Design and architecture practice Rundell Associates has just completed a comprehensive redevelopment and expansion of the Fine Watches department at Harrods, creating a unique haute horology destination in Knightsbridge, London.
Conceived as a retail environment of the highest quality that reflects the art of watchmaking, the expanded department now occupies two floors adjoining the Fine Jewellery Room. The space features a sweeping, marble-lined staircase beneath a vaulted ceiling, with leather-lined walls, a custom designed terrazzo floor and fine bronze detailing throughout.
The face of the curved central staircase is crafted from a single block of Cipollino Tirrenia, one of the world’s rarest and most dramatically configured marbles, with intricate veining that has a strong graphic appeal along its carefully orchestrated route from the department’s Ground Floor down to the Lower Ground Floor.
The staircase, Ground and Lower Ground Floor are laid with Italian Terrazzo flooring. The flooring was created with an Italian specialist to be bespoke to this setting, with iridescent mother of pearl fragments used to enliven the pale cream background. It is embedded with bronze inlay strips to echo the detailing on a watch face; on the Lower Ground Floor, a patterned inlay frames the famous ‘H’ of the Harrods logo.
The balustrades of the staircase and balcony are formed from patinated bronze, shaped to reflect the oval opening that has been created between the floors, and topped by handrails clad in leather with a profile directly inspired by fine leather watch straps. Both the staircase handrails and the pale leather walls that run throughout the department have been created by master leather expert Bill Amberg, with the use of leather intended to soften the ambience of the space.
This calming atmosphere is reinforced by the use of materials designed to soften the acoustic resonance of the rooms. A domed lighting feature has been crafted in the ceiling above the grand staircase, its oval shape harking back to the spirit and grandeur of the lightwells that were once a feature of Harrods. The light level from this feature is programmed to mimic the external daylight levels, giving a subtle reference to the passage of time.
The space around the lightwell forms a generous gallery, linking the entrances to the boutiques and allowing free and unrestricted circulation around the room whilst allowing excellent sightlines to the boutiques below. All areas feature indirect cove lighting, whilst specialist lighting has been designed for wall cabinets and general display, to maximise the visual impact of watches on display.
The brands in the Fine Watches department include A. Lange & Sohne, Audemars Piguet, Hublot, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Panerai, Roger Dubuis, Rolex and Vacheron Constantin alongside a multi-brand area with specially designed counters for H. Moser & Cie, L. Kendall, Montblanc, Tag Heuer, Tudor, Ulysse Nardin, Zenith and Harrods Vintage by Foundwell.
The new department includes ten large boutiques, a multi-brand area and VIP suites across both floors. To allow for an enhanced focus on service an Aftercare department has been included on the Lower Ground Floor. This provides a home for horological expertise, supplemented by the introduction of watchmakers – a first for Harrods.
As part of the redevelopment, Rundell Associates has re-opened a dramatic and historically significant entrance located on Hans Road, providing direct access from the street to the new Fine Watches department. The department’s Lower Ground Floor is also home to Chucs, a retro Italian Riviera inspired restaurant that makes an ideal refreshment destination on a long shopping trip.
Upon completion of the project, Mike Rundell, Principal of Rundell Associates, said: “The new Fine Watches department was conceived as a meticulously crafted environment that reflects the art and materiality of watchmaking, using the highest quality materials to create the sense of timeless elegance that Harrods is known for. The sweeping staircase is a significant new architectural feature that we hope will be enjoyed by customers for years to come. The fine craftmanship demonstrated throughout the space defines the quality of the whole department.”
Helen David, Chief Merchant, Harrods, comments: “The redevelopment of Fine Watches showcases our commitment and dedication to offering the best in class to our customers. There is nowhere else like it in the world and we pride ourselves on retaining our position as the ultimate luxury shopping destination. The new space pays tribute to our exceptional watch portfolio and provides the perfect environment to showcase some of the world’s most sought after timepieces. Fine Watches is one of the first areas in-store to be redeveloped as part of Harrods’ masterplan and we’re very excited to unveil the new department.”
About Rundell Associates
Rundell Associates is an architecture and design company that has become pre-eminent in the field of bespoke high-end residential and commercial design. Founded by Mike Rundell in 1996, the company built its reputation through a series of projects carried out in collaboration with artists throughout Europe, including the creation of Pharmacy with Damien Hirst in 1996 and the design of the White Cube Galleries in Hoxton and St James’s.
Work for private clients remains the backbone of the company and the office is currently working on a number of highly bespoke residences. These include the extensive redevelopment of several town houses in London, the renovation of a large country estate, a development of new Country Houses in North Oxfordshire and the construction of a new villa in St Jean Cap Ferrat on the Cote d’Azur.
Rundell Associates takes a meticulous approach to each project, characterised by careful analysis of the client’s brief and detailed research into the opportunities offered by it. New materials, new approaches and new techniques are used where called for, traditional materials, approaches and techniques where appropriate. The creative use of traditional high quality materials in a contemporary idiom is a particular strength of the company, informed by its work on listed buildings throughout the country and developed in partnership with craftsmen from many backgrounds.
Projects recently under development range from private residences in England, France, Italy and Russia to the creation of the new Fine Watches department for Harrods; from the masterplanning of a private school to outline proposals for a new village in Devon.The scope of our work is wide and we are considered specialists in producing meticulously bespoke projects for clients who appreciate the highest levels of service and design. rundellassociates.com
Harrods began as a wholesale grocers’ and tea merchants in east London, first opening its doors in 1834. Since then, it has grown to become the world’s most famous department store, known for its unrivalled range of luxury merchandise. As well as exclusive brands and myriad departments, one of Harrods’ most renowned attributes is its unparalleled service. Harrods continues to be guided by its philosophy of “anything is possible” and, to this day, our customers remain at the heart of everything we do. Harrods.com
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