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Interview with James Buttery

We caught up with James Buttery, horological expert and founder of QP Magazine and SalonQP, ahead of this year’s exhibition

Sufiyeh Hadian-Clarke
Sufiyeh Hadian-Clarke,

QP is the UK’s leading luxury watch magazine. Launched in 2003, it is one of the most widely read watch publications in the world, reflecting the best and most creative in watchmaking. The name is derived from the abbreviation for Quantième Perpétuel, the French term for perpetual calendar.
Founder and editor-in-chief James Buttery also launched SalonQP, a watch exhibition now in its ninth year. This year’s visitors can check out the full honour roll of Grand Prix winners, a display of colourful gem-set watches, and an historical overview of the chronograph, in addition to brand exhibitions. We caught up with James Buttery ahead of SalonQP’s opening this Friday, to find out more…

How did QP Magazine and SalonQP start out?
QP Magazine was launched in 2003 while Salon QP followed six years later. It’s grown in scope and scale since then and is the only opportunity (certainly in the UK) for watch lovers to find the world’s best independent watchmakers in one place. The Salon celebrates its 10th edition next year.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s SalonQP exhibition?
Seeing the special exhibitions that I’ve spent a few months working on come together. We’ve got one of the earliest Cartier Tanks in existence, Humphrey Bogart’s personal watch, two versions of Jacob & Co’s Astronomia and the public debut of an extraordinary clock sunrise/sunset clock that a husband-and-wife team from Wiltshire spent three years building. It’s an incredibly varied mix that you will not find anywhere else.

Which watch brands do you most admire and why?
It will sound incredibly diplomatic but I admire the vast majority of them. Almost all watch brands have a speciality that they excel at, whether that’s independent artisans producing a few handmade watches each year or huge brands maintaining the highest quality despite producing several hundred thousand pieces annually. I admire brands that plough ahead with what they want to do and then look for an audience – that’s truly brave, maybe even a little foolhardy.

What is your most treasured horological possession?
It might sound strange for someone who spends their time writing about mechanical watches, but it’s a quartz watch, a 1975 Omega Mariner I picked up at auction for next to nothing. The model houses Omega’s first in-house quartz movement and proved its ruggedness at the time by being strapped to the mast of a round-the-world yacht. It survived unscathed – the yacht, not so much. It caught my eye because of its geometric, almost brutalist, steel case design and integrated bracelet and draws many admiring glances.

When did your fascination with watches begin and how did this develop?
That lightbulb moment came as a teenager, when I realised that an automatic watch powered itself simply through the movement of the wearer’s wrist. I was in awe of the ingenuity of it all, and that only increased when I realised what watchmakers hundreds of years ago were capable of without modern machinery. I started out in news years ago but found myself gravitating towards lifestyle and then more specifically watches. I’ve been covering the industry for five or six years now.

Can you let us in on an industry secret?
London was the epicenter of watchmaking excellence before Geneva.

Where is your favourite place to shop in London?
If I had the budget, I’d spend a great deal more time on Savile Row.

What do you like most about the city?
The centuries of history. Even the stuff made of glass and steel has a story to tell.

Who is, in your opinion, the most esteemed watch collector of all time?
I guess you’ve got to give it to Henry Graves for commissioning the Patek Philippe Supercomplication (the most expensive watch of all time) but money shouldn’t be the deciding factor. I’d be just as interested in talking to someone about their collection of vintage Seikos as long as they mean something to the collector.

What are your post-SalonQP plans?
Planning next year, of course! We’ve got an anniversary to plan for and no-one likes an anniversary as much as the watch industry.

SalonQP is open to the public on Friday 3 November and Saturday 4 November.
SalonQP, Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London SW3 4RY



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