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5 minutes with: Bill Prince

Bill Prince, acting editor-in-chief of Wallpaper* magazine, on his life in journalism and the best places for design in Chelsea

1 March 2023

John Sandoe Books
Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak chronograph watch

When it comes to watches, design and travel, there are few journalists with as much experience and expertise as Bill Prince. Having served as British GQ’s deputy editor for more than two decades and now the acting editor-in-chief of Wallpaper* magazine, Prince has an almost-encyclopaedic knowledge of the industry. Most recently, he wrote the definitive book on Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak watch, published by Assouline. Oh, and he also happens to be a Chelsea local. Read on to discover his favourite places in the neighbourhood and his advice for aspiring journalists. 


You’ve edited some of the most important lifestyle publications in the world – tell us about the evolution of your career.

I started by freelancing for the music press while studying in London in the early ’80s. This was followed by a staff job at the NME, which in turn led to me working at Q magazine and GQ, where I remained as deputy editor for 23 years. I’ve been the acting editor-in-chief at Wallpaper* since March 2022.


What advice would you give someone looking to succeed as a journalist or editor?

Decide whether you’re a generalist or a specialist. Make friends in the industry, establish where the gaps are and work hard. 


What do you love most about your work?

A friend once described the rhythm of periodical journalism as being the perfect blend of routine and spontaneity. I agree, with the added frisson that digital-first publishing has delivered.


What has been your career highlight?

There have been many highlights, but perhaps sitting one wintry evening at Francis Ford Coppola’s hotel, Palazzo Margherita, in the instep of Italy, discussing film and filmmaking with Mr Coppola and his long-time production designer Dean Tavoularis. The food was excellent, too.


Where is your favourite place to travel?

Italy. I once made a decision never to turn down the chance to visit there, although sadly, that’s a rule I’ve had to break on numerous occasions.


What is the most exciting design trend or movement at the moment?

As the private becomes increasingly public (thanks to social media), it is interesting to watch interiors supplant fashion as a leading arbiter of style and taste. 


You recently wrote the definitive book on Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak watch. What makes it such a design icon?

Its singularity – the Royal Oak was the first of its kind (a luxury steel watch). And the way in which it foretold both the stylistic and societal trends through which it subsequently passed. That it remains a horological pacesetter after 50 years confirms its status as an icon.


Tell us about your Chelsea: where do you go for food, drinks and entertainment?

The gravitational pull of Chelsea Green is hard to resist, particularly since the opening of Birley Bakery, and there is also Haynes Hanson & Clark which stocks excellent wine – it’s a short walk from Sloane Street. I also love John Sandoe for books, while entertaining tends to revolve around the Chelsea Arts Club. 


What about beautiful design shops – where do you recommend in Chelsea?

There are too many to mention, but I continue to crave a Nureyev bar cart from Soane Britain, just off Lower Sloane Street, and I cannot pass the late William Yeoward’s furniture store on the King’s Road without looking in. I am an adherent of Brunello Cucinelli’s cashmere and also his butter-soft tailoring. I also spend more and more time prowling the basement of David Mellor in search of the perfectly proportioned pan suitable for cooking pasta.


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