Peter Speake-Marin is a changed man. Habitually exuberant, dithyrambic, impassioned, we discover someone more tranquil, rational even, but no less enthusiastic and whose eyes have the same glint of the watchmaker who never tires of opening new doors. Sign of the times, this year he took up residence in Baselworld’s Hall 1 among watchmaking’s inner circle, and even if his brand didn’t occupy one of the best seats in the house, its mere presence speaks volumes about its ambitions. And so as to better serve these ambitions, the brand has reorganised its ranges into three distinct collections: Spirit for sport watches inspired by the British military, J-Class for watches with classic appeal, and Cabinet des Mystères for one-off Fine Art Pieces and other exceptional creations such as the Triad (Mechanical Art).
The independent watchmakers who are still in business today are the ones with the most passion and integrity.
"The product has to sell"
“We wanted to clarify, simplify what we do,” comments Peter Speake-Marin who unveiled no fewer than seven new watches this year, “but the philosophy hasn’t changed. ‘Small’ brands such as ours have to provide a lot of value. Whereas the big brands have a name they can sell, for us it’s first and foremost the product that has to sell. The first thing customers ask us is the price. Then they ask if we’ll still be around in a few years’ time to repair their watch. When dealing with the established brands, it’s not at all the same. The customer wants to understand the differences between this and that model, to find out what’s new. Price only comes into the discussion at the end. But I don’t take offence, on the contrary. In my view, it means that the independent watchmakers who are still in business today are the ones with the most passion and integrity.”
This year, Peter Speake-Marin is expressing this passion with two new Spirit watches. “The first Spirit, the MKII, goes back to 2011. I made 68 of them and they all sold within two weeks. The two models now joining the original Spirit are also inspired by vintage military watches. One is the Wing Commander, built on a Timeless automatic calibre with date, small seconds and power reserve, and the second is the Seafire, my very first chronograph on a Concepto base.” New additions to the J-Class collection are a gem-set version of the Résilience and the Velsheda, a single-hand watch that returns to a concept presented a decade or so ago with the Shimoda, though now with a centre seconds display in the shape of a topping tool, the Speake-Marin logo.
A tourbillon like no other
The highlight of this collection is the new Magister Tourbillon. “The very first watch I made was a tourbillon, hence why this complication is part of the brand’s roots,” notes Peter Speake-Marin. “We set out to simplify the construction of this tourbillon. We really wanted it to be the opposite of a complicated watch. And we succeeded. Whereas a traditional tourbillon takes between two and four weeks to assemble and adjust, we can complete the same operations in three days. We also chose to do part of the decoration by machine so as to limit the amount of handling. This approach allows us to make economies of scale by increasing production quantities and at the same time lowering costs to arrive at a very competitive end price.” While Peter Speake-Marin has always been happy to say which movement constructors he works with, in this case his lips are sealed. “I’ve been very open about discussing these details in the past, which hasn’t always been wise,” he rues. The Magister Tourbillon has yet to reveal all its secrets.