Speaking with watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin
From his early days as part of the restoration team for an antique house to owning his own brand, Peter Speake-Marin shares with us his experiences in the watchmaking industry.
Known for producing high-end luxury watches, Peter Speake-Marin has come a very long way from restoring antique watches at Somlo Antiques to owning his own brand. Speake-Marin was in Malaysia for A Journey Through Time IX, a yearly event held at Starhill Gallery showcasing the latest in watches and jewellery collections.
Having left school at the age of 17 with no clue on what to do, he found himself nearly joining the mechanical division in the Royal Air Force (RAF). Luck however was on his side when, by chance, he was introduced to Hackney Technical College with a course on horology.
“At that point, I didn’t even know what horology was. In all honesty, it was purely by happenstance,” said the watchmaker. Having admitted to being average at everything he has ever done, Peter found himself very at home with the course, rising to the top of the class very quickly.
Being an independent watchmaker
After working for roughly 15 years in the watchmaking industry, Peter discovered that he has mastered everything he needed to learn. Having just finished off his first watch at that time, Peter was invited into the AHCI (Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants), an association that specialises in reviving the traditional handicraft art of watchmaking parallel to the industrial manufacturing of mechanical watches.
“The first watch I ever made for myself was the Foundation pocket watch. I made that watch for me; it was never my intention to turn it into a brand. After it was done, I was invited to become a member of the AHCI. When exhibiting at the AHCI, you will need to have something to sell to them so I designed wristwatches that looked like the pocket watch and it all began from there.”
His time at Somlo Antiques
Having spent seven years at Somlo Antiques in Picadilly, London, Peter was tasked with heading the watch restoration department of the prestigious antiques house. During his tenure at Somlo Antiques, Peter discovered his love for history, art and mechanics, especially when it came to watches from the 18th century.
“This was when electricity had not even been invented yet. It was an incredible work of art with unbelievable precision, remarkable finishing and great imagination. What I loved most about these antique watches were the human connections they held. It wasn’t created by machines but by men like you and I. The world was a different place back then. I once restored a Patek Philippe Quantième Prepétuel which was designed before the Wright Brothers took flight for the first time. That's how far back into history timekeeping has been in our lives.”
With plenty of his creations emphasising the usage of tourbillon – especially the Magister Vertical Double Toubillon that was on display – Peter describes a tourbillon to be a mechanism that cancels out the gravity on the watch to increase its precision to tell time.
“When you see a tourbillon watch working, there’s an animation. It's as if there is a heart, a life and soul to the watch. That is what pulls me to that kind of mechanisms. It’s not so much about the precision for me but rather, the way time is being presented.”
His favourite watch
Having to choose a favourite watch from his collection was rather difficult as every watch under his brand holds a special place in his heart.
“If I had to choose one, it would be the Magister Vertical Double Toubillon; I am completely in love with that watch. It’s a big watch but it isn’t ostentatious, it has a little bit of steampunk and a life in it that I love. But of course, I can’t afford one because it’s too damn expensive!”
Other watch brands
Despite having huge respect for other watch brands around the world that have made a name for themselves over the years, he can’t help but to have no real interest in them anymore.
“Everything you buy these days is an emotional purchase. Everything you buy has to have some sort of emotional value to you; from the car you drive to the clothes you have on your back. Watches are the same. These days, watches are made by huge companies and in volumes so that doesn’t do anything for me anymore. The connection between the watch and its maker isn’t there anymore.”
(Pictures courtesy of Speake-Marin.)
Although not in the market yet, A. Lange & Söhne sure knows how to use a tourbillon.