For this new instalment of the Collector’s Series, we meet again with California-based collector @Watch_Time_It_Is (his IG account is something that could be named “watch wonderland”…), who already talked to us about two extremely desirable watches from the independent watchmaking scene, a McGonigle Tuscar Bánú and a Grönefeld Parallax. And for his third (but not last) appearance in the Collector’s Series, independent watchmaking will again be at centre stage. And we’ll discuss why this early Speake-Marin Marin 1 Mk1, one of the most attractive watches created by Peter, has such importance for our collector.
How did you come to choose a watch by Peter Speake-Marin?
They say, “you never forget your first”. Peter Speake-Marin was my first… twice.
My first independent watch was Peter’s Serpent Calendar in 42mm steel. I found the case, design, lugs, dial to be strong and confident – which of course made me strong and confident. It set the tone for what an independent watch, or any watch for that matter, should be.
It has been said that baby chicks consider the first face they see as their mother. For me, Peter was the first face of an independent watchmaker, so I have naturally followed him for years. Maybe it is the mental imprinting, but Peter strikes me as the perfect central casting watchmaker (or spy) – English, great name, James Bond looks, global trotter, mechanical expertise, friendly, confident, suave, sophisticated. (Note to editor: if he really is a spy, please remove this portion – Note from the editor: I don’t know if he is a spy, but I like the idea…)
I wore and loved the Serpent Calendar for several years and it was the pinnacle of my small collection. I had the opportunity to acquire other pieces from Peter, but not the means. In fact, among other things the frustration of seeing the broader world of independent watchmaking but not being able to participate resulted in my selling everything and leaving collecting. Several years later I returned to collecting and knew a Peter Speake-Marin (or two) was needed.
And why this particular watch?
With an empty watch box and new resolve, I returned to the same West Coast USA dealer who had sold me the Serpent. He once again had the perfect first piece: the Marin 1 Mk1.
During my absence, Peter had perfected his own movements, matured his design, and deepened the signature of his pieces while remaining true to his zeitgeist. But he had also left his firm and I focus on artisan watchmakers, not watch brands, so pre-owned was my only option. The Marin 1, Mk1 presented the same case as my Serpent with the notched lugs and unforgettable crown, Peter’s iconic hands strongly in front of a proper two-layered enamel dial that moved from a clean, simple, and tall centre (with hour markers that remind me of Big Ben) to an ever more detailed minute ring with spicy red five-minute markers.
Peter once shared a video where a comedian tells of teaching his kids to tell time on a mechanical watch. Being confused by how the “9” is also “45”, the “1” also “5” the kids illustrate some of the craziness of telling time on some watches. The layout of the Marin 1 Mk1 seems to address this confusion so effectively with hands falling clearly on the hour or minute ring with their own numbers.
Being limited and Peter’s first public release of his own movement, it became the first piece in my new collection.
Is there anything else from Peter Speake-Marin that is on your wish list?
Just about anything from the early days of Peter Speake-Marin (the man, not the brand), though I have been fortunate to add a few other early pieces to the box over the last few years. I miss the Serpent and regret selling it. There are a few of his 1 of 20 foundation pieces I would welcome.
What is it in Peter’s work that draws you so much?
I have a fondness for London, and it seems whenever I am there I end up near Piccadilly – the name on his pieces. His cases have square-jawed firmness and sharp-edged elbows to survive in London; the bigness that is London, the sophistication London can offer. The lugs are like the building blocks the empire was built on.
Other watches are often softer, rounder, curvier with disappearing or retreating lugs. They remain beautiful but more for a coffee on Lake Geneva, opera in Paris, or board room in NYC, while Peter’s fit the board rooms of London. They say as much about you as about him. His dial designs are diverse yet from the same family. They benefit from the consistent spade hour and twisted minute hands. Even the slightest change in hand colour or dial finish transforms from dress to playful to expressive.
In all of this, the time is readable. This may sound silly, but there are watches where the time is hard or impossible to read for one reason or another. With Peter the hands are front and centre, clear and proud, serve their purpose – so very British. There is likely a psychoanalytical explanation as well given Peter’s and his watches’ role in my starting to collect watches and then stopping. The rational decisions and emotional luggage that drove me to exit collecting created a draw to return to that stimulus, to finish what I started, to be who I was not.
Then again, collecting mechanical timepieces is not rational, is it? Between the man and his watches, I am hooked.
What is your advice for anyone in the market for a Peter Speake-Marin?
Stay away. There are few early original Peter Speake-Marin pieces that become available as they are cherished by those who have them. I do not need more competition so my advice is: stay away!