“A free spirit”
by Angus Davies, www.escapementmagazine.com
A true watch enthusiast will inevitably discover the delights of the “Independent”. The term is used to describe the artisan watchmaker who crafts small numbers of watches each year, against the odds, with limited resources.
This group of talented watchmakers is the absolute antithesis of the large watch groups which dominate the sector. Independent watchmakers rarely have large advertising budgets and don’t pander to the results of focus groups. In many cases, they push horological boundaries with great innovation and daring design.
It is a courageous individual who decides to break away from the security of a regular income that comes from working for a large watch company. “Putting it on the line”, to become an independent may necessitate houses being offered as security. Savings may become depleted as the artisan supports themselves with no regular income whilst building their new company. All the time the ambitious watchmaker clings to the hope of “making it” while dissenting voices question their wisdom.
I don’t know many watch journalists, myself included, who don’t have a “soft-spot” for independents. These are the young brands which excite us, who defy convention, creating breathtaking new designs. They exhibit courage, taking risks that some large brands would be unwilling to take. Indeed, independents are not run by accountants or marketing types, they are steered by the artisans whose names often grace the dials of their watches. These individuals are my heroes, they are free spirits.
It seems very fitting that Peter Speake-Marin has chosen to name his latest range of masculine, military styled watches as the “Spirit Collection”. They reference the bravery exhibited by the British Military. A personal favourite from the Spirit collection is the MkII.
I adore complicated timepieces, especially those models which confer a function delivered in an innovative way. Conversely, I also have a strong liking for honest, straightforward watches which succinctly impart the prevailing time with brevity. The MKII is a model of clarity, its simple to read dial allows the time to be discerned in nano-seconds. It eschews the unnecessary and delivers the vital.
Legibility is superb both day and night. The dial features SuperLumiNova to ensure nocturnal visibility.
The white lacquered Foundation hour and minute hands, a Speake-Marin trademark, eloquently express the time. They are an interesting mix of function and delightful design. Unlike the utilitarian items found on many military watches, these hands have a notable quotient of style, courtesy of their sinuous lines and the heart-shape tipped hour hand. Adorning the centre of the hour and minute hands, the aforementioned SuperLumiNova ensures matchless legibility in restricted light.
A central sweep seconds hand completes the inventory of functions. In this instance, the absence of complications adds to the sublime design. The pure, clean aesthetic is magnificent.
Arabic numerals are used to impart the hours at noon and 3, 6, 9 o’clock, whilst large luminous dots are positioned in between.
A railroad chapter ring, in conjunction with the central sweep seconds hand, makes interpreting short periods of time child’s play. Encircling the matte black dial, Arabic numerals denote each 5-minute integer.
Like any great masters who sign their own works of art, Peter Speake-Marin proudly proclaims his name on the dial, together with the place of origin of his watch, Switzerland. Indeed, the country famed for cheese, chocolate and, of course, watches has been home to the Englishman for many years and is very much part of his watches. However, he continues to draw on other influences from around the globe when creating his horological masterpieces. A topping tool motif is positioned above 6 o’clock and is very much a part of the Speake-Marin DNA. Peter explained,
“I have always been attracted to the topping tool because of its form. You use a tool to make a component, you make a timepiece, and the timepiece is a dream turned into reality. The topping tool motif is very much at the root of everything I do: It is the tool which gives me the means to realise my dream.”
The stainless steel case, measuring 42mm in diameter, has a height of 12mm. It is a size which should find favour with the majority of wearers.
All surfaces of the case are highly polished, save for the bezel which features satin brush. In my opinion, the mixture is judged with stylish aplomb. The touch of satin brush on the bezel adds just a modicum of restraint to the overall mien. I would accept that the brilliance of the polished surfaces would make it too conspicuous for true military use, however, Speake-Marin does offer a DLC version if stealth is the order of the day.
The fluted crown reminds me of a pilot’s watch I once owned but, unlike my former timepiece, the crown does not impinge on free hand movement. I suspect this is because the case diameter is much smaller. The resultant wrist feel is excellent, with no gouging or red marks while wearing the timepiece.
I particularly like the lug design, featuring robust-looking screws which hold the strap into position. They look capable of holding the strap and watch in a steadfast union.
The case back is solid. This causes me to experience a smidgen of dissonance. I am a self-confessed horological voyeur and adore seeing a finely finished movement. I know that residing in the case of the MKII is a pristinely executed movement featuring exalted craftsmanship and yet the only individual to see this beauty is the watchmaker who services the watch periodically. However, I concede that Peter has respected tradition by featuring a solid case back and many purists will disagree with my stance.
Moreover, I like the engraving which adorns the case back, stating, “Fight, Love and Persevere”. The motto engenders an image in my mind of a Squadron Leader stood beside a Nissen hut, adjacent an airfield during the second world war, briefing his men and trying to inspire them to courageously engage in aerial combat. Its judicious inclusion in the specification suits the watch and reaffirms my faith in the design prowess of Speake-Marin.
The watch is available with a particularly attractive red-brown calf-leather strap. However, I also adore the additional Suigeneric hand-waxed cotton NATO straps. Indeed, with my addictive personality, I suspect I would be raiding my “piggy bank” every few weeks to purchase, “just one more strap”. They look über-cool, reinforcing the military persona of the MKII and proffering endless possibilities to pair the watch with your chosen attire.
The Calibre TT738 is a self-winding movement. It has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz) and contains 35 jewels.
The uni-directional oscillating mass is adorned with Côtes de Genève motif which aligns perfectly with the similarly adorned bridges. The movement may be hidden from view but traditional finissage has not been abandoned. This is a “proper watch”, with impeccable manners.
Wearers can be rest assured the Speake-Marin Spirit MKII has an impressive power reserve of 4 – 5 days, making it a highly practical ownership proposition.
Speake-Marin has ascended to new heights with his latest collection of models, recently launched at Baselworld 2014. His blend of appealing aesthetics and mechanical virtuosity are compelling arguments for acquisition. However, remarkably Speake-Marin brings another attribute to the table, namely, price. The Speake-Marin Spirit MKII has a recommended retail price of CHF 6490 (approximately £4313) and at this level, individuality has never looked such good value.
I implore readers to embrace an independent brand today and enjoy the wonderment of these free spirits who enrich the world of horology we all adore so much.
• Model: Speake-Marin Spirit MKII
• Ref: PIC.20000
• Case: Stainless steel; diameter 42 mm; case height 12mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback.
• Functions: Hours; minutes; central sweep seconds
• Movement: Calibre TT738, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz), 35 jewels; power reserve 4 – 5 days.
• Strap: Red-brown calf leather strap supplied on a stainless steel pin buckle. Also available with Suigeneric hand-waxed cotton NATO straps