Date With Destiny: The New Limited Edition Speake-Marin London Chronograph Triple Date
The independent watchmaker revives one of the world’s most iconic movements: the Valjoux 88.
We love independents because of their passion for the art of watchmaking. But Speake-Marin is an independent watchmaker that stands out in the field of other unique and even quirky Maisons because of its distinctive approach to its mechanisms.
The vintage collection takes its place in the Speake-Marin movement strategy of working only with exceptional movements. In addition to six exclusive in-house movements developed over the last three years, Speake-Marin pays tribute to its fine watchmaking heritage thanks to its vintage collection, which revives iconic movements in new designs. And for its final introduction of 2020 – the London Chronograph Triple Date – Speake-Marin is exploring an incredible caliber from the 1950s: the Valjoux 88.
The Valjoux 88 – aka the Valjoux Counter Heures Calendrier Lune – is justly one of the most celebrated and complex chronograph movements. It is an elegant caliber featuring a hand-winding chronograph with a triple date and moon phase. As such, it was used by brands like Baume & Mercier, Eberhard & Co., Heuer, Longines, Ulysse Nardin, and Universal Genève in their upscale dress watches.
Manufactured between 1947 through 1974, over 13,200 examples were produced (13,218 to be exact). And vintage pieces with the Valjoux 88 are much sought after by collectors. Mainly because of the durability and aesthetics of its engineering thanks to its column-wheel and its three counters.
Another reason the Valjoux 88 is so fondly remembered is the pushers equipped with column-wheels. Do you know how certain foods are celebrated for their “mouth feel” – a sensation that describes the joy you get not just from the taste or smell but the act of eating? Well, activating the pushers on the Speake-Marin London Chronograph Triple Date offers a delightfully soft feeling that is the horological equivalent to a pleasant mouthfeel.
At a time when touting an “in-house movement” is marketing shorthand for “luxury watchmaker,” Speake-Marin has sought out and revived original Valjoux 88 movements to power the limited-edition London Chronograph Triple Date. But the plan isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
Although based in Switzerland, Speake-Marin owes a lot of its brand sensibilities to its British-born founder. The company started with time-only pieces before building up to its more decorated dials, but readability was never to be sacrificed.
Likewise, the Valjoux 88 Calibre offered the perfect layout for great chronograph legibility with its signature three sub-dials: one for real-time seconds, 30-minute chronograph, and moon-phase indicators.
There are two versions of the London Chronograph Triple Date edition, both housed in Speake-Marin’s 42mm titanium Piccadilly case with a three-dimensional dial and two floating black counters – a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and a real-time 60-second counter at 9 o’clock. The moon phase display is placed at 6 o’clock.
The difference in the versions is the dial color (as well as the dials matching strap). Available in either blue or light brown, both these palettes evoke a nostalgia for the chronographs associated with auto racing in the ’50s. The red color of the chronograph function and the silver accents used in the hours/minutes/seconds function also recall a mid-century je ne c’est quoi.
But the London Chronograph Triple Date is not just a historical callback. The architecture of the case is pure Speake-Marin. And you have to admire the modern styling of the sub-dial at 6 o’clock which provides a double indication: a 12-hour chronograph function with the red hand, plus a Moon phase indication in the two hemispheres.
Although the Valjoux 88 was produced in large quantities, they’re not easy to find these days. The movement components used for the London Chronograph were stored in a safe for many years while Speake-Marin sourced working pieces. Once checked, the components were re-assembled, decorated and controlled at the workshop near La-Chaux-de-Fonds.
This collection is a 30-piece limited edition – 15 in blue and 15 in brown – and presented with a matching blue or beige Nubuck leather strap with a folding buckle in titanium. Both versions are priced at CHF 20,950.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)