Peter Speake-Marin, STOIC
Angus Davies interviews Peter Speake-Marin, STOIC and learns more about his latest business venture and the rationale behind its creation.
This detailed article about Peter Speake-Marin, STOIC includes discussion about the Englishman’s education and early career. It also looks at the philosophy behind STOIC, stoicism and the desire to create watches which optimally blend quality and value.
Peter Speake-Marin is a son of Essex, England. He entered the world of watchmaking at the tender age of 17, enrolling at Hackney Technical College on a horology course. One of his lecturers was the wonderful Peter Roberts, known for his impressive work at Bremont and Rolex. Furthermore, a fellow student at Hackney Technical College was the legendary Stephen Forsey, who went on to become one half of the über luxurious brand, Greubel Forsey.
After completing his studies at Hackney Technical College, Peter studied at the Swiss Watchmaking School WOSTEP in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
Thereafter, Peter worked for a variety of companies in his native England, including the legendary Somlo Antiques, now widely known for its expertise in vintage Omega watches. At the time, the young Englishman serviced, repaired and restored vintage timepieces. He often admired those customers who brought in heirlooms and entrusted him to repair their cherished watch despite being told it was beyond economic repair. The notion of viewing a watch in emotional terms, setting aside monetary logic, continues to resonate with Peter to this day.
In 1996, Peter joined Renaud et Papi, the illustrious complications specialist. This company proved a cradle of learning, where talent was nurtured and some of the finest watchmakers spent their early years, honing their skills. The list of watchmaking luminaries which have worked at Renaud et Papi is incredible and includes Andreas Strehler, Tim and Bart Grönefeld, Stephen Forsey and Robert Greubel.
After his stint at Renaud et Papi, Peter became self-employed, establishing his own company, ‘The Watch Workshop’. He did various work for other parties, including building complicated watches and restoring timepieces. Over the years which ensued, Peter was a consultant to several companies. He took an active role in the production of the MB&F HM1 and worked closely with Mâitre du Temps.
In 2002, Peter established his own eponymously named watch brand, ‘Speake-Marin’. The company’s inaugural timepiece was an exquisite pocket watch featuring a tourbillon, named the ‘Foundation Watch’. Over the years, Peter conceived an array of handsome watches, from relatively simple three-hand models to double tourbillons and minute repeaters. Two traits common to all of Peter’s watches are handsome aesthetics and individual design. My adoration for Speake-Marin watches continues unabated. Peter ultimately relinquished control of the company he founded.
More recently, Peter has employed his expertise for the benefit of horophiles. His intriguingly named website, The Naked Watchmaker provides a fascinating insight into the composition of mechanical watch movements, employing a series of hi-definition images to guide the user through the anatomy of a calibre. Speake-Marin does not seek to make money from this website, his motives are entirely altruistic. His motivation is to impart knowledge to those individuals with a shared interest in horology.
Earlier this year, Peter unveiled his latest venture, STOIC, a new range of watches. The initial STOIC collection comprises of three models, a pilot’s watch and sports model, both endowed with mechanical movements and a panda dial chronograph with a quartz movement. Each timepiece is aggressively priced, costing $290 to $490.
Appraising the press loans took me into unfamiliar territory. I seldom write about watches costing less than £2000 and I never review quartz watches. However, this story is different, it involves a man accustomed to life in the rarefied upper echelons of watchmaking. Considering the modest cost of his initial collection, I was impressed with their quality. Nevertheless, I could not help wondering, what was the thinking behind the brand?
Interview with Peter Speake-Marin, STOIC (PSM) by Angus Davies (AD)
AD: In my opinion, you are probably one of the greatest watchmakers of your generation. In the past you have created high-end timepieces, including double tourbillons and minute repeaters. Clearly STOIC watches are very different. What were the challenges you faced when creating STOIC? And how are these different from the technical obstacles you have overcome in the past?
To explain I need to go back a few years, the full story is long and protracted so I’ll endeavour to give a shortened version. There are two key components to the project, one resonates in the name and the philosophy which I was introduced to by the American Timothy Ferriss through his podcasts and books. The second is an innate desire to share watchmaking with everybody, to people who are unaware of horology, and not just those in the know, this is echoed in The Naked Watchmaker platform I developed last year.
STOIC, The Chronograph (#1)
AD: I would describe the design language of STOIC watches as traditional. While I appreciate you wish to make ‘timeless’ watches, do you envisage making avant-garde timepieces?
Today we start with these designs as a way to establish Stoic timepieces. For the future there are many other designs already being planned, you will have to wait and see…
AD: Do you have a target audience in mind for your watches?
I have travelled to many countries during my professional life, especially over the past 18 years, and I have met many people from watch collectors to those people who have never worn a watch. Stoic timepieces is not about targeting an audience, but sharing a passion for watchmaking, whether it be with those who are already watch collectors or those who have never entertained the idea of wearing a watch. Stoic is multi-dimensional and will appeal to anyone who embraces the reason and the philosophy behind the project.
STOIC, The Sports Watch (#1)
AD: As I mentioned earlier, you have vast experience designing and making complicated watches. Do you envisage offering STOIC watches with complications i.e. other than the chronograph?
There are already other projects in the pipeline at various levels of complexity, at the moment we want to touch an initial market with this particular price point, to be able to offer watches of good quality at extraordinary prices. In the future, we have plans for more complicated pieces, but they must always respect the same basic principle of an excellent rapport between price and quality.
STOIC, The Pilots Watch (#1)
AD: I have worn your watches recently and, based on the pricing, I have been impressed by the level of finish. Moreover, I note that you are using Seiko mechanical movements and, as a Seiko fanatic, I think this is a positive attribute of your watches. Can I ask what was the reason behind you choosing to equip the chronograph with a quartz movement.
From a pragmatic point of view, to be aligned with the overall concept and to have watches of a high quality, at prices that everybody can afford. Seiko Instruments were an essential element in the project. They not only make the calibres, but also manage the entire technical production for all Stoic watches. I direct, they execute.
AD: How are you distributing STOIC watches?
For the moment, uniquely via the internet from www.stoicworld.com. Once the brand is well established, we intend to go further into conventional distribution.
AD: Are there any elements which are common to all your watches?
As I mentioned previously the same basic principle of an excellent rapport between price and quality. Then, technical elements like sapphire crystals, automatics with Geneva stripes on the masses, quick-change systems on the straps, along with using Italian leather, the cases always being water resistant to 100 meters and, academically, the quotes.
AD: Your watches bear a slogan on the case-back. Clearly, you have a passion for philosophy and curiosity for the meaning of life. How does this manifest itself in other areas of your watches i.e. beyond the caption on the case-back of each watch.
For congruency, the designs must be classical as per the Stoic philosophy. Something that has existed for so long that in a sense has become part of modern culture. The result is that the designs become vehicles for the philosophy which is ultimately about intelligent thought and the value of time, the value of life, nothing has greater value. Which is why we use the quote from Seneca, “nothing is ours except time”. Can you imagine making a product that reminds people of the value of life, we live in an age of technology that accelerates our efficiency and makes use of every available moment given to us. If one person looks at the quote, or even the brand name, and stops for a moment to reflect on that sentiment, everything we have done to create this project has been justified.
AD: What are your future aspirations for Stoicworld?
To share watchmaking and emphasise the value of time through the message of Stoic watches with as many people as possible.
Peter Speake-Marin, STOIC is a highly successful businessman and yet, throughout the time I have known him, the compassionate side to his character has come to the fore. Despite his professional success, I have never known Peter flaunt the trappings of success. His motivation has been contentment and a desire to understand the meaning of life. It is the altruistic facet of his character that has led him to create STOIC and its desire to produce timepieces accessible to a broad audience.
His interest in stoicism resonates with me on a personal level. In my former profession, I hungrily pursued ‘success’ and conspicuous tokens of wealth. Despite working long hours, I was unable to sate my appetite for material goods and lavish living. Ultimately, an encounter with ill-health made me reflect on my life. I had wasted too many years chasing a misguided dream. It was not until my early forties that I understood the importance of time, allocating this precious resource to friends, family and issues that genuinely matter. I no longer set myself impossible targets, rushing from one appointment to the next. I have realigned my priorities in life.
The message found on the reverse of a STOIC watch resonates with my new-found take on life.
Beyond the sentiments expressed by Seneca, STOIC watches are classical, functional and accessible. I do not think Peter Speake-Marin, STOIC would describe these watches as exemplars of fine watchmaking, however, the raison d’être for this project is to deliver an attractive blend of quality and affordability. If STOIC is able to engage with a new audience of watch buyers, perhaps those people who usually choose to look at the time on a mobile phone, then that has to be a good thing. And who knows, after embracing the allure of STOIC, those same individuals may migrate to complicated watches and inhabit the domain of the purists, a world Peter knows very well.