Catching-Up with Kari Voutilainen as the AHCI Visit Shanghai!
Having already given the broad strokes to the importance of the overall organization, (see last month’s piece!) now let’s look at some of the men and women from all around the world that make up the AHCI! First up, Kari Voutilainen!
Regular readers of Monochrome will be well aware of Kari Voutilainen; “the perfectionist”. The creations produced under the Finnish Horologer’s name are incredibly beautiful, technological marvels. When viewed in the context of other watchmakers, such as his collaboration on the (double) award winning, ‘Legacy Machine No 1’ (as documented here!) with Maximilian Büsser and Jean-Francois Mojon we see Mr. Voutilainen’s genius; his tireless pursuit of accuracy through mechanical perfection!
The trajectory that Mr. Voutilainen took to become one of the foremost independent watchmakers is one that you hear repeated in the bios of the other AHCI members. Starting in Finnish Watchmaking school he went on to study and then practice in Switzerland. Voutilainen’s CV prior to striking-out on his own was already rather impressive; 2002 proved to be the watershed moment in his career when he stepped out on his own. For the past 10 years Voutilainen has gone from strength-to-strength, racking up a staggering number of original and award winning designs. Speaking to him one-on-one you he gives the impression of being a very modest and very keen person. Lurking below the surface of that congenial veneer is nothing short of a driven genius!
It is simple enough to say: if you could build the ‘perfect’ watch – it would keep perfect time. If you could build a watch where each and every component is finished in a way approaching physical perfection – the end result would be a watch that would function flawlessly and consistently, that is to say without error. OK, now go to your workbench and build a perfect pallet-fork, or mill a perfect gear or a perfectly centered chaton… not so easy anymore? Watches like the “OBSERVATOIRE” and “DECIMAL REPEATERS” represent that sense of mechanical perfection with not just perfectly hewn parts – but perfectly wrought rate results! Indeed the base movement of the Observatoire is a Peseaux, but the finishing and the attention to detail, (and of course the escapement) are all Mr. Voutilainen’s doing!
In his new Vingt-8 watches (see above) he melds the perfection and beauty of his previous watches with the pride of an entirely in-house movement! The 30mm movement featuring 21 jewels has a 50 hour power reserve and features Voutilainen’s ‘direct impulse’ escapement and a LARGE balance wheel (which has become something of a calling-card for Mr. Voutilainen’s work!) The nearly 14mm balance wheel is used to insure a consistent supply of torque throughout the entire winding/unwinding cycle of the mainspring. (I should note here that Voutilainen’s main contribution to the MB&F Legacy 1 was it’s ENORMOUS Balance wheel – mounted ON TOP of the dial so it would be visible to all admiring the watch!)
While Voutilainen ticks all the technical boxes for wizardry for the enthusiasts on the Monochrome.nl distribution list, the watches themselves never look vulgar or ostentatious. They all work perfectly and look perfect. In a world where things are often either ‘style without substance’ or ‘form follows function’ it’s impressive to admire Mr. Voutilainen’s work as both extremely precise AND extremely desirable.
The ‘luxury’ proposition is ultimately why Kari Voutilainen is emblematic of the entire independent watchmaking movement (no pun intended). When viewed by quality alone, there are other, larger brands that produce high quality movements and finished watches – it can’t be denied and they should be respected. When viewed by cache, there are other, larger brands that have storied histories. Finally – there are brands that sell very expensive and limited production watches. In the end you need to ask the question: “What am I paying for?”
For me there are two simple words on the dial of each Kari Voutilainen watch that bring the proposition into clear focus: “HAND MADE”. It’s not an official designation, per se, it’s a statement of fact. It says – this watch was built by hand, by Kari Voutilainen. No brand engineering to bolster his image. No historical doctrines to fall back on. Just watchmaking. This is precisely where someone like Kari Voutilainen can set himself apart in a sea of mass marketed brands offering luxury disguised as haute horology. Voutilainen can produce BOTH simultaneously!
Here you can visit Voutilainen’s website.
This article is written by Mario Squillacioti, contributing writer for Monochrome-Watches.