Pierce Brosnan And Peter Speake-Marin Talk About Resilience, ‘Survivor,’ Gratitude, And James Bond
After following the story of former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan and independent watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin for the past two years, I was itching to get the two together and hear a few the behind-the-scenes stories.
Brosnan’s and Speake-Marin’s paths first publicly crossed back in May of 2014, when the actor unexpectedly posted photos of the two together as well as of himself at what seemed to be a watchmaker’s bench on his Instagram account (see Peter Speake-Marin Is Pierce Brosnan’s ‘Real Watchmaker’ In Upcoming Hollywood Thriller ‘Survivor’).
While at that moment we didn’t know much about the movie (and most of what you read in that article was conjecture on my part), the secret was lifted in early 2015 when the movie Survivor was released: Brosnan played a clever character called “the watchmaker,” who plans a terrorist attack on New York City.
The first few minutes of the movie set the scene in a fictitious London Mayfair Brompton (Bruton) Street boutique called “PSM Bespoke Watchmakers,” where Brosnan’s shady horologist is working on a movement that fans of the Speake-Marin brand might recognize as the SM2 caliber.
“And that’s where I met Pierce for the first time: in Sofia, Bulgaria,” explains Speake-Marin of the set’s location, which does seem a bit like a the start of a spy novel in itself.
As it turns out, the movie’s director, James McTeigue, had thought up the watchmaker character and went looking for a suitable horologist to assist in making Brosnan’s character authentic. “James, I think, researched pretty much every independent watchmaker out there,” Speake-Marin related. “He wanted to find both a product and a person with whom he could communicate to be able to build the set and provide the product.”
But as fate would have it, Speake-Marin had doubts that this was the real deal when he was first contacted and almost missed the opportunity. “I didn’t actually reply to McTeigue’s assistant because I didn’t think it was real. And literally two months went by before something inside of me pushed me to actually approach him again,” Speake-Marin laughed. “And because I didn’t know what he looked like, I then cross-referenced the person that was in front of me on Skype with pictures on the web and I realized that this was genuinely the person who had made V for Vendetta. And that’s really how the whole thing actually began.”
Why did McTeigue reach out to Speake-Marin in the first place? “I think one of the things is he liked the watches, and for another he liked the fact that I spoke the same language, we were able to communicate,” the watchmaker answered.
Brosnan, who grinned during this exchange, was quick to add his experiences in how the two met, particularly when I asked him if it could be considered a typical flow of events as far as movie props and consultants go.
“The script came to me as was, but this is a unique flow of friendship and a watch!” Brosnan replied before describing his first reaction to the Speake-Marin timepiece. “I said to James McTeigue, look, I really enjoy wearing watches and I have a small collection, what kind of watch are we talking about? And when he showed me the Speake-Marin, it was an instant kind of love affair with the watch.”
Telltale to me was the fact that when Brosnan was shown working at the bench in the film, he really appeared to know what he was doing, even to a trained eye like mine.
“Well, I was taught by the grandmaster here himself,” Brosnan laughed, gesturing toward Speake-Marin. “I had a crash course in watchmaking.”
“Except he looks much better at a bench than I do,” Speake-Marin countered without missing a beat before continuing. “The weird thing is that when Pierce did it, and he must have done that scene, I don’t know, ten times with the SM2 caliber, which is very delicate – and I’m not flattering him here – but he repeatedly screwed and unscrewed it. Normally, people doing that would damage something; he didn’t damage anything.”
“Isn’t that remarkable?” Brosnan quipped in return. “It’s in my blood. Yes, all those years with my Timex and a screwdriver.”
Brosnan and Speake-Marin are obviously friends, like so many of us in the watch world tied together by our passion for the subject.
And it was obvious to me that Brosnan loves watches. He actually adores these objects.
I asked about several watches Brosnan has been spotted wearing over the years; see The On- And Offscreen Watches Of Brosnan, Pierce Brosnan for the low-down on those.
I learned that most of the watches Brosnan wears in the movies, and even those from his “Remington Steele” days, are his own. So I asked how it works with prop masters.
“The [watch] suggestions come from me, normally. I mean, the prop master will show up with a whole bunch of fake watches – unless you’re in a Bond movie or a movie with a very substantial budget, it’s usually just fake watches,” Brosnan revealed. “So I always try and get the authentic watch – and hopefully have it in the contract that I keep the watch.”
Pierce Brosnan actually convinces prop masters to buy real watches according to how he envisions the character, and then he keeps the watch. Genius!
So how important is it for you as an actor to wear a watch that suits your role, I asked?
“I would say it’s fairly essential, actually. I think the timepiece should reflect the character’s strengths and weaknesses; for example, if you’re playing a military man then you find a watch that’s appropriate for this character. If you’re playing someone who’s extremely sophisticated like James Bond or Thomas Crown, likewise you find the timepiece that will enhance and represent who the character is.”
“So all you need is just to become an actor and you have a nice watch collection, right?” I jokingly asked the handsome actor.
“Absolutely,” he deadpanned back. “It’s as plain as the nose on the end of your face.”
Now more than ever the wrists of characters in blockbuster movies seem to be for sale, property of the highest bidder à la James Bond. I wondered how Brosnan as a movie producer felt about this development from both business and artistic perspectives.
His answer both was and wasn’t surprising at the same time.
“Oh, I think it’s a win-win situation. It’s all about entertainment. It’s all about turning them on, and people want to be turned on when they go to the theater, when they turn on the TV, or go to the movies. People want to be excited and captivated and they want to identify with the characters. So I have no problems with it whatsoever as long as it’s honest and above board.”
Brosnan has also been a watch ambassador before – for Omega while he was still James Bond. With Speake-Marin, “it was an instant kind of love affair with the watch. We carried on with making this movie [Survivor], and then Peter asked if I would be the ambassador for the watch. It was an easy yes.”
And though I knew that Omega would probably never have consented to designing a watch just for Brosnan (or any ambassador, for that matter), I was curious what a Pierce Brosnan Speake-Marin might look like if the engaging thespian were given carte blanche.
“I think it would look the way it looks right on my wrist now,” he answered slightly surprisingly, lifting his wrist to show the gold Resilience at home there. “This is how it would look: this is a robust, elegant, beautiful timepiece, so I wouldn’t change a thing. No, it’s a magnificent timepiece: from first look to last look, the watch works on the wrist, stands out as unique and just a gorgeous timepiece to look at, to wear, to cherish, and to be passed on. It’s really simple.”
And then I noticed that Speake-Marin happened to be wearing the same watch (a Resilience) that day. “I follow him,” the English watchmaker said.
Well, I must too because when I asked what other Speake-Marin watches he has worn, the answer was the Serpent Calendar, a watch I happen to own and wore during the interview.
“It’s beautiful,” he said.
Time travels on love’s wings
I asked Brosnan if he had a special or lucky watch. Despite all the different timepieces we talked about that he has owned over the years – he’s only had the Speake-Marins for a short time – it took him a minute before he answered.
“Do I have a lucky watch? Yes I do, yes. It’s a Blancpain my wife Keely gave it to me, inscribed with ‘Time travels on love’s wings’.”
Instantly it occurred to me that that kind of poetic inscription is the sort of thing Speake-Marin might put on one of his watches in a serial manner. Like the “love, fight, persevere” dedication that came on the back of the Spirit models in 2012.
And of course in some way Brosnan likely feels attached to the Omega Seamasters he owns due to the role of a lifetime, James Bond. As reported in The On- And Offscreen Watches Of Brosnan, Pierce Brosnan, he had actually been offered the role twice before he was able to take it due to other contractual obligations.
“I think as soon as I was offered the role it changed my life,” Brosnan admitted. “You enter in on the ground floor and you go to the top floor of life straight away playing such a character, it’s a huge undertaking. Mildly terrifying, because so many men have gone before you and the image is so iconic.”
We wanted to know whether he was surprised by the complete and utter changes it brought, Speake-Marin listening raptly as we talked about the quintessential spy.
“Well, you know, I dreamt it, I wished it, I desired it, and I already lived it in my imagination. It’s allowed me to travel the world and to be in places like Geneva on a day like today and to be part of a wonderful family of watchmakers, and it’s helped me to provide for my family. It’s just nothing but gratitude.”
Again, that would have been something Speake-Marin might have said. These two are a perfect fit in so many ways.
To follow Pierce Brosnan’s activities as an activist and find out how you too can become involved please visit www.piercebrosnan.com/activist.
Also published on Medium.