Salon de TE: Haute horological highlights from HK’s premier watch show
If the watch lover in your life was a little more on edge than normal last month, it could just be that they were a trifle agog at the prospect of HKTDC’s Salon de TE winding its way back into town. Such anticipation would be entirely understandable given that this sixth iteration of Hong Kong’s premier showcase for all things haute horological welcomed 140 of the world’s leading watch brands, all keen to parade their wares across the event’s four-day run.
For 2018, the Salon de TE showfloor was divided into four themed zones – Chic & Trendy, Renaissance Moment, Wearable Tech and, the centrepiece of the entire event, the World Brand Piazza, with the latter once again sponsored by Prince Jewellery & Watch. It was the Piazza, of course, that was the first port of call for all the most clued-up chronophiles.
One of the first things likely to have caught their eye was the Grande Seconde Tribute, Jaquet Droz’s ode to minimalism and classical design. In a knowing nod to one of the marque’s classic pocket watches of yesteryear, its hour-and-minute dial encompasses the upper half of its Grand Feu enamel fascia, while a larger seconds counter dwells below. Available in a limited edition of just 88 pieces, this is a future collectors’ item in waiting.
Another marked move towards minimalism at Salon de TE came courtesy of Glashütte Original in the form of its newly-available Senator Cosmopolite. With a diameter of 44mm, it’s not a small watch. Yet, despite the expansive acreage, its matte white dial remains engagingly uncomplicated, while still being home to an intriguing combination of complications. The most engaging of these is, arguably, its facility to gauge your transit duration across 36 individual time zones.
Less jet-setting and more maritimely was Juvenia’s latest retooling of The Sextant, a timepiece that made its global debut back in the 1940s. The latest incarnation of this most iconic of watches sees it upsized from 34mm to 40mm and housed in an eye-catching rose gold case. As ever, its most endearing aspect remains its miniaturised dial-mounted sextant, cunningly reinvented as bespoke hour, minute and second hands.
Salon de TE was also notable for the number of debuting timepieces that eschewed traditional dials in favour of open-worked fascias. Pre-eminent among these was Piaget’s Altiplano Ultimate Automatic 910P – the very last word in ultra-thin wrist regalia. The total depth of its face, movement and case weighs in at just 4.3mm.
Never one be outdone, Franck Muller’s Vanguard S6 Yachting could be inadequately summed up as open-face styling-meets-open-sea readiness. This, of course, would not do justice to its fetching compass motifs, ocean-blue skeletonised dial and 18K rose gold Cintrée Curvex case.
For its own dalliance with all things dial-less, Zenith chose to showcase its precision engineering prowess in the Defy Zero G, the perfect platform for its proprietary Gravity Control gyroscopic mount technology – a fiendishly innovative system that ensures the movement stays ever horizontal, negating the effects of gravity and delivering timekeeping of a seldom-sustained accuracy. Complex, yet avant garde, it’s unthinkable that any sector save haute horology could sponsor such a precept.
Perhaps the most visually striking piece on display at Salon de TE, though, was Jacob & Co.’s Astronomia Solar Planets. Not content with mere earthly glory, the venerable Swiss marque set its sights on winning the space race by transforming this timepiece’s dial into a self-contained solar system.
Mounted on a fastidiously fashioned differential gear system, the hour-and-minute dial (together with a bejewelled mini-Earth and seven precious stone planets) all rotate around a central 1.5 carat citrine sun. Coming complete – but, of course – with a gravitational double-axis tourbillon, this out-of-this-world wristwatch is the finest fusion of haute joaillerie and high-end horology you are likely to find on any class M planet.
From the masterfully minimalist to the intergalactically innovative, this year’s Salon de TE offered visitors an illuminating introduction to all the very finest in the world of contemporary chronometers. Should you have been foolhardy enough to have failed to pop in, take heart from the fact that the 2019 event is but 11 months away. Perhaps best make a note.
Text: Tenzing Thondup