Part 1 of the Peter Speake-Marin series
Watch reviewed is part of a private collection
In 2017, Peter Speake-Marin left the company he started 14 years ago. In this multi-part series, we trace Peter’s time at Speake-Marin through three watches.
To understand Peter’s creations, it is important to take a peek into his watchmaking background and history. Although he undertook formal horological education at the Hackney Technical College of London, and later at WOSTEP in Neuchatel, it was the years he spent on the benches of Somlo Antiques, in London’s Piccadilly Arcade, where he developed and nurtured his watchmaking passion and philosophy. Like many of today’s great independent watchmakers, Peter spent his time restoring the great pieces of yesteryear; names like Arnold, Frodsham, and Breguet were all examined and worked on under his loupe. Restoring such pieces not only gave him an insight and understanding of the thought processes of the late and great makers, but also afforded him the opportunity to gain experience making components and tools from scratch, in order to complete the restoration of these historic and rare pieces.
Leaving Somlo and England, Peter settled in Switzerland, building a workshop in the bedroom of his rented farmhouse. There, he started work on a tourbillon pocket watch, featuring a tall, drum shape case with a narrow bezel, and a tourbillon cage inspired by the triskelion-shaped topping tool. Later to be named the Foundation watch, its case would be used for the Piccadilly, and the tourbillon cage adapted into the Speake-Marin logo, included as the automatic winding rotors of his watches. Other cues, such as the short, stubby spade hour hand, and the lone screw in the bottom of the subdial, were also features in the Foundation that would become Speake-Marin hallmarks.
Whilst the Piccadily is a rather unusual watch on its own, the piece reviewed is unique. It bears the distinction of being the only time-only Speake-Marin creation to feature a serpent hand, traditionally reserved for models with a central calendar.
The drum-like case, inspired by the movement holders at Renaud & Papi, is made in a three-piece fashion, featuring a tall cylindrical body, a small bezel ring on top, and a deeply engraved caseback. The large Louis XV-style crown makes it easy to wind, without digging into the wrist. The dial on this specific piece is rather special. Differentiating it from the run-of-the-mill enamel dials widely used, it has a subtle grained texture throughout, the imperfections giving it a rather organic feel. This is aided by the warm white glow exuded under most lighting conditions.
Being an earlier piece, it also features a level of finish that isn’t quite seen on today’s production pieces. The sharpness of anglage on the rotor is rather remarkable. When compared alongside more contemporary Speake-Marin pieces, both the hands’ construction and their bluing feel somewhat more refined and special.
The problem with it is…
The large solid steel, fixed, and screwed lugs are finished in a variety of angles to help reflect strength and durability. However, as the lugs are very straight, they a effectively increase the diameter of the watch making the watch wear rather tall.
Those that obsess about ‘in-house’ movements will snub this watch as the FW2012 is a derivative of the ETA 2824. However, this a rather simplistic analysis, as Peter took the highest specification movements and modified it in a variety of areas. This included the second wheel, canon pinion, and hour wheel. The FW2012 embodies ideals that Peter developed during his time at Somlo, that watches should with longevity and serviceability in mind.
Would we own one?
If I could own any Speake Marin watch, this would be it. The higher levels of finish coupled with the warm dial makes this watch particularly appealing. The watch also makes a great casual wearer and exudes an air of solidity ,backed up by a very reliable and proven movement. If there are any issues with the watch it would be that it does wear quite large and as such might be limiting on my smaller wrist.
Yes. This Picadilly is quintessentially Speake-Marin. The hands, lugs, and dial do it for me. The big case fits my wrist comfortably, even with its straight lugs. It's a watch I could wear every day and smile at the beautiful serpentine hands.