in the gallery. To those brands, I apologise. It’s not you, it’s me. I got distracted. Sorry.

Not just another leather “NATO”

There has been a marked increase in the popularity of “NATO”-style straps over the past year (whether true NATOs, half NATOs, Rhinos or any other variety). Where once these were only available from such veritable purveyors as Timefactors or Phoenix (who actually does produce NATO straps for our armed forces), these bands are now popping up in Urban Outfitters and J Crew. High end versions have been appearing all over the place, with prices of up to $200 for Shell Cordovan, or $145 for a one-piece leather NATO, and there have even been videos posted on Hodinkee describing how to wear them. But in all the excitement, many people may have missed a new offering from Tender, best known for making some of the best jeans on the planet, and one of my favourite brands (I even have a denim apron from them). I must declare an interest here – I have met William Kroll a number of times, and would consider him an acquaintance, but do not believe that this has influenced my thoughts unduly.

Peter Roberts – 40 Years of Watchmaking

Peter at SalonQP 2012 earlier this month

Peter Roberts had originally lined up a job at Philips in Holland and would probably have never even considered a career in watchmaking if he had not seen an advert for the “first watch worn on the moon”, the Omega Speedmaster in late 1969. Practicing initially on military watches that he bought on Tottenham Court Road (he would repair them and sell them on to fund the next purchase) Peter became the first English student to be accepted at the WOSTEP school of watchmaking in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

It was here that Peter had an idea to create a watch that he had only previously seen in the pages of a book – a watch with five hands. Adding jewels to the movement, a mineral glass back to display his finissage of the base Valjoux 726 and cannibalising the screw-down pushers from a Rolex chronograph and the bezel from a GMT, the nineteen year-old produced a certified chronometer as his graduation watch, that had five hands indicating hours, minutes, seconds, the date and a second timezone. It”s a complication that has rarely – if ever – been seen since.