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Speake-Marin - "I am a watchmaker designing the watches that motivate him"
Can you explain a little of your career to this point in time? 28 years ago as a fresh faced 17 year old I started walking the horological road in what was then London's Hackney Technology College. 17 years ago I moved to Switzerland and my life along that road continued in a different context and language. 13 years ago I became self employed and whilst developing my own watches worked for a menagerie of companies and individuals in various capacities until 5 years ago when I started concentrating uniquely on my own work. This in hind sight was probably the worst time in watchmaking history to become entirely independent also not an ideal time to invest in component manufacturers. 2 years ago I relaunched my work with a clear vision through the 'Renaissance' wrist watch. Today through more fate than planning I have developed several collections of SM watches born of my work during the passed 10 years, defined a future plus developed a DNA for my work which I believe will outlive myself as an individual. In my relatively short career as a watchmaker making his own watches I have executed a plethora of models with a diversity normally found with in a company that has existed for half a century or more, from simple to complex to artistic. What is the relavance of the topping tool in your work? The topping tool is a manually operated machine that is used to alter the profile of teeth on wheels. The one pictured I purchased in La Chaux-de-Fonds in another life and used it to make the Foundation watch (my first watch) and inspired the cage design. This gothic design has since filtered its way into my tourbillon cages, automatic rotors, seconds hands and today has become my logo. It has also influenced the design of my bridges with its claw and tear shaped flamboyant curves. It has inspired an original design, it is a reflection of the designer inside a watchmaker. ?
What are your essential inspirations and what motivates you? The principle period of inspiration in my work derives from a period of time I spent in London restoring antique watches in Londons Piccadilly, where a passion for watchmaking was born. I have during my life rarely been a collector of anything. At one period I collected antique and vintage watchmaking tools, partly for their intrinsic beauty but in reflection because these tools were the means by which works of horological passion were realized. The tool is the key to realizing an idea, a dream becoming a reality, the dream being lived. Subconsciously I believe this is the reason for the core design element in my watches which has influenced virtually all of what I have designed and made for myself and sometimes for others. What have been your most successful designs? Certain models that I developed along my way have become iconic references to my work, all housed in the Piccadilly case, they have started to personify my work: the Resilience with its enamel dial, the Serpent calendar with its snake shaped calendar hand and the Spirit with its eternal logo engraved on the case backs (Fight, Love & Persevere). In parallel to these watches and aside from the complications I have made, I have executed a wide array of watches which I describe as 'Art' pieces, I have worked with numerous engravers and artists skilled in miniatures plus used modern techniques to execute dials which are not possible to achieve by using conventional artisanal techniques, such as the Dong Son. The Dong Son was based on a sacred Vietnamese drum which signified life. Life and time being and representing the same entity this seemed most fitting a subject to illustrate on a dial. Many of my watches have been influenced by Asian culture, there is often details and philosophies in the subjects that I chose that go beyond simply an attractive dial and give a deeper meaning to the resulting watch. What makes your watches different? I have not always been highly effective as to describing what makes my work different to others, it has taken what seems on occasions a life time to understand myself what this difference is. The simplest way to explain is that my work is a representation of who I am as a watchmaker. Each individual is unique therefore if what you design comes from creative, genuine originality opposed to simply designing a product, that watch or what ever the resulting work is will be unique.
Can you describe the movements you use in your watches? I have my own calibre which is the SM2 which is enitrely my own design and is hand assembled and finished, these we make in small numbers, around 20 per year. In addition I take calibres from other manufactures such as the Fabrique du Temps or TechnoTime and adapt them to my style and needs, this allows me to increase the number and diversity of watches I make allowing me great flexibility in designing and developing new models. I tend to have multiple projects running in parallel developing new mechanisms, the time taken from idea to reality is a always a long path. At Basel this year you released the Triad, under a new collection Mechanical Art, can you explain the concept behind this watch? The Triad is number one in this collection. I have made virtually every kind of watch that can be imagined, either for myself or other brands. The Mechanical art collection is an extension from the art pieces I have made in the passed except they are mechanically oriented and they explore a different type of mechanical horological art piece that have never been made before. The Triad is a truely original piece which can be interpreted by the individual. For myself I have various ways of looking at the piece, essentially however its a reminder of how we share time, we do not own it and each set of hands is representative of the lives of other people who are important to me.
Describe your watches Speake-Marin watches are many things, English in style, influenced by early marine chronometers and my life in restoration. They tend not to have a shelf life as do many designs, the Resilience I designed and made 10 years ago continues to appeal. All my watches are 'Contemporary Classics". One of the elements that shapes the collection is that I am not a designer designing watches but a watchmaker designing the watches that motivate him as an individual. Has your career been constant and do you anticipate remaining in watchmaking? No path in a creative realm is an easy one, and watchmaking with its natural and constant fluctuations in business which have always formed sine waves of prosperity and austerity is definitely not the easiest road to follow. Especially when your goal is to be honest to your own originality opposed to following trends and fashions. Within this horological world I have found myself for 28 years and having touched on virtually every area within the watch industry today I find myself back at my bench and sitting in front of a design software in a state of ore, that the buzz of excitement I original found in restoring a 130 year old complication that had not been touched since it was made, or the execution of a new watch simple or complicated is more than ever before present. Being a watchmaker is what I am and I can't see myself ever deviating from this road. ?