Watch reviewed is part of a private collection.
Peter Speake-Marin’s tenure at his namesake company came to an end in June 2017, after growing to have authorised dealers, brand ambassadors, and multiple lines of watches. Since its establishment, the brand relied on well-proven ebauches to power its watches, modifying the movements to Peter’s exacting standards. The J-Class watches are significant, not only as the last watches to be released under its founder, but also as the firm’s first pieces to feature a new in-house movement, the SMA01.
As for Peter, he launched The Naked Watchmaker in September last year, disassembling horologically significant and interesting pieces, photographing and documenting their components in painstaking detail. Free from advertisements, he aims to educate and share his love for watchmaking through this project.
Well first, the name. The One, its sibling, features rose gold hands, housed in a rose gold case. The Two has blue steeled hands and comes in a titanium case. Both are available in 42mm and 38mm.
Although the casing is similar to the Velsheda, the appearance of the J-class has evolved significantly from the Piccadilly range. The new case doesn’t have the same presence as its older siblings in the range. It is slimmer, its lugs are now curved and shorter, a departure from the movement holder inspired shape of the past. More evidently three-part this time around, with polished upper and lower rings, sandwiching a brushed central section. The crown, too, has evolved from the Velsheda. Whilst it maintains a similar overall profile, the edges have been smoothed out.
Perhaps the most striking element of the watch is its dial. An open, skeleton sort of design, it showcases a range of finishing techniques that can be applied to a watch - sunburst, Côtes de Genève, perlage, just to name a few - highlighting the manufacture’s capabilities. The signature spade-shaped hour hand has carried over from the Piccadilly range. The sunken sub-second dial is backed in lacquer, a strong contrast to the otherwise open-worked watch. This deliberate design makes sense, as on closer inspection, this brings balance to the weighted topping-tool shaped microrotor. With no appliqués, one must rely on the railroad chapter on the circumference of the dial to tell time.
The problem with it is...
Showcasing the manufacture’s range of finishing techniques has come at an expense. Legibility of the Two can be quite poor, especially where there is harsh indoor lighting. In a way, this could be seen as emblematic of the Peter Speake-Marin’s brand transition from artisinal to full-scale watch manufacture. Yes, their watches are more accessible than ever, but there is an evident decline in thoughtfulness of design and quality of finish; long gone are the days of fluid and sharp angles, now replaced with a pastiche of different industrial techniques. That said, it is an interesting watch. Like the Velsheda, the Two doesn’t look like anything else on the current market, and unlikely to have much direct competition for the same reason. But it is a piece one would purchase with one’s heart, because it can be a difficult purchase to justify in objective terms. If it sings to you, like it did to this piece’s owner, then we do recommend it.
Would we own one?
I’ll have to pass on this one. The new case design is refreshingly different to the more bulky Piccadily cases, but the dial is just too busy. In the time I spent with it, I struggled to read it under artificial lighting. Overall, I find the Velsheda to be the more desirable of the ‘new-age’ Speake Marin pieces.
No. While the hallmarks of Peter Speake-Marin, such as the spade-shaped hour hands and the topping-tool motif, are featured in this watch, the range of finishing visible on the dial makes its design feel too busy. The titanium case, and its lightness, are certainly aspects I enjoy. The Two is a sophisticated piece, but one that lacks simplicity of the brand’s earlier creations. Perhaps in time I will learn to appreciate its design, but right now, it is the understated elegance of this Piccadilly and the Velsheda Gothic I much prefer.
No. Having spent some time trying to photograph the dial, my feelings for the Two is one of frustration - mainly from a legibility perspective. Whilst it has genuine wrist presence and beautiful details to appreciate, I find my taste of simple elegant legible dials taking over.