English watchmaker Peter Speake and his business partner Daniela Marin founded Speake-Marin & Partner in 2002 in Rolle, Switzerland. When he left the independent brand in 2017, he and Daniela started The Naked Watchmaker online platform “to inform and inspire future generations of watch lovers and collectors, giving everyone a unique insight into timepieces and the horological industry from an objective educational perspective.” So far, he’s deconstructed around 100 watches on the website, including a Simplicity from Philippe Dufour, an original Tourbillon pocketwatch from Breguet, an Octo Roma Tourbillon Sapphire from Bulgari, plus examples of watches ranging from Grand Seiko to Ferdinand Berthoud. I sat down with him to talk about his passion and his project.
Many content platforms have started to sell watches; you went the other way. What made you launch The Naked Watchmaker?
The goal of the site is to educate rather than sell, the roots stem back over 25 years to when I would restore collectable watches and photograph them to publish articles in various magazines to show people what conventionally they would never see. I felt driven even then to show the hidden side of watchmaking, the parts only watchmakers get to see. Although the idea goes back quite a time, it was Daniela who gave rise to this idea of resurrecting it and developing it into a modern platform.
Where do you get the watches?
We work with the companies that make them. This allows us to have access to the technical bureaus to answer questions we might have on the products that are not conventionally posed, and to access specialized tooling required when dismantling them.
Even a naked watchmaker at some point needs to buy clothes. What role does the online shop play?
The shop has evolved and will continue to evolve. We hope it will be a place where anyone looking for serious or quirky watch/mechanical related gifts can find something quickly and easily, catering to all wallet sizes. At the moment, we are working on developing our Amazon affiliate shop. By going through the site, the site gets a tiny margin on anything purchased within 24 hours. We will also have The Naked Watchmaker merchandising, but that is down the line.
In the last four years, was there a particularly special watch to work on?
I don’t think one, in particular, stands out. The reasons so many companies allow us to enter into their workshops and take apart watches and photograph them, often worth hundreds of thousands of Swiss francs, is because of the experience I, as a watchmaker, carry with me and the respect we have developed through the constant work and vigilance of Daniela. I’m rarely surprised. I have been working for so long in this domain that I know what to expect when I delve into modern and antique calibers. What was one of the most pleasurable experiences was deconstructing the Breguet Tourbillon from Breguet’s own lifetime. When one considers the watch was made over 200 years ago, before CAD, CNC and even electricity, it becomes like a voyage going back in time.
How long do you usually work on a watch?
For the most part, the time required for the initial deconstructions, the accompanying photography and videos take between 2 and 3 days. However, the post-production work can take a good 2 to 3 weeks.
Is there a watch that you’d love working on? Would you deconstruct the Marie Antoinette?
That would definitely be another career high point. These kinds of iconic timepieces, such as the Girard-Perregaux Three Gold Bridge Tourbillon with detent escapement are the base upon which the industry was built. They are immortal representations of the people and brands that made them.
What made you fall in love with watchmaking in the first place?
The early realization of the combination that it encompasses — design, art, mechanics and function. Everything that fascinates me.
What was your first real watch?
Real as in mechanical, a Timex when I was around 7. Later, a Bionic man LED watch when I was 10!
What are you currently wearing, and why?
The last watch that I deconstructed is the one I am wearing, which is a David Rutten, Streamline. I like the ‘20s deco style, the caliber is remarkably clever given the low price point of the watch, and the meteorite case material fascinates me.
Why should someone become a watchmaker today?
The future is a completely unknown quantity, but watchmaking will always exist. Watches, like cars, will always need servicing and more are being made whilst their predecessors still live on. Therefore, there will always be a place for professionally trained watchmakers.
What is your advice to a collector looking for a new piece?
Do your homework first, and buy what you love and for that reason.
What’s the next project for Peter and Daniela?
The next step for The Naked Watchmaker is the development of master classes for collectors and industry people alike. They will initially be live classes with small groups and one-on-one lessons covering all areas of watchmaking with a Q&A part that will fuel and direct future sections on The Naked Watchmaker. For Peter and Daniela, there are no further collaborations planned.