An Introduction to Peter Speake-Marin


Independent Watchmaker


by Peter Speake-Marin, compiled and arranged by Curtis Thomson and ei8htohms
March 2002

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Peter Speake-Marin began his watchmaking training in Hackney technical college in 1985 and received his BHI credentials in 1987. To continue his studies in horology, he attended the WOSTEP refresher course in Neuchatel and returned in 1991 to complete WOSTEP's course on complicated watches. He worked for various companies before striking out on his own, notably as a restorer of antique pieces for Somlo Antiques in London's Piccadilly and as part of the team of master craftsmen at Renaud et Papi (Audemars Piguet's complications specialists) in Le Locle. In 2000 he took the bold, but inevitable for him, next step of starting his own company, The Watch Workshop. Located in Rolle on Lac Leman, between Geneva and Lausanne, Mr. Speake-Marin has built this workshop from the ground up to be able to craft unique complications and fine timepieces from scratch. While most of his work thus far has involved restorations and building complications for various companies, he has somehow found the time to begin designing and building his own pieces as well. His first signature piece was a tourbillon pocket watch with two power trains (!) and he is now devoting his attention to crafting a line of automatic wristwatches.

He has generously taken the time to take pictures and inform us of his progress and shed some light on the techniques he uses to create some of the components. We have compiled them here for convenient access and hope that you will enjoy gaining some insight into the man's considerable talents and ambition.

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Peter is a one man show in the making of the movement. The plates are handcrafted of German silver and the wheels and jewels come from three unused, identical C H Meylan movements. He made all of the setting mechanism, bridges, mainplate, carriage, etc. from scratch.


(photos from BHI's Horological Journal, June 2001)


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Here are two pictures of a work in progress for Peter.

Peter will be showing his work at the AHCI booth in Basel 2002 as a candidate for membership.

He will be using a highly modified ETA movement from a simple time only wristwatch to much more complicated pieces. Peter will share photos of the movements when they are ready.

His attention has been focused on making the case, dial and hands, which Peter does himself. The case and dial are 18k with the dial being hand engraved.

I want to thank Peter for sharing his work with this forum and we look forward to viewing his creative process and the variations of this initial piece.



Additional notes from Mr. Speake-Marin:

"The strap will be held in place by a screwed in bar of approx 1.5mm dia, this is not the case in the proto shown. Similar to the system found in early Cartiers but stronger. The dot at 6 is a screw and locates the dial in Breguet tradition, its suits the style and is genuine in function.

The hands on this piece were made using a pointers to blank out the basic shape then finished by hand. I spent around 10 hours on each one which is really a little extreme but helped to find the final proportions I was looking for as I gradually reduced the size by filing. The watch is still in the living design stage so will inevitably continue to change. The bluing was traditional heat treatment after polishing, and all of the numbers and names are hand engraved.

With the proto the dial is in brass and then silvered using silver oxide, the final dials will be in gold and then silvered. The engraved numbers will be filled with engravers wax or an equivalent, the final finish will be more detailed, the finish brighter although still a combination of satin, and circular graining and the numbers will be more pronounced and striking.

The case back is a snap fit, the thickness of the movement 9mm and 35mm diameter, although I have plans for 5 different sizes as well as any particular variations a client might stipulate.

When I first designed the case it did have a less extravagant crown. I almost stumbled across using a Louis 15 style but afterwards kept coming back to it. At the beginning I loved it, then I didn't, now 6 months or so on I have come to the conclusion that it works. It won't be to every body's style but I have had folk who have made your same comment (that a more ordinary style might better suit the case) and eventually come around to liking it."

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Here are some more photos, still in the prototype stage, from forum friend and AHCI candidate, Peter Speake-Marin.

Peter writes:

"The pieces are prototypes, the final quality of finish will be superior to that shown here, I have replaced the automatic mechanism with one matching my tourbillon in style, hand beveled wheel on a german silver bridge. The white version with gold crown will be a white gold case, the white crown white case will be platinum..."

Fabulous work! Peter is using an ETA 2824, which is modified (automatic system) and finished (eventually) to his standards. It should be remembered that Peter makes the hands (I particularly like the seconds hand), case and engine turned dial (I'm not sure who did his enamel dials but they are lovely) for both his pocket and wrist watches. In fact, most of the pocket watch is made by Peter's skilled hands.

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Peter found his inspiration for the design of the tourbillon cage and the automatic rotor in a watchmaking tool. It is known as a rounding up or topping tool.

Peter writes:

"The influence for the style is from a topping tool as Curtis illustrated. The cage bridge to the tourbillon was made using a pointers, I have included illustrations of both the initial stages as well as the machine. The rotor wheel I designed and wired out* (much easier). After hardening the wheel, I temper until blue."

* "Wired out meaning wire erosion. The piece is cut in a special bath using a tungsten wire. Easier because somebody else did it. If you look at the pictures of the cage being made each circle milled is done individually and took around 10 hours just for the rough blanking, and that was the third time I made it."

"The rotor is milled out underneath to make it off poise, I have not yet thoroughly tested it, if necessary I can add an additional eccentric weight of a heavier material. I should add that the way I do things is my way and should not be considered definitive, a dozen watchmakers will have a dozen alternative techniques of watchmaking the same part and none or all could be considered right or better."

"The pointers is like a combination of optical centre punch, micrometer, milling machine (for small pieces) and drill, it is indispensible for making prototypes and in restoration. Machining in axis, X &Y but not necessarily precisely in Z."

Mr. Speake-Marin had this to add about the automatic system:

"Regarding the automatic: I shall send another image to Curtis to be added to those already shown which may show clearer what I have done. The base movement is the [ETA] 2824, why? because it is versatile, reliable, available as well as retaining certain proportions of train design which are ideal and not often seen today. It also enables me to remove the existing automatic bridge re-point a new one out of German silver which I used on the pocketwatch and follow my style. I then replaced the rotor with a steel wheel following the style of the cage bridge but more flamboyant and afix a circular mass milled out underneath."

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Peter was kind enough to send us pictures in various stages of "rotor bridge" manufacture.

First and second stage. Creating initial shape from steel blank.

Third stage. Initial beveling.

Fourth stage. Hardening rotor bridge after beveling is completed.

Fifth stage. Tempering rotor bridge.

Sixth stage. Polishing rotor bridge.

Finished. Before and after.

Rotor through display back.

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Mr. Speake-Marin continues:

"The base movement remains intact, I tighten the tolerances when necessary and refinish the steel work. This might sound an eccentric amount of work to be placed upon a 2824 but I am personally more than happy with the final result. If you are coming to Basel, judge for yourself.

Case sizes of the examples shown are all 35mm dia by 11.5mm thickness. My intention is however to make various sizes depending on request, from ladies to oversized. I have in progress prototypes of both but these will not be ready for Basel. Of every variation that I will make, a maximum of 20 examples will be made, I have more ideas than years to live and intend making as many as I can. (Incidentally I hope to live long:)

Availability will not be until the end of this year, Basel might well have an effect on my planning so I await until it is over before setting final dates. The exception to this will be specific requests for individual pieces made to order.

"Piccadilly is the model name of my watch. The reason for which is the time I spent in Piccadilly remains the most influential period of my working career. I intend making versions in each of the materials you mentioned (white gold, platinum and red gold) as well as in yellow. For the oversized question (about which movements will be used), I can't give a firm answer when it comes to the series movements because I have not yet decided. I have however 3 projects for one off pieces each which will be using a high quality German silver movement. Once I have advanced on these I will e-mail images."

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All photos supplied by Peter Speake-Marin except as noted.

We welcome comments, suggestions, and corrections to this article.

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