Torsti Laine is a name that will probably not ring a bell for most of you. But, credit where credit is due: Torsti Laine has a very interesting story to tell and offers some very attractive watchmaking! At Baselworld earlier this year, I had the chance to find out more about the brand, the man, the watches and everything else there is to discover! And while we’re at it, we’ll go into detail with one of his watches; the Laine Classic Chronograph.
Laine Watches was founded by Torsti Laine, and to date, he is the sole man behind the brand. Torsti is a computer engineer by trade but switched to watchmaking only a few years ago, following watchmaking classes at the Finnish Kelloseppäkoulu Institute for Watchmaking, the very same school fellow Finn Kari Voutilainen attended.
An impressive accomplishment in his short career in watchmaking was winning the 2014 A. Lange & Söhne’s F.A. Lange Watchmaking Excellence Award. The challenge was set to create a moon phase display befitting of a high-level precision A. Lange & Söhne watch. Torsti Laine developed a concept that incorporated a single pusher used to adjust the moon phase display to its position relative to any place on earth. An additional indication for the earth’s progression from the view of the moon won over the jury.
Since then, he has moved his family to Le Locle, Switzerland and started his eponymous brand, Laine Watches. Torsti Laine has a specific love for the golden age of watchmaking, the mid-century movements like the Valjoux 22, 23 or 72. Movements that are still regarded as some of the best to date, and used in various high-end watches like the Rolex Daytona 6239 (with a column-wheel Valjoux 72 chronograph movement).
The first watch introduced under the Laine brand is the Classic Chronograph, with the aforementioned Valjoux 22 as a base movement, which was originally designed as a movement for a pocket watch. Torsti Laine entirely restores the movement and incorporates no fewer than 38 newly made, hand-finished and highly-decorated parts. Besides five new bridges and a new coupling clutch assembly, he also makes the free-sprung balance in a copper-beryllium alloy – including adjustable white gold inertia weights – by himself. All the steel parts, including the hands, are filed and polished by hand and most of the other parts are hand-finished too. Altogether, the movement is a true beauty with a combination of antique style and modern finishing – but a look through the loupe reminds you that we’re talking true hand-finished Haute Horlogerie here.
The movement can be finished in either dark grey, red gold, yellow gold or rhodium, and in a frosted finish, or a straight graining, for instance, so a lot of options to customize your timepiece.
Inspired by the devil’s tail tips of Minerva movements, like the Minerva Calibre 13.21 inside the Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition 100, Torsti Laine uses various handmade scorpion stinger details on his iteration of the Valjoux 22 movement. Most vintage movements are quite small in size, so it is hard to scale it into a modernly sized case. At 31.1mm wide, the Valjoux 22 is slightly larger than its 23 and 72 siblings (at 29mm). This means it fills up a modern case a bit better than the smaller movements would.
The Laine Classic Chronograph has a contemporary dial design, in stark contrast to its movement, a concept by the watchmaker himself. The multi-layered dial is significantly thicker than most other dials due to its design but it doesn’t disrupt the dimensions of the watch too much. There is a neat Finnish link to the dial, as they are produced by Comblémine, a dial-making company owned by Kari Voutilainen.
The two, white lacquered sub-dials, strikingly set against the dark blue or black background you see in the pictures, display a running seconds counter on the left and a 45-minute counter on the right. Time is indicated by leaf-shaped, polished hands while the central seconds hand with a calligraphy-styled L counterweight completes the chronograph function. Spread across the top and bottom are polished and applied hour markers. Again, with this high contrasting setup, the dial of the Laine Classic Chronograph is a nice mix of old and new.
The case is designed by Torsti, but the production is outsourced, something that is not uncommon for smaller brands to do considering the high cost to produce a case on your own. For a modern touch, the case features a polished bezel, crown and pushers, set against a brushed finishing of the case bands. The movement is operated through a large crown and two classical round pushers on the right-hand side, easy to use and accurate. The watch comes on a leather crocodile strap, matching the colour of the dial and a polished pin-buckle.
All in all, this Laine Classic Chronograph was a surprise to me. Inspired by some of the greatest chronographs we know, using a genuinely famous movement and improving on it – like many of the big Maisons do – plus the modern, contemporary touches make for a very nice watch. Of course, this doesn’t come cheap and retails for EUR 17,000 before taxes. However, considering all the factors, it sounds like a good deal. Other watches using this movement are often priced significantly higher, even factoring in the level of upgrades that Torsti has managed to incorporate into the Valjoux 22. More information on LaineWatches.com.