Why did Peter Speake-Marin feel compelled to start making watches in the first place? Well, like most of us, he fell in love with the intoxicating combination of history, art and mechanics. The London born watchmaker was education in London at the Hackney Technical College and then at WOSTEP (the prestigious Swiss watchmaking school in Neuchâtel). Following his training in Switzerland, and on his return to London, Speake-Marin begun working at Somlo Antiques (then based in the Piccadilly arcade). There, Speake-Marin learnt how past masters such as Breguet had found their watchmaking solutions and their diverse ways of making watches.
Fast-forward a few years to the late 90’s (and a number of machines) Speake-Marin begun developing a tourbillon pocket watch (by hand) with twin power trains, which later became known as the “Foundation Watch”. In the “Foundation Watch”, Speake-Marin laid down his style and philosophy while establishing his first independent workshop at the beginning of the millennium on the picturesque Lake Geneva between Geneva and Lausanne. The first wristwatch to leave his workshop at the end of 2003 took its cues from the Foundation Watch. Peter named its distinctive case “The Piccadilly” after the time he spent at Somlo Antiques in Piccadilly.
As with many independent watchmakers, Speake-Marin’s production numbers are low. His mission has been to develop a style of watchmaking that is Swiss made but English in its inspiration, culture and knowledge. One of his growing number of admirer’s is our Editor Frank Geelen. Last week we found out why.
When did you come to own your Speake-Marin?
I’m not sure, but I think it was late 2012; around the same period when I decided to quit my “real” job and go full-time for Monochrome.
Have you met Mr Speake-Marin?
Oh yes, we’ve met many times and meeting Peter, getting to know him, was an important factor in my determination for getting one of his watches. I think I met Peter first at Baselworld (2009 I think), and later at a memorable event in Oldenzaal where Tim and Bart Grönefeld had a little party. We went go-kart racing in the snow (quite an experience, and a lot of fun, on the snowy and icy track!) and BBQ afterwards. Luckily the BBQ was indoors, however we still needed a few drinks to warm up.
In your mind, what are Speake-Marin doing right?
So many things. So much so I believe the Piccadilly is a future classic. The design is very strong, and you immediately recognize a Speake-Marin watch. Whether it is one of the many ‘pièce unique’ that Peter made, or the simple Piccadilly with enamel dial.
I immediately fell for the charm of Peter’s watches. The mix of very classic with ingredients, with some over the top design elements, just works so well. The simple round case, polished steel or gold, and the classic enamel dial with long sleek Roman Numerals. These are the classic elements, while the huge diamond-shaped crown and the oversized lugs add a contemporary feel to it. These elements could not have been in a watch of the 1930’s, at least not in this combination and/or dimensions.
N.B. It should be noted that the Piccadilly is the predecessor of the current Resilience, although the Resilience has a slimmer case, and a new movement from the Vaucher manufacture.
Why has there be such a rise in interest in Indy brands such as Speake-Marin do you think?
When my interest in watches became a little stronger than average, I was already reading about watches a lot. Reading forums, participating, and I started writing the occasional post on Monochrome (next year Monochrome will be ten years). In 2009 I went to Baselworld for the first time, together with fellow watch-geek Robert-Jan (from Fratellowatches), and Gerard and Bernard who where in ‘the business’ and knew their way around.
After our first meetings with Jaquet Droz and Blancpain, Robert-Jan and I looked at each other and without spending too much words on it, we decided to skip the rest of the extreme commercial and pushy meetings. We walked into the Palace (a small tent where some brands were exhibiting) next to the large halls, and there we met Peter among others.
It was a breathe of fresh air. Peter Speake-Marin, the good folks of URWERK, Max Busser and his crew were all there and we spend a lot of time there, talking with these people, learning from them, getting the chance to spend time with their watches, to photograph them and to actually put them on the wrist.
The contact was so warm, and also normal, and passionate. The difference with the pushy sales representatives of aforementioned brands was like day and night. And the biggest plus is that we were talking with the people who actually make these watches. To me they were (are!) the rock stars of the watch industry. I think many people who visit the watch fairs feel the same, and many people have read Monochrome will have picked up that same message and maybe they also have had the chance to meet with some of the legendary watchmakers.
Do you tend to lean towards more formal, dressier watches?
For me it can go from one extreme to another; I like most styles, but I’m extremely picky what watches in a specific style I really like. For instance my Hautlence is far from classic/formal/dressy, however my vintage, small, round, white gold Patek is exactly that, and so is my Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute to1931 that we discussed the other week. And I like ‘em all.
Frank, what’s inside the watch?
In my Piccadilly is a reworked ETA movement. Although this might not sound exiting, I have to say that A) it’s a super robust movement that has been tried and tested for decades and B) Peter actually improved it as well. It is the most precise watch with ETA movement that I’ve ever owned and it feel so solid when winding or adjusting.
The current lineup of Resilience watches feature, as of this year, a movement from the Vaucher manufacture. Vaucher makes movements for, and are partially owned by, Parmigiani Fleurier – a brand that I like a lot for their superb quality and finishing.
With those lugs, do you often have people asking what it is?
No, never. You’re actually the first…
When do you find yourself strapping it on?
Any day of the week as I wear all my watches on a daily basis. Yesterday I was doing some small construction work in our new apartment (we move today) with the Hautlence on my wrist. Today I’m wearing the Piccadilly while moving. Yes, I’m careful with my watches, however I do wear them on a daily basis.
Sure, I won’t dive into the sea (or take a shower) with the Speake-Marin on my wrist, however that’s only because its water resistance isn’t enough, and it would be a shame for the beautiful alligator leather strap.
If you were convincing a friend to buy a Speake-Marin what would you say?
Meet Peter, look at his watches, put them on the wrist to try… that’s all you need.
Take for instance Pierce Brosnan, the English actor who played James Bond. You would expect that he has seen so much, handled enough fine watches, talked to so many interesting persons. When Pierce was being instructed the basics of watchmaking – Pierce plays a watchmaker in the movie Survivor – he got to know Peter. And that was all it took for Pierce to become the brand ambassador for Speake-Marin. Not for the millions they offered him, which Speake-Marin obviously didn’t do, nor have the means to do so, but for the beauty of the watches and the great person that Peter is.
What advice would you give others looking to invest in Indy brands?
Investing in watches in general is something that I won’t recommend. Sure, there are some watches that will increase in value. And when I had the budget to buy several vintage Submariners, Sea-Dwellers or Explorers 10-15 years ago, I would have made a small fortune today. However that only goes for a few, very few, watches, and I strongly recommend to buy what you enjoy wearing, looking at.
Although… most Indy watches are rare. Maybe that will influence their value in a positive way in the coming years?
What are your thoughts on the future for Speake-Marin?
When I look at the current collection, I see that there’s a lot, going from classic J-Class collection, to the sportier and bolder Spirit collection, to the Cabinet des Mystère with the complicated timepieces. The line-up seems quite complete and very coherent. I hope that Peter will remain making one-off’s like he has been doing since day one, and that’s where the true chances for collector are.
What three words sum up your Piccadilly?
Classy, Bold and British.