A FINE ART

A master watch­maker on the small things that make a big dif­fer­ence.

The Peak (Singapore) - - Contents -

A master watch­maker on the small things that make a big dif­fer­ence.

The com­mon per­cep­tion of top watch­mak­ers is of them toil­ing at their desks in the Swiss moun­tains, mas­ter­fully piec­ing to­gether speck-like com­po­nents to ac­cu­rately record the pas­sage of time. Marco Kosk­i­nen, master watch­maker at high-end brand SpeakeMarin, will have none of this.

“It’s not dif­fi­cult to make a watch,” as­serts the 52-year-old Helsinki-born watch­mak­ing vet­eran, dur­ing the in­de­pen­dent brand’s re­cent re­launch in Sin­ga­pore. Now ex­clu­sively avail­able at Sin­cere Fine Watches, the brand was founded by English watch­maker Pe­ter Speake-Marin in 2002, and is known for quirky de­signs and elab­o­rate tourbillon watches. The Speake-Marin founder of­fi­cially left the brand in 2017.

Smil­ing at our dis­be­lief that his work could be con­sid­ered easy, Kosk­i­nen, who has been mak­ing watches for three decades, con­tin­ues: “Many young watch­mak­ers think they can’t make a com­pli­cated watch be­cause it looks so com­plex. But, if you work me­thod­i­cally, you even­tu­ally re­alise it’s the same as work­ing on a sim­pler watch. There are just more parts to put to­gether.”

Here, the straight-talk­ing watch­maker shares his pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ences.

What has changed since Pe­ter Speake-Marin left the brand?

There had al­ready been changes over the past cou­ple of years, in­de­pen­dent of Pe­ter leav­ing. We had started to use more in-house move­ments while he was still there. (Mov­ing for­ward,) the big­gest change is that we are go­ing to use solely our own move­ments. But, other­wise, the team Pe­ter started is still in place, and ev­ery­thing else is more or less the same.

What makes Speake-Marin dif­fer­ent?

One of our strengths is mak­ing cus­tomised pieces. I re­cently as­sem­bled a minute repeater – the Crazy Skulls, which typ­i­cally fea­tures a pair of skulls that move apart when the min­utere­peater mech­a­nism is ac­ti­vated – for a client but, in­stead of the skulls, we used a car au­tom­a­ton based on the cus­tomer’s own ve­hi­cle. The watch costs about $500,000; there is no ex­tra fee for mod­i­fy­ing the au­tom­a­ton. Even when it comes to (less pricey) watches, we try to make each of them a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.

You’ve done move­ment as­sem­bly and restora­tion at many brands, in­clud­ing Omega, Christophe Claret and Ulysse Nardin. Are there huge dif­fer­ences be­tween high-end and more ac­ces­si­ble brands?

( With high-end brands,) it’s of course in­ter­est­ing to work with their watches if they are nice and ev­ery­thing is well-made. But cheaper watches can be good too. To­day, with mod­ern pro­duc­tion meth­ods, I think the qual­ity of cheaper watches is higher, com­pared to that in the past. And the other way around too, which is un­for­tu­nate – some very high­end prod­ucts are less in­ter­est­ing than be­fore, be­cause there’s less hand­work, and more com­po­nents are done and fin­ished with ma­chines.

What’s the tough­est part of watch­mak­ing?

It’s not dif­fi­cult to make a watch. What’s chal­leng­ing is if com­po­nents are not made to a good stan­dard. Take a sim­ple part like a screw. Even screws have changed so much over the years. Those in the 1960s were much bet­ter than they are now. The steel was bet­ter; more time was spent mak­ing the screws, so they were harder and looked nicer. That’s tech­ni­cally im­por­tant when you have to tighten the parts in a move­ment.

So, as the head of SpeakeMarin’s watch­mak­ing depart­ment, do you en­sure there are no bad screws?

(Laughs.) They’re per­fect.

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