When you enter a holy place like a Buddhist Temple, a transcendent feeling may quicken your pulse. Such sacred spaces inspire awe, respect, even worship, so for a watch to replicate such an experience is something more than a work of art; it is a tribute from the soul. Peter Speake-Marin has collaborated with three additional master craftsmen to reproduce the two dragons painted on the ceiling of the Kennin-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan. When artist Koizumi Junsaku painted the 175 square meter ceiling for the Temple’s 2002 800th anniversary, the commissioning abbot requested that the dragons be “rampaging across the ceiling”. The extremely discerning collector who commissioned this watch brought together watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin with engravers Kees Engelbarts and Eddy Jaquet along with leather embosser Christophe Seewer. We have covered a previous S-M commission, but this peerless collaboration, in terms of talent, is such an embarrassment of riches that it has earned the designation, Masters Project.
The design beautifully recreates the energy and elegance of the temple painting by having the dragon’s rampaging across the entire watch in their Yin and Yang dance. So as not to impede their alacrity, the once stepped bezel has become rounded, allowing the dragons free reign across the dial, over the bezel, and around the 42mm white gold case. They also take up station on the leather presentation box.
“This is the most extraordinary engraving project I’ve ever been involved with,” explains Peter Speake-Marin, “due to the complexity of the subject (two dragons instead of one), the incredible detail of the engravings and the fact that it isn’t just one component that’s engraved, but the designs cover practically the whole watch.” Peter Speake-Marin served as project manager, orchestrating all the collaborators – and Peter also crafted the SM2 movement. From the crown to the lugs to the blued hands, there are many Speake-Marin elements to identify this watch, but this is the only one of its kind.
The Kennin-ji Temple, the watch’s inspiration, is the oldest Zen Temple in Japan. Abbot Eisai, who founded the temple in 1202, brought not only the philosophy of Zen to Japan, but also the art of drinking tea. At the 800th anniversary, the Hatto building (Dharma Hall) received a new instillation, the ink and paper, twin dragons by artist Koizumi Junsaku. The painting took two years to complete, and the artist used a Hokkaido elementary school’s gymnasium to create the mural.
This watch does more than tell the time – It shares enlightenment, balance, and the primordial forces of nature. Carrying all of that meaning on your wrist puts time itself in perspective, recalling Kyoto tranquility and simplifying life to its essence. This from a watch that is anything but simple. We are in awe.