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 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.”