Angus Davies gets up close and personal with the Speake-Marin London Chronograph while attending SIHH 2018.
This overview of the Speake-Marin London Chronograph includes live images and specification.
Speake-Marin revealed various timepieces during SIHH 2018, including the new One & Two Academic. This particular model is equipped with a ‘manufacture’ movement featuring a micro-rotor. It is also blessed with a handsome dial and the brand’s distinctive Piccadilly case. I freely admit to liking the appearance of this timepiece, in particular the idiosyncratic positioning of its small seconds display at 2 o’clock.
One & Two Academic
However, whilst looking at the new One & Two Academic on the brand’s stand, I discovered the spectacular London Chronograph. This timepiece appealed to me on so many levels. Firstly, it is a chronograph, my favourite complication. Secondly, the dial is suffused with several details I find most becoming and, lastly, the watch is endowed with a gorgeous vintage movement, the Valjoux 92.
I was eager to see more of the London Chronograph and my obliging host removed the watch from the display cabinet and placed it upon my wrist. I was instantly smitten with the sophisticated London Chronograph and began examining each square millimetre of its fabulous form. Allow me to elaborate further and explain why this timepiece proved to be one of my favourite watches of SIHH 2018.
The time is proclaimed with the brand’s distinctive ‘Foundation’ style hour and minute hands. Each hand is delightfully executed with sinuous edges and, in the case of the hour hand, a spade-shaped tip. The hands usurp many hands with their considered design, indeed, others seem perfunctory by comparison.
The dial is an expanse of pure white, employing Roman numerals to denote the hours. In contrast, the minute track is delivered in an eye-popping shade of blue. The minute track features two scales. The inner scale is marked with white one-minute integers. The outer scale is presented in a railroad track format with ⅕ second markings crisply presented. The ⅕ second integers correspond with the frequency of the movement (2½ Hz), a small detail but one which will undoubtedly sate the desires of purists.
This dial is enriched with a wonderful play with layers. The two subdials, presented on an east-west axis running from 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock, do not sit flush or below the dial epidermis. Instead, they seemingly float above the hour track, conferring an abundance of eye-appeal.
A 45-minute chronograph register is located at 3 o’clock, while a small seconds display is located at 9 o’clock. The hand on the chronograph register is presented in red, something it shares in common with the central chronograph seconds hand. The hand on the small seconds display is black, a trait in common with the hour and minute hands. Speake-Marin has cleverly employed colour to aid interpretation. Indeed everything presented is crisp and all indications are very readable.
At the heart of the dial is another delightful detail, the Speake-Marin logo. This logo emulates part of a topping tool, a hand-operated ‘rounding-up’ machine often used in watchmaking workshops to cut teeth on watch wheels. In this instance, the Speake-Marin logo sits at the centre of the dial on a plane below the hour track. Again, this masterful play with layers and depths further adds to the visual interest of the timepiece.
Consistent with several other Speake-Marin watches, the watch is housed within a ‘Piccadilly’ case, a reference to the English roots of the brand. The 42mm case is made of titanium, delivered in a highly polished finish, yielding a notable gleam.
The lugs are straight and purposeful, appearing to hold the watch strap with a steadfast grip. Despite appearances to the contrary, the lugs contribute to a cosseting union with the wearer’s wrist.
The crown is reminiscent of those fitted to pilots’ watches in yesteryear which were operated with glove-clad hands. The scale of the crown and its fluted grip look attractive and facilitate ease of adjustment.
Both chronograph pushpieces are capstan-like in profile. The large cross-section of each push-piece aids comfortable operation.
The dorsal flank of the case features an exhibition case-back providing sight of the vintage hand-wound movement.
I have always had a penchant for vintage movements. While I like many modern movements, I prefer vintage movements which reveal more of the gear train, the balance and, in the case of this chronograph, the column-wheel.
The Valjoux 92 reveals all of its inner thoughts. There are few bridges equipping the movement, but those present are beautifully adorned with Côtes de Genève motif and feature polished jewel sinks. In addition, I find the shape of the chronograph bridge to be particularly attractive.
Back in the 1950s, the Valjoux 92 was a popular movement and was famously used by Heuer. The movement is an oscillating pinion design, featuring two, rather than three, chronograph engagement wheels. Each lever is expertly polished, sporting gleaming bevels.
Unlike the Valjoux 72, a predecessor of the Valjoux 92, the column wheel features seven pillars.
While the sales of hand-wound chronograph movements waned with the arrival of self-winding chronograph movements in 1969, in my opinion, their allure has never diminished.
The frequency of the balance is 18,000 VpH (2.5Hz) and the movement contains 17 jewels. The power reserve is approximately 40 hours.
The independent watch brand Speake-Marin produces a broad range of timepieces, from the simple to the complex. With the exception of this watch, each model is equipped with a manufacture movement.
It may sound strange that I have chosen to focus upon a timepiece which eschews a modern manufacture movement and embraces a vintage calibre from the past. However, the hand-wound Valjoux 92 is no ordinary movement. It is festooned with a myriad of details which remind me why I love chronographs, particularly hand-wound chronographs. While automatic movements deliver convenience, manual movements confer matchless views of wheels and levers actively at play. Pressing the push-pieces of this watch yields a silken action which is sadly lacking with many cam-actuated chronographs. When actuated, the central chronograph seconds hand embarks on its journey without the merest hint of wobble and once reset returns to zero precisely.
Beyond the technical prowess of the movement, the London Chronograph features a breathtaking array of attributes. The dial is simple to read, but also incredibly attractive. The judicious use of colour and the numerous dial levels grants this timepiece with a pulchritudinous mien.
The case is wonderfully original. Its highly polished surfaces attractively glint in ambient light. The tube-like profile of the lugs offers something new and refreshing. Yet style does not come at the expense of practicality.
This is a magnificent timepiece which evokes thoughts of the past but promises its wearer a charming accompaniment to a bright future.
• Model: Speake-Marin London Chronograph
• Case: Titanium case; diameter 42mm; sapphire crystal to front and exhibition case-back; water resistant to 3 ATM (30 metres).
• Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; chronograph
• Movement: Valjoux 92; Hand-wound movement; Frequency 18,000 VpH (2.5Hz); 17 jewels; power reserve = 40 hours
• Strap: Black leather strap
• Price: Price on application