Peter Speake-Marin began his watchmaking career in an antique dealership, where, as he says, he “touched virtually every great name in watches you could care to name, and most of them were pre-1950.” From there, it was education, and building a pocket watch just for himself, but soon Harry Winston came calling. One thing led to another, and now Speake-Marin, while starting slowly, is emerging in hand-selected markets all over the world.
One of the people Speake-Marin went to watchmaking school with was Stephen Forsey. Forsey was, according to Speake-Marin, “the only one in the class who was simply a step ahead of me, all the way.” Forsey, along with his partner Robert Greubel, have formed an eponymous company, Greubel Forsey, to make only the most intricate timepieces, with innovations that only the most hardcore collectors in the world are likely to care about, let alone notice.
The fact that both gentlemen are in Basel, showing some of their work, illustrates how dynamic this exhibition is. There are many big brand names as well, and some that you might stop and think to yourself, “They make watches, too?”
The overwhelming sense of things, though, is that watchmaking is not to be confused at all with timekeeping. It is about building respectability and memorability by having your brand name on the face of a watch. And for the companies whose line of work has never been anything but watches, it is about history, technology, and even art, at least at the highest levels, where the word “esoteric” really doesn’t cover it. They are gathered at Baselworld, not under one roof, but under five—there is much to take in.