January 31 2011
Simon de Burton
Any man who claims not to like shopping has probably never been to the Gauntlett Gallery on London’s Pimlico Road. In the window there might be a double-life-size model of a Browning machine gun (about £25,000) or a gleaming Harley-Davidson motorcycle (£60,000) that looks set to compete in a 1930s board-track race. To step inside is to enter a world filled with shamelessly masculine collectables for the aesthetically in-tune.
Broadly speaking, the Gallery stocks interesting items made from 1900 to 1950, ranging from Cartier and Dunhill “smoker’s requisites” to pre- and postwar automobile artworks (framed photos reprinted from original negatives, from £200; motor-racing and travel posters, from £1,800), leather furnishings (from £2,000), aviation models (from £800), Patek Philippe dress-pocket watches converted for wrist use with gold cases (from £9,500) and unique objects designed to appeal to the more raffish type of gent with an eye on the past. Whatever comes through the door, insists owner Richard Gauntlett, “simply has to be of the best quality, wonderful to look at and historically interesting” – a perfect description of the Persol sunglasses that originally belonged to Steve McQueen (£35,000).
Gauntlett’s late father, Victor, founded Pace Petroleum and was hailed a “saviour” of Aston Martin after buying a substantial stake in the marque in 1980. Gauntlett Jr believes he inherited his father’s love of the golden age of luxury. “I remember his Vuitton trunk, a fabulous Prohibition-era Asprey cocktail cabinet disguised as a safe, and motoring posters.”
While at school near Edinburgh, Gauntlett Jr trawled junk shops and markets for model cars to send to a dealer in Kent who’d send him payment by post. A spell as a specialist with Bonhams’ car department followed before he was unexpectedly commissioned to “interior design” a Gloucestershire house, right down to the cutlery. “It made me focus on how much I love really good-quality things and inspired me to set up a shop for like-minded people. My aim is to sell objects from £250 to £55,000 that no one will walk past without stopping to admire,” he says.
Those who “get” the Gallery might be asked downstairs, where a gentlemen’s-club atmosphere prevails and where the likes of Arki Busson and Sir Anthony Bamford have recently chewed the cud about subjects such as Churchill and Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird. Most people who settle into one of the sofas leave hours later – often after purchasing a deliciously frivolous object they didn’t realise they needed. Which reminds me, I must go and collect that giant-sized model of a gent’s brogue (£8,500). Four-feet long and exquisitely cobbled, it’s a must for the boot-room wall.