SalonQP, the annual fine-watch fair held at the Saatchi Gallery, brought the world's top watch brands, makers and collectors to London last week. But along with the first-rate crowd, one of the year's biggest draws was the distinctly stylish 'Gems of Time' exhibition, exploring the design and innovation of the jewelled watch.
Even nicer, it was curated by our watches and jewellery director Caragh McKay and designed by Wallpaper* editor-at-large Leila Latchin. McKay invited Latchin to design the set as she knew 'Leila would create a space that understands the classic nature of the great jewellery houses while imbuing them with a suitably modern glamour that is all too often missing from fine jewellery and watch exhibitions, which tend to be staged in traditional art institutions.'
The soft, pastel palette was dictated by the golden-peach 'Semiramis' fabric from Sahco, which lined the display cases and was also used to create couture-like billowed curtains. Latchin wanted to design 'an intimate space that draws you in, with elegant windows and curtained alcoves emerging as you move through, each revealing their own treasures hidden within'. Indeed, looking into each vitrine was like peeking into a personal jewellery box befitting Latchin's vision of creating 'poetic still-life compositions by setting the timepieces among vintage pheasant feathers and ribbons'.
The aptly named 'Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend' wall sconces by Matali Casset for Made by Meta were crafted using paktong, a zinc, nickel and copper alloy traditionally imported from China and used for domestic fittings in the 18th century. Latchin's addition of four 'Ilios' disc and sphere wall lamps by Atelier Areti, the London design studio run by sisters Gwendolyn and Guillane Kerschbaumer, added a modern Deco-style touch.
Pale-pink walls lined with emerald-shaped windows revealed a mesmerising collection of current and archive pieces, including a rare collection of Bulgari Serpenti watches. Another unique addition were the drawings of fashion illustrator Nuno da Costa, whose swan-necked, jewel-bedecked girls were projected onto a dividing wall. 'I have always wanted to collaborate on an exhibition with Nuno,' McKay reveals. 'His drawings bring a vitality and youthfulness to fine jewellery. He has a deep understanding of its timeless appeal – its art status, if you like – and so is well placed to put that in a fashion context.'
Cartier's set of three contemporary 'Panthère' watches celebrated 100 years of the house's iconic design in white gold, onyx and pavé diamonds. Piaget reflected on its tradition of hammered gold, hard-stone dials and turquoise, exhibiting cuff watches from 1970 alongside pieces from this year's 'Extremely Piaget Paris Biennale' collection, while De Beers displayed a brand-new 'Aria' collection of cocktail watches.
Jaeger-LeCoultre's 'Joaillerie 101 Manchette' cuff played a trick on the eyes: nestled among a puzzle of pavé and white-gold squares, the tiny Calibre 101 ticked away, the miniature movement as impressive now as it was when it was created nearly 100 years ago, in 1929.