As the UK’s go-to destination for the latest, high-end special watches, Harrods can always be counted on for some exceptional pop-up events. Last summer, for example, the London department store transformed its entire Fine Watch Room into a horological mecca celebrating craft and precision. This year it follows suit with Re-editions, where from 30 June to 24 July, the Fine Watch Room will be home to exclusive pieces that pay tribute to the past – with Harrods’ entire Brompton Road windows especially decked out for the occasion.
This is a watch that’s so known to many of you, it may not need much of an investigation — but this really is HODINKEE and you’ll be able to think you are gonna receive one. The Royal Oak Chronograph is a watch which has tens of thousands of fans all over the world, and a few detractors, too. The ROC, as I’ll call it, is something of a middle ground between two entirely distinct Audemars Piguet buyers — the collectors, and, well, everybody else. The Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore families frequently appeal to very different individuals, but I’ll get to this shortly. In this short article, I tackle a mainstay in the AP lineup, and also an intriguing piece of haute horology, though one without its in-house motion. I will look at just how this 41mm column-wheel, vertical clutch chronograph wears, and whether the matter of where the movement came from is something worth noting at all. That is the HODINKEE Week About The Wrist using all the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph, and it’s one worth spending some time with.AP is really a distinctive watch manufacture. It is one of the very few worldwide haute horology brands which remains in the hands of its founding family, with different members of their Audemars family sitting on its board. But, the possession of AP is not always the most interesting facet of the 175 year old fabrication — the question that matters is that buys AP’s watches?
Ten brands (Cartier, Panerai, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, Harry Winston, Hublot, Roger Dubuis and Richard Mille – whose £996,500 RM 50-03 McLaren F1 is limited to 75 pieces) are presenting new watches – all exclusive to Harrods for the campaign’s duration – and which take their cue from icons in the brands’ archives. A vintage vibe was unmistakable at SIHH and Baselworld this year, which Harrods has fully embraced.
“We’ve really noticed the trend for celebrating ‘old as new’,” says Beth Hannaway, Harrods divisional merchandise manager of fine jewellery and watches. “Iconic pieces resonate especially well with our clients, which is magnified with these new references that allude to history but have been updated and refined for today’s customer.”
Audemars Piguet, for example, has unsurprisingly paid homage to its original 1972 Royal Oak and created an exceptional yellow gold open-worked Offshore chronograph tourbillon (£257,000) that’s limited to 25 pieces. Panerai has revived its Luminor Marina, which, while first making a splash in the 1990s, in fact dates back to the world war two watches that it made for the Italian navy. The blue-dialled Luminor Marina 1950 3 Days Automatic Titanio (£7,300) has the date at 3 o’clock and small seconds at 9, while the back of the titanium watch is engraved with the Harrods logo. Only 100 pieces are being produced and was selected, says Panerai CEO Angelo Bonati, “as one of our most iconic due to the unique crown protecting device and sandwich dial.”
Women’s watches also make a strong showing. Cartier’s beautiful Panthere Joueuse (£157,000) pairs the iconic cat – playfully rendered in black lacquer, emeralds and 185cts of diamonds – with an entirely new calibre 9918 MC. “The Audemars Piguet Dress Watch Replica showcases how Cartier’s workshops have joined forces to channel its jewellery expertise and flair, and render strikingly lifelike three-dimensional creatures,” says Laurent Feniou, Cartier’s UK managing director.
Jaeger-LeCoultre presents a supremely feminine, pink gold Reverso One Duetto jewellery watch (£54,000) that, with its graphic lozenge motif and criss-cross of diamonds, oozes art deco glamour. Zahra Kassim-Lakha, the brand’s UK director, aptly describes the watch as a “silk bow around your wrist”, and while it “encapsulates all the elegance and surprise of the first 1930s Reverso watches, [it’s also] for a modern, busy, social woman in 2017.”
Some brands are offering more than one model, such as Hublot’s trio of titanium Classic Fusions (a three-hander 45mm version limited to 40 pieces, £7,600; a 45mm chronograph limited to 20 pieces, £10,200; and 38mm diamond bezel model limited to 20 pieces, £10,200). Reminiscent of its original 1980s predecessor, the watches come in a Racing Grey hue with matching sunray satin-finished dials that are unique to Harrods. “It’s classic British with an international influence,” says Benoit Lecigne, Hublot’s brand director, “which truly captures the essence of Harrods’ and Hublot’s history and charm.”
Slate-grey is also the colour of the opaline dials on Vacheron Constantin’s three Geneva-hallmarked, Traditionelle pieces for Harrods, selected to suit a range of mechanical tastes: a self-winding date (£23,200), day-date and 40-hour power reserve (£40,100), and the 14-day, 336-hour power reserve tourbillon (POA).
Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road, London SW1 (020-7730 1234; http://www.harrods.com).