Sunday, June 18, 2017

Elvis Has Left (or is leaving) The Building

Courtesy of Speake-Marin
News has begun to filter out through the mainstream and although some of us had heard whispers for the past few months, it is now, apparently, official.  

As first reported by it would seem that Peter Speake-Marin is now moving on from the brand that he started and still bears his name.  

As with any enterprise, you start out, you work hard, and if you are talented (which Mr. Speake-Marin certainly is) and have a bit of luck (which he also had) you will get to a point with your brand where you have to decide to either "go big" or "stay home" (yes, I have co-opted and modified that one a bit).  And the decision for Speake-Marin was to bring in some financial help and grow.  And that is a choice that he made and which I respect. 

I have read a few of my colleagues in the fourth and fifth estate, some who poo-pooed the move from "down-home, single-malt" horology to a more mass product.  And I guess we will agree to disagree for a few reasons.

1.  Fantasy vs. Reality
I am sorry to pee in anyone's cornflakes, but there was one George Daniels, and even the man who is often most closely considered to be the heir to his mantle works with A LOT of help.  Ludwig Oechslin with ochs und junior is really more about scalability (movements are now based on a UN base movement but previously on an ETA) than it is about one guy, bent over the bench making unique creations one at a time.  Yes, it is a unique adjustment and embellishment to the movement to add that Oechslin flair, but be under no illusion that he is personally crafting, adjusting and casing that watch for you, cause he ain't ; ) 

I find it funny to read some people's accounts of angst and anguish to learn that Speake-Marin would be using a mass produced movement for some models to make them more accessible.  We have, I feel more and more, an unrealistic expectation about "the craft" and "artisanal" and if we are being REALLY honest about this stuff, there is NO WAY that more than a handful of watches could be crafted, by hand, assembled one by one in a given year.  Yes, there are a few guys (and I suspect gals) out there doing it this way (several who we may never hear of) but that is not always a sure-fire way to pay the rent, feed the family and keep shoes on the kids' feet.

2.  Investors Are Seldom Partners
The watchmaking battlefield is strewn with the bodies of presumed partnerships that, in fact, were never intended to be partnerships at all, but rather investments.  I am not privy to the agreement that Mr. Speake-Marin had with the investors, but I suspect that it was probably always understood that sooner or later, he would be stepping away from involvement with the brand.

3.  You Don't Live In The Past
Having been involved in the transfer of ownership and CONTROL from one entity to the other, it is more often than not the case that the people investing the money have bought into the brand because they feel that it is just that, a brand.  Coco Chanel, to the best of my knowledge, is no longer running that business.   Peter Speake-Marin did more than simply build beautiful watches.  

He built a brand.  

And it is the brand that the investors were interested in.  Now the brand still bears his name, and I have no doubt that the PR arm that is tasked with communicating about the brand from here on out will wax poetic about the brand DNA and Peter Speake-Marin's undeniable contribution to it.  But if the brand survives and moves forward and evolves?  Well, there will be other contributors and innovators as well.  And I suspect that is what Mr. Speake-Marin would want, to see the brand live on and grow and thrive beyond his involvement.

4.  Nostalgia And Business Don't Always Mix
A brand must be more than a reliance on the past.  It took Cartier years to figure this out. 

5.  Life Moves Forward
It is entirely possible that Mr. Speake-Marin was looking for a way to ease away from the business that he founded and focus more on the transmission of his knowledge and passion to the next Speake-Marins out there.

So God's Speed Peter Speake-Marin as you transition to the next chapter of your career.

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