Baselworld represented a series of firsts for British watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin and his eponymous watch brand. WatchPro’s The Luxury Report 2015 quizzed him on his debut ladies collection, new movements and a very recognisable brand ambassador.
When The Luxury Report caught up with Essex-born watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin at Basel he was wrangling with an existential concept prompted by his recent brush with Hollywood. Speake-Marin had been drafted in to consult on action film, Survivor, where the villain of the piece, known only as The Watchmaker, displays horological expertise.
“When I arrived, there were hundreds of people for what was probably no more than 60 seconds of filming. We set up the workshop and then there was two days of pretty intense filming and then suddenly it’s over. You go from a hundred people filming two individuals having a certain dialogue in a certain place and then it ends. I went back the following day to pick up my tools and the watches and there’s this unnerving sense of vacuum. You feel empty inside and I wondered how people live in that world; you’d have to be very, very stable. While I loved what I did, I could never be part of that world.”
Whilst providing Speake-Marin with an insight into the transient nature of filmmaking, the real opportunity arose onset in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia when the watchmaker met The Watchmaker, played by none other than former 007, Pierce Brosnan.
“He started photographing himself wearing the watch and would stick it up on his Instagram account. We had no agreement whatsoever, it was just he liked me, he liked the watches and I think he kind of took pity on this tiny little brand having worked with Girard-Perregaux, Jaeger [LeCoultre] and Omega. We’re a small company, it isn’t easy for anybody today, and he’s an intelligent and sympathetic individual, so he started to post.”
Until the film is released in the US later this month no-one is sure of how much screentime Speake-Marin’s watches will secure but he is confident that any exposure will be positive for the brand. But this meeting on a film-set proved to be just the beginning of Brosnan’s involvement with the brand.
“He did the launch of Long Way Down [a 2014 film with Toni Collette and Aaron Paul], he’s there and the watch is on his wrist. It was incredible. I asked him then, because we maintained a certain dialogue, would he be interested? with honestly no expectation that it would be positive. And he said yes. He handed me over to his agent and I thought ‘there’s no way we’re going to be able to afford it financially’. But it was not what we expected, it was not what anybody expected because even his lawyer didn’t really understand. I think the reason is he likes it, he had a feeling for me, he had a feeling for watches and there was nothing else actively happening.”
Brosnan’s role as Speake-Marin’s brand ambassador continued to have unforeseen benefits when he starred in an action-packed commercial for car manufacturer Kia during the US Super Bowl, which is the world’s most expensive television advertising slot. Throughout the advert, Brosnan can be seen wearing his Speake-Marin watch.
Behind the cameras, it has already been a busy year for the Bursins-based watch company. Speake-Marin announced Michel Teweles as its new chief operating officer in January, who has been busy installing the watchwords of ‘quality, efficiency and rigour’ as the company’s commercial mantra.
Teweles’ first task has been to rationalise production and change a number of suppliers which has allowed a more centralised production as well as advantages in quality and volume.
As a result Speake-Marin’s J-Class collection is now fitted with movements from Parmigiani Fleurier movement house, Vaucher, which has resulted in a more continuous supply of movements. The company has also ditched the use of 42mm stainless steel cases in favour of titanium.
But the most revolutionary change in terms of product is the introduction of Shenandoah. Speake-Marin’s debut ladies collection is an elegant, curved design presented in both single and dual time zone configurations and targets a new female audience.
Having worked on and off in Switzerland since the 1980s, this year also marks a return to the UK of sorts for Speake-Marin, for his watches are now available in the world-famous luxury department store Harrods.
Harrods became the exclusive UK point of sale for Speake-Marin watches in the UK in March, a claim it will hold in the UK for a minimum of 12 months and in London for two years. The department store’s Fine Watch Room will carry Speake-Marin’s J-Class collection alongside the Spirit and the Mystery Cabinet collection.
The Milla Jovovic and Pierce Brosnan action film Survivor is in cinemas this week.