Independent Watchmaking: Speake Marin Spirit Pioneer

Posted on January 5, 2012

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As the wife will attest, beyond my love for her, there will always be that special place in my heart (and holes in my wallet) for established watch maisons; but lately I’ve been finding myself in the quiet caress of the independent watchmaker. They say the wandering eye has been the downfall of many relationships and while many do not go beyond superficial beauty, there is little doubt, nay, high probability that eventually one might find the personality to go with the face- I am of course talking about watches not women.

Peter Speake-Marin

Watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin

When it comes to haute horlogerie it’s difficult to escape hundreds of years of history and tradition- the allure of the independent watchmaker is very much recent; for those in the know, the background of the horologist still matters but the biggest seduction comes from exotic designs that established watchmakers cannot tread due to brand restrictions (Patek has a certain look, Rolex will always look like a Rolex)- with an independent, creativity is unbound, much like a new lover, willing to explore- the aesthetics aside, you’re looking at unique technical developments that make each new production a siren call. That said, the affair has always been I would say- neighbourly- Lovers looking at Swiss and German watchmakers as marks of quality and then we have the likes of Speake-Marin.

A “Swiss” brand but the heart for the company is very much English. What started in 1985 at Hackney college was carried to the Swiss alps when Englishman Peter Speake-Marin cemented his watchmaking skills studying under the auspices of master craftsman at Renaud et Papi (Let’s just say they do some work for Audemars Piguet) before opening his very own- The Watch Workshop . Aware of but not bound by horological traditions- Speake Marin timepieces are similar to many before it yet wholly distinctive.

Speake Marin Spirit Pioneer

Introducing the Speake Marin Spirit Pioneer

Describing the Spirit Pioneer is like trying to describe why you love a woman- I’m not certain if I was first struck by the symmetry of her face, the classic (and instantly recognisable) beauty of the iconic Piccadilly case or the strength of her features.

Clean while complicated, the sophisticated black lacquer dial allows the hour, minute and second hands to play to their strengths, the railroad style ring add more texture to what might overly simplistic hour indices but when 4 roman numerals are supersized and given a place of prominence- the Speake-Marin Spirit Pioneer watch face just works. It’s like Angelina Jolie, her lips are too big but it just works. The dial is completed by the Speake-Marin signature ‘topping tool’ motif and logo which are also in white lacquer.

The elegant polished steel carries all of Speake-Marin’s meticulous eye for detail right down to its unique lugs- the distinctive crown and general robustness of construction make this timepiece a long lasting investment. I consider the Spirit Pioneer a horological counterpart to Leonardo’s vitruvian man- perfection; when you turn over the Spirit, the hand bevelled ‘topping tool’ winding rotor will simply catch your breath, it’s like undressing your lover for the first time, engraved- “Fight, Love & Persevere”- all words to live by and for the Monsieur, the perfect symbol and testament to his character and individuality.

Some say there are many fishes in the sea but to me, the Spirit Pioneer is THE ONE. Lucky, we have 68 pieces. [Shop here]

The Monsieur’s Brief: At 38mm, the Speake-Marin Spirit Pioneer is not the largest but it’s bears decent heft. More importantly, the watch snobs among you might complain about the base ETA 2842 movement but honestly, it’s been so highly modified that it’s worth considering as a whole new movement (Calibre FW2012) with 42 hours power reserve. Your standard ETA 2842 is carries 36 hours.

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Posted in: watches