This is the Speake-Marin Spirit Pioneer, the latest piece from the highly acclaimed Independent Watchmaker, Peter Speake-Marin. The piece is unusual in that it will have a retail price of under £7000. So what? You may very well say. Well consider this, watches made by Peter are handmade pieces and are in such demand that collectors around the world are normally quite happy to put down a more than hefty sum of money before enduring a long wait for their watch to be created - this is to be expected when a watchmaker is held in such high esteem.
To create a Speake-Marin watch at this price point, Peter has done exactly what thrifty individuals around the world have always done when hard times bite - check the store cupboard and use what you have, dig deep, diversify. Those born a generation or two ago would be familiar with the slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On", Peter gives a new adage in response to the current global difficulties and has engraved it onto the caseback of his new watch - "Fight, Love and Persevere". A strong message then, but can a man more used to producing exquisite, elaborate and expensive pieces produce something special on a budget? Well it is not exactly akin to producing a glass coach from a pumpkin, but he has proved himself to be more than resourceful.
If you are familiar with the watchmaker then you will recognise the Piccadilly case-shape - a robust design from which oversize lugs protrude and extend proudly, for the Spirit Pioneer it is constructed from stainless steel and measured 39mm across. There are a few details synonymous with Speake-Marin watches - the "topping tool" motif, the shapely, playful hands and the out-size sculpted crown - all of which appear on this piece. The dial is matt black and lacquered, with hand-applied lume which contrasts and ensures high readability after dark. The watchmaker's unusual rotor can be seen on the caseback. The styling takes inspiration from a military watch which Peter restored some years ago and the result is a ulitarian design albeit a very classy one.
Inside is the FW2012 Calibre with 42 hours of power reserve which was used on some of the original Piccadilly models. Based on an ETA 2422 the movement has been modified and extensively re-designed. Of course, Peter can make his own calibres and has done in the past, for this piece he has chosen to use up his stock. The exclusive production of just 68 pieces does not commemorate a special date or anniversary, quite simply that is all he had left at his disposal.
Speake-Marin watches might say Switzerland on the dial, and of course, they are made in Switzerland, but the man behind the brand is an Englishman, part of the growing renaissance of British Watchmaking. That Britain has contributed richly to the history of horology is in no doubt, but the current revival has, in historical terms been relatively fast. It was only in the seventies that Peter Roberts a Fellow of the British Horological Institute became the first UK student to study at WOSTEP, he became a teacher at London's Hackney School of Watchmaking and among his many students over the years were Stephen Forsey and Peter Speake-Marin who would also go on to study at WOSTEP. Other watchmakers raising the profile of British Watchmaking include Roger Smith and the boys at Bremont and the iconic name of "Dent" has experienced an re-awakening.
Independent Watchmakers are a small band of individuals who are often inspired by the traditional techniques that they have witnessed first hand whilst working in repair and restoration (- surely the best experience a young watchmaker can gain..) and who are unafraid to use this knowledge to produce unique contemporary timepieces, without the constraints of a design department nor the security of a pay cheque. The Speake-Marin Spirit Pioneer is a fine example of such a timepiece and in creating it, Peter Speake-Marin has shown himself to be a watchmaker not entirely comfortable with the notion that exclusivity should equal expensive.
More information at Peter's Official Website