Speake-Marin Velsheda Gothic
Part two of the Peter Speake-Marin series
Watch reviewed is part of a private collection.
“Independent watchmaking today is a representation of living watchmakers through the watches they make.” Peter Speake-Marin’s comment in 2013 is certainly relevant in considering the Velsheda and his later creation, the Two.
The original Velsheda was a J-Class yacht, built by Camper & Nicholson in 1933, for W. L. Stephenson, owner of the Woolworth chain of shops. In her second season, Velsheda won over 40 races, and competed alongside other classic British yachts such as Britannia, Endeavour, and Shamrock. Winning more than 40 races in her second season, the yacht Velsheda represented the most technically advanced designs for spars, rigging, sails, deck gear, and ropes. Despite being stuck in mud (quite literally) for several decades, she was rescued in the early 1980s, and continues to sail today.
Peter Speake-Marin’s Velsheda, on the other hand, is a clear evolution from and development of the Piccadilly. Whilst many of the hallmarks have been retained in the Valsheda Gothic, others have been given a fresh naval twist. The solitary hour hand, in blued-steel and tipped in red, combines the shape of the hand from a marine compass with the topping tool motif. Furthering the compass theme, the 12 is applied in red.
Being an hour wheel watch, the solitary hand completes a full revolution only twice a day. To compensate the difficulty in reading the time, a railroad track and large indices are used. Its markers are accurate to the nearest 5-minute interval, and it is not difficult to read the time to the nearest minute; more than enough for regular daily use. The fourth wheel, normally powering the second hand, is connected to the central logo, and spinning it once per minute. This feature is particularly entertaining to watch, as the centre and the spokes of the hand assembly move at different rates.
The problem with it is…
Sporting a titanium case, the watch is supremely light, and almost too much so. This is in great contrast with the Piccadily, which dominates the wrist with its hefty white gold case. With this example being only one of eight to feature an enamel dial, an interesting comparison can be made with the Piccadily. Although both feature enamel dials from the same maker, they were produced during different periods of the company’s life. . The Piccadily reflects the early - and more hands-on - period of Speake Marin, reflected by its highly uneven but organically dial. The Velsheda’s dial, on the other hand, is rather flawless in appearance and almost indistinguishable from a well-lacquered watch. It’s difficult to conclude which of the dials are “better”, for some may see wabi-sabi* in the former, and others may place more value in the perfect technical execution of the other.
The contrast between the two watches is also evident in its overall fit and finish. The Velsheda highlights the recent advances in machining, resulting in a flawless screw and case fit. This has come at the expense of the fine hand finishing and fluidity that is present in the Piccadilly.
Would we own one?
I’m on the fence with this one. As a whole, I find it quite attractive, and there certainly isn’t too much out there that is even comparable. However, the lack of lustre and detail that was present in the early Piccadillies, pushes against this watch. Ultimately, it’s a case of ‘could have been better’.
Yes. Although I’m not the biggest fan of the elongated fixed lugs, the dial and hand design is captivating and fascinating. I love the seamless integration of the Peter Speake-Marin logo as the centre of the entire watch face, and how this is echoed in the mystery rotor visible through the caseback. There is something poetic about the single hour-hand only indicating time to 5-minute intervals: a reminder that, like most things in life, time is a concept, and any measurement of it is merely relative.
No. I appreciate every little nuance in the Velsheda, and see it as a truly unique watch. I love the aesthetics of the spinning topping tool - mesmerising, if you watch it for long enough. However, I can’t help but appreciate more the iconic spade and serpentine hands of other Speake-Marin models, which, for me, I’d rather own.
I love the slimmer J-class case of the Velsheda. It actually wears better under a shirt cuff. The 12 hour display is actually quite easy to read (and the brain adapts to it quickly too). It somehow “slows” down time, which is nice, for we live in a fast-paced and hectic word. I also love the spinning topping tool for the constant running seconds. Mesmerising, if one stares at it for long enough.
*wabi-sabi: the Japanese art of celebrating the beauty of things imperfect, and transient nature of life. Sometimes known as “the art of imperfection”.