Hands-on – The Speake-Marin Spirit Seafire Chronograph Titanium Red
When first introduced at Baselworld 2014, the Speake-Marin Spirit Seafire was the first chronograph of the brand (introduced alongside the Spirit Wing Commander, creating a new collection of sports watches). You’ll have to admit, coming from a man like Peter Speake Marin, more used to highly complicated watches and well known for his superior watchmaking skills, this was rather surprising. A more commercial-oriented piece for sure, plus also being a sportier development of a growing brand, the Spirit Seafire Chronograph is however still (very much) a Speake-Marin watch… just with a different perspective. Let’s look in details what a Speake-Marin for a larger audience can offer.
For some years, Speake-Marin has been this or that… Very complex watches, with high-end movements, technical beauty and outstanding finishing. Peter Speake Marin is a great watchmaker, who built his own brand but also participated in many projects, like for instance Maitres du Temps (and again, these are not usual watches). Speak Marin was also this watch, the Piccadilly, so-to-say, the icon of the brand, the watch that defines everything a PSM watch should be. Until then, most of the watches were focused on a certain classical elegance – even if Peter had a first attempt in something sportier with the Speake-Marin Spirit Pioneer and its 2nd edition, the Mark 2 (however, in both cases, we’re talking highly limited pieces). The real turning point of the brand was in 2014, when the new Spirit watches were launched, as now a real collection, comprising the Wing Commander and this chronograph we have today, the Seafire. Their design is sportier, they are made out of titanium, their movements are out-sourced… Quite a new strategy for them. However, there are huge analogies with the rest. We had to find out more about this chronograph, a sort of PSM made for the larger audience.
First of all, it’s not because Speake-Marin go in a lower price range that they’ve been forgetting everything the brand was known for, and the reasons why these watches became sort of iconic. A Speake-Marin watch is distinct from all other timepieces and is defined by several attributes. The good starting point with the Speake-Marin Spirit Seafire is that all of them are here. A PSM watch must have the Piccadilly case, the Foundation hands, specific lugs or an onion crown. The Spirit Seafire chronograph shares its design with the rest of the collection. The case measures 42mm – a bit larger than the usual 38mm of the brand but still reasonable for a sports watch – and is made in titanium, which from the beginning has been a material of choice for Peter. The lugs, with their bold shape and the screws to hold the bracelet, are also part of the show here. The barrel case is all about the iconic Piccadilly watches and finally, the crown has the onion-shape. No doubts to have, this watch is a PSM.
It is rather surprising to see how, from an elegant classic watch, the brand achieved to transform it into a robust sports watch, without changing much the design and thus removing its DNA. Of course, the case has different finishes. It is not entirely polished anymore but alternating between mirror and brushed surfaces – which shows that we are in front of grade 5 titanium, the harder and more expensive alloy. What defines this watch as sporty is the combination of a chronograph with a new dial, inspired by the previous Spirit watches, but still faithful to the rest of the collection.
The main attraction is this dial, which is far from being simply stamped. The Speake-Marin Spirit Seafire has a black dial with contrasting white indexes and tracks. However, while in most watches, these are stamped directly on the dial or applied metallic parts, what we have here are plots made in Super-LumiNova and in 3D relief. The indexes are not painted with luminous material; they are made in luminous material. The dial itself is matte black resin. The edition of the Spirit Seafire Chronograph we had was the Red version. It features contrasting plots for the minute track and a second disc painted in red, both accentuated the sports watch theme.
Continuing the description of the dial, there’s also a strong link between the hands of the Seafire and the hands we can find in earlier watches from the brand. Indeed, the hour hand for instance keeps the heart-shaped tip, which goes back to the “foundation” style hands found in the Piccadilly or Resilience watches. Of course, sporty chronograph obliged, these hands are not in blued-steel but white and filled with luminous paint. The fonts, especially the large Roman numerals, are also part of the usual theme used by PSM and refer to both classical and sports watches of the brand. Altogether, this Speake-Marin Spirit Seafire uses the known codes of the brand. Just like the case, all iconic elements are used, creating a feeling of satisfaction for lovers of the brand, while also being sportier.
The display of the Speake-Marin Spirit Seafire is easily identifiable and gives a strong indication of the mechanics behind the dial. We indeed have this typical 6-9-12 layout, with date at 3 (the date is thankfully very discreet, with a small aperture and a black disc). There’s the 30-minute counter at 12 and the 12-hour counter at 6. At 9, where we usually have a small second hand, the Speake-Marin Spirit Seafire adds something more exclusive and completely in the PSM spirit: a second disc, shaped like a topping tool (the emblem of the brand), which brings a nice animation on the dial. Here painted in red, it can also be white, blue or orange, depending on the edition you’ll choose.
Inside the case you certainly understood that a Valjoux 7750 is ticking. Certainly not the most exclusive movement, it will however provide a stable and reliable indication of the time to this watch – together with easy maintenance (something that is not common with independent brands). The movement is not visible here – and we don’t especially complain about that – but hidden behind the titanium caseback, engraved with Speake-Marin’s emblem and “Fight, Love and Persevere” motto.
The question that we had with this watch was simple: is a sporty chronograph with out-sourced movement still a Speake-Marin? Well, design-wise there’s no doubt about it. The Speake-Marin Spirit Seafire is all about the DNA of the brand. It will be immediately recognized as a PSM watch, and clearly, it is a very pleasant watch, with dozens of details (on the case, on the hands, on the indexes) that makes it different from the masses. The idea to have powered by an out-sourced movement is certainly commercially-driven – and in all honesty, isn’t the goal of a watch brand to sell watches? – but it will allow more collectors to access to a brand, independent and away from the mainstream products. Its price isn’t low for a 7750-powered watch, at CHF 8,500 (ex. taxes) however you have to consider 3 factors: 1. a unique design – 2. the exclusivity of the brand and the low production numbers – 3. the overall quality (grade 5 titanium) and the beauty of the details (a case that is properly complex, the plots on the dial, the shaped hands…). That’s not a bad starting point to enter the world of indie watchmakers.
Specifications of the Speake-Marin Spirit Seafire
- Case: 42mm diameter x 15mm thick – grade 5 titanium – sapphire crystal on the front, plain titanium back – 30m water resistant
- Movement: Valjoux 7750 – automatic winding – 48h power reserve – 28,800 vibrations/h – Hours and minutes, chronograph, date
- Strap: Black calf leather strap with contrasting red stitching on titanium pin-buckle