Review – The Speake-Marin Magister Tourbillon, the back to basics watch
Peter Speake-Marin is going back to his roots with a tourbillon, after an incursion in the world of sports watches. This complication is of very special significance for him. This is a good reason to take a closer look at his Magister Tourbillon, bringing together a host of details characteristics of his watch design we have been enjoying for some 15 years.
Background / Reminder about Peter Speake-Marin
After qualifying as a watchmaker at Hackney Technical College in London, Englishman Peter Speake-Marin moved to Switzerland in the late 1980s. There, he further learnt his trade at Wostep, the renowned watchmaking school in Neuchatel. Returning to London, seven highly formative years to set up and run the antique watch restauration department at Somlo antiques in Piccadilly London were an influential period on his career, allowing him to discover the valuable works of past masters. In 1996, he was attracted back to Switzerland to develop high complications for Renaud & Papi, the high-end movement manufacture now part of Audemars Piguet.
In 2002, Peter Speake-Marin gave birth to the first creation to bear his name: a tourbillon pocket watch with twin power train and twin barrel. It was christened Foundation Watch as it was the foundation for all his work since, in particular through the spade-shaped, heat-blued hands, fluted crown and tourbillon cage inspired from a watchmaker’s topping tool motif, now a symbol of the brand.
The Speake-Marin Magister Tourbillon, the back to basics watch
Having Speake-Marin returning to a “simple” tourbillon is a rather pleasing perspective. As he puts it: “The tourbillon is one of the elements that I love most about watchmaking because of the animation it brings to the dial. It shows time moving in a way that a minute-repeater or grande sonnerie can’t offer.”
The Speake-Marin Magister tourbillon is a traditional and personal take on this complication. Without surprise, it features the distinctive Speake-Marin characteristics.
Like the original Piccadilly model, the 42mm drum-shaped case with a thin double-stepped bezel stands out with its bold fluted crown. It is extented by distinctive straight lugs with rounded tip and screws to hold the strap. Its design is said to have been inspired by the movement holders Speake-Marin was using when with Renaud & Papi. Its name pays homage to the inspiring, formative time he spent at Somlo in the Piccadilly Burlington Arcade. The front and back sapphire crystals are treated with anti-reflective coating.
The case houses an oven-fired white enamel dial. The elongated Roman numerals and minute railtrack on its outer edge are presented in black together with an usual caption “enamel”. Enamel dials with their unique sheen and warm feel are the result of an extremely delicate process to produce an even, translucent and extremely durable surface fusing powders on a metal plate. These have been used a countless number of watches in the past but are a rarity today. The blued steel hands – another tribute to the watchmaking tradition – are designed in the characteristic Foundation watch typical style including a heart-shaped hour hand. Just like manufacturing enamel dials, heating steel hands until a blue oxyde film appears is a rarified craft that requires expert hands. But the splendid play of light on their rich blue is really worth it.
The Speake-Marin Magistral Tourbillon is powered by the SM3 automatic movement featuring a one-minute tourbillon, hand-finished to high-standards as usual with Peter Speake Marin. The tourbillon is circled by a steel frame and held by a highly-polished thin Durnico Maraging steel bridge offering a clear view on its intricacies. Like in the Foundation watch, the cage is in the beautiful shape of a watchmaking topping tool – strikingly unique but extremely difficult to bevel with its complex shapes and angles. The thin balance features 4 screws and it is running at 3Hz, for a power reserve of 72 hours.
The micro-rotor winding the movement is an elegant solution not to overlap the tourbillon. Thus, it reveals a lot more of the movement. Because of their smaller diameter, micro-rotors have a lower moment of inertia, hence a denser metal, platinum 950 was used. Unusually, it is not fully integrated within the movement (which would allow to reduce the movement’s height) but it is mounted on top of the barrel. This is rather intriguing and unexpected at first look but interestingly executed. The SM3 movement features a sober finish with rhodium-plated German silver. Technical details are engraved on the bridges either side of the rotor. Screw heads and countersinks are finely polished. The contrast between the clean, pure decoration and the complexity and technicality of the tourbillon and micro-rotor is indeed eye-catching.
The Speake-Marin Magister Tourbillon is available in polished grade 5 titanium or 18k pink gold, complemented with a qualitative, smooth, hand-stitched alligator strap with pin buckle.
The Speake-Marin Magister Tourbillon perfectly exemplifies the work of Peter Speake-Marin and the spirit that led to his success as a highly regarded independent watchmaker. Whether you like is naturally a matter of taste. Still it is impeccably executed, instantly recognizable, inspired by tradition with its own contemporary flair and clearly influenced by the forceful personality of Peter Speake-Marin. Manufacturing tourbillons might have become somewhat clichéd for watchmakers, to stand out one needs to be different and Peter Speake-Marin obviously put his heart and soul into that creation. And at 65,000 CHF, it seems really fairly priced for the exclusive production of an independent watchmaker.
Technical specifications of the Speake-Marin Magister Tourbillon
- Case: 42mm – pink gold or polished titanium – sapphire crystals with anti-reflective coating – 30m water resistant
- Movement: calibre SM3 – automatic winding with platinum 950 micro-rotor – 72h power reserve – 21,600 vibrations/h – hours and minutes, tourbillon
- Strap : black or brown alligator leather with pin-buckle (matching the case material)
- Price: 85.000 CHF (in 18K pink gold) / 65.000 CHF (in titanium)