Imagine Enzo Ferrari leaving his company after its reputation was well established, only to reemerge a year later with a new car brand offering affordable, compact sedans. As crazy as that scenario sounds, it’s kind of analogous to the current situation we have with Peter Speake-Marin. It wasn’t long ago that his name was associated with expensive, exclusive and complicated timepieces, featuring in-house movements, tourbillons, minute repeaters and more. Those days are behind Peter, who left the company last year to pursue other interests (inc. The Naked Watchmaker), but he’s suddenly back with a new watch brand, Stoic World. The Sports Watch is one of three in Stoic World’s portfolio of affordable, mainstream watches, having virtually no resemblance to his former collections. Let’s take a closer look at the Sports Watch (and touch on the other two) and see if this new direction is worthy of the Peter Speake-Marin name.
Peter Speake-Marin, an English watchmaker, started his career as a restorer of antique timepieces for Somlo Antiques in London. After developing top-end complications for Renaud & Papi in Switzerland for several years, he founded Speake-Marin in 2002. He didn’t play it safe with the company’s first timepiece, the Foundation Watch, which was a hand-made pocket watch featuring a tourbillon that helped shape future offerings. He soon became a member of the esteemed Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI), a non-profit association of 30 watchmakers (as of 2018) that helps establish and support independent brands. His first proper wristwatch was the Piccadilly, a time-only piece, and the Piccadilly case would become a centrepiece of many future collections.
In 2009, the company launched the Marin 1, which contained its first in-house movement. The automatic SM2 calibre took three years to develop, had 29 jewels, beat at 21,600vph (3Hz) and had a 72-hour power reserve. Like American brand RGM, which developed its own in-house movements like the Calibre 801 and Pennsylvania Tourbillon, Speake-Marin was now a complete watchmaker (and our own Frank Geelen became a big fan and friend). News broke last year that Peter was leaving the company after 17 years of direct involvement, although the company itself continues on with what Peter had built. In September 2017, he launched The Naked Watchmaker, a website that acts as a horological encyclopedia of sorts and covers various aspects of the industry via in-depth interviews with watchmakers, collectors and more.
Now in the summer of 2018, we have Peter’s latest venture. Stoic World is a very different company to Speake-Marin, offering affordable watches with outsourced Seiko automatics and even a quartz movement. The company is a bonafide microbrand with watches that wouldn’t feel out of place on Kickstarter. Will fans of Peter be receptive to this new line, or will an entirely new fan base need to be established? Only time will tell, but there’s no doubt that one of the best in the industry is taking on the challenge.
CASE AND DESIGN
The Sports Watch features a 43.5mm diameter stainless steel case that’s 14.5mm in height. That’s a substantial watch and the first thing I noticed was the weight. It’s approaching the weight of the Undone Aqua I recently reviewed (which is among the heaviest I’ve ever worn) and you’ll definitely feel this one your wrist. The second thing I noticed was the profusion of gold accents. The serrated edge of the bezel is finished in a polished gold along with the crown (not real gold in this case) and I’m not sure how I feel about this design choice.
It creates a nice contrast with the steel case but also has a cheap “bling” vibe that you see on watches at shopping mall kiosks. I would’ve preferred a simple, matching silver. The front and sides of the case are brushed with a subtle polished chamfer spanning the top outer edges. The caseback is polished with an exhibition window, and both the front and back crystals are sapphire (the front treated with an anti-reflective coating).
The unidirectional bezel has a detailed 15-minute scale and numerals every ten minutes (starting with 5). Rotating the bezel counter-clockwise reveals a pleasing ratcheting action, but the inverted triangle at 12 o’clock (with a dot of lume) doesn’t perfectly align with the dial’s noon marker. Not a deal breaker, but the quality control could’ve been a bit higher. The “S” Stoic logo is stamped on the end of the crown. The overall look is that of a dive watch, but it doesn’t feature a screw-down crown and is water-resistant to only 100m. That’s nothing to scoff at, but serious divers should probably look elsewhere. Stoic considers this more of a sports watch, hence the name, and for general outdoor adventures, it seems more than robust enough.
DIAL AND HANDS
The black dial has a tight pattern of squares with applied indices outlined in gold and filled with off-white lume. The hour, minute and seconds hands are also gold-coloured, and all have lume as well. Stoic’s name and logo are positioned between the hands and 3 o’clock, again in gold, and there are two complications. A date window sits at an angle at 4:30, while a 24-hour indication sub-dial sits at 11 o’clock. A white minute track spans the outer perimeter of the dial. AUTOMATIC is printed small above 6 o’clock with WATER RESISTANT 100M below.
The gold accents give the watch a vintage feel that Stoic is going for, but it also leans into a gaudy aesthetic that might not appeal to everyone. I don’t dislike it, but it also didn’t leave a stellar first impression. Same as for the case, I would’ve preferred matching silver hands and indices.
The strap is a heavy black Italian leather with light grey stitching. It has a stainless steel, double hinged deployment buckle with STOIC stamped on the end. It’s comfortable and didn’t need a break-in period to fit well, but it’s also a little heavy for my liking. It features the always appreciated quick release levers, allowing for simple, tool-free removal if you want to try a third-party strap (lug width is 22mm). I think a steel bracelet would complement this piece well, along with a black nylon or even silicone.
When I think of Peter Speake-Marin, I envision in-house movements and high-end complications. That’s definitely not the case here, but what’s beating inside the Sports Watch is admirable nonetheless. We have a Japanese Seiko NH37 automatic calibre that’s accurate, reliable and serviceable. It has 24 jewels, beats at 21,600vph (3Hz), has Diashock shock protection, hours, minutes, central seconds (hacking), date, 24-hour indicator and a 41-hour power reserve.
The rotor has been decorated with Geneva stripes and the exhibition caseback has “Nothing is ours, except time” (by Seneca) printed on the crystal. Below that is Stoic’s name and logo. I’m generally not a fan of printing or engravings on exhibition backs as they partially obscure the view of the movement. The 2018 Frederique Constant Automatic Runabout Limited Edition did something similar earlier this year. I think it would’ve been better if Stoic engraved the quote around the crystal on the steel, but it’s relatively innocuous.
THE PILOTS WATCH AND CHRONOGRAPH
The Pilots Watch and Chronograph round out the new line of Stoic watches. The Pilots Watch is a throwback to military and aviation watches from the 1940’s. It’s a very wearable 38mm in diameter and 13mm in height, with hours, minutes, central seconds (hacking) and date. The stainless steel case has a polished bezel and brushed front, with a polished back and sides. There are sapphire crystals on both the front and back. The black dial has large Arabic numerals for maximum visibility and the heavy Italian leather strap has traditional rivets near the lugs with a double-hinged deployment buckle. The Seiko NH35 automatic movement is the same as the NH37 on the Sports Watch, but with no 24-hour indicator.
The Chronograph has a Seiko quartz movement instead of an automatic and is consequently the least expensive of the three. It’s modeled after classic, racing-inspired chronographs from the 1960’s and while I won’t call it a knockoff, it definitely borrows from the Daytona. It’s also 38mm in diameter and has a classic black and white “panda” dial with a black external tachymeter. Functions include hours, minutes, central seconds (hacking), date, 24-hour indication at 3 o’clock, chronograph seconds at 6 o’clock and minute recorder at 9 o’clock. It’s equipped with a stainless steel oyster-style bracelet with butterfly clasp. Both the Pilots Watch and Chronograph have the same quote on the back as the Sports Watch, and all are water-resistant to 100m.
Suffice it to say, the new line of watches from Stoic World is a world away from the exclusive timepieces from Speake-Marin. In a bubble, they’re a decent group of affordable watches from a new microbrand – even though we’ve seen better offers recently – and it’s impossible to ignore the main force behind them, Peter Speake-Marin. He has partners from Hong Kong, London and Paris, but he’s clearly the face of the new company.
To sum this up in a sentence, Peter simply shifted from the exclusive high-end to the accessible mainstream. The potential market is much broader now, but it remains to be seen if his reputation can carry the watches above a very crowded and growing field. Seiko, Hamilton and Tissot, just to name a few established brands, offer comparable watches at similar prices. And then there’s the exploding list of intriguing microbrands scattered around the world, using Seiko, Miyota and even Swiss ETA movements. It’ll be very interesting to see how Stoic World competes.
The Sports Watch retails for USD 490 and can be purchased from Stoic World’s website. The Pilots Watch sells for USD 390 and the Chronograph for USD 290. Stoic World offers a two-year warranty on all watches and a 14-day return window.