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Peter Speake-Marin lays the foundations for growth
Point of View

Peter Speake-Marin lays the foundations for growth

Tuesday, 20 December 2011
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

“The desire to learn is the key to understanding.”

“Thirty years in journalism are a powerful stimulant for curiosity”.

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3 min read

Like a good many independent master watchmakers, Peter Speake-Marin didn’t emerge entirely unscathed from the crisis that hit the watch sector in 2008-2009. An opportunity to rethink his business model for the future, not least with a new “classic” collection. Interview.

A few weeks ago, Peter Speake-Marin announced his Spirit Pioneer, the first in a new collection after the Marine 1 and 2. The British watchmaker explained how it came to be and talks about prospects for his firm.

There's something of an old military watch feel about this new model. Where did the idea come from? 

Peter Speake-Marin: There are actually two stories behind this watch. Back in London, when I was restoring antique timepieces, I bought a 1950s military watch in Piccadilly which I completely remodelled to my own design, in particular the dial, gears, bridges and plate. In a way it was the first watch I ever built on an existing movement. I used it to pay for my website! So I’ve been wanting to make a new timepiece in this style for a while now. When I started out under my own name and with my own movements, I was concerned I might compromise my new watches with others that weren’t built entirely in-house. Finding a company that could produce three-dimensional Superluminova markers was the first trigger.

The second jumpstart was the crisis that hit us these past couple of years. We persevered through hard times, hence the engraving on the case back: Fight, Love & Persevere. This is the message behind the Spirit Pioneer. It will be a limited edition of 68 in reference to the year I was born. Despite these difficulties, we’re still in business and 2011 has been our best year yet. We even expect to double production in 2012. The Spirit Pioneer premiered at Salon QP in London in November and every single one is spoken for, either by individual customers or by retailers. We’ve never pre-sold a model in such a short space of time. This new watch with its 1950s-inspired Piccadilly case and 38mm diameter clearly has its roots in the past. I’m already sketching the next model in the Spirit collection which will be a larger size.

What movement does the Spirit Pioneer use?

It’s an ETA base which I’ve completely modified, right down to the bridges. I use my team of contractors for this too. At the end of the day, it’s a 100% Speake-Marin movement but on an existing calibre. It means we can produce more and offer a wider range of prices. The classic collection starts at a price point of under CHF 10,000 (USD 10,800 / EUR 8,200) excluding VAT compared with CHF 30,000 (USD 32,350 / EUR 24,640) for the Marine models, whose movement is designed and produced entirely in-house.

How's business?

We’ve already sold this year’s production. There are still about twenty Marines 1 and 2 in the workshops that will be delivered shortly. We’ve finished developing the Marine 3 and have the initial prototype. Manufacturing will take something like one year, so we’ll be presenting it in 2013. We’ll probably launch the second model in the Spirit collection before then, in the second half of 2012. If there’s one good thing to have come out of this crisis, it’s that it taught me to structure the company more. We now employ ten people; I realised I couldn’t continue on an artisanal scale. Also, whereas I used to let inspiration be my guide to a large extent, I’ve learned to plan ahead and to organise sales before the watches are finished so as not to build a stock and to generate vital cashflow. Hence why we’ve reinvested everything we’ve earned in preparation for the future.

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