Despite being one of the leading lights of Swiss independent watchmaking, Kari Voutilainen was born in Finland. He moved to Switzerland in 1989 to study watchmaking, after which he spent several years at Parmigiani, restoring vintage horological masterpieces. Those were his formative years, giving him an insight into the quality of historical timepieces and the skills of past craftsmen.
Armed with that knowledge, Voutilainen eventually set up shop on his own, creating timepieces under his own name. His rise to prominence began in 2007, when the Voutilainen Observatoire won the Best Men’s Watch prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve, the widely followed Swiss watch award.
The Observatoire was equipped with a vintage Peseux movement that Voutilainen finished to an exceptionally high standard, still one of the hallmarks of his brand. A high precision movement, the Peseux was originally designed to compete in observatory time trials, but unfortunately supplies were limited and the Observatoire series came to an end after a few dozen watches.
Voutilainen then designed the successor to the Peseux, the Vingt-8. Developed and manufactured in Voutilainen’s own workshop, the Vingt-8 retains many of the features found in classic observatory chronometer movements, like an extremely large balance wheel as well as an overcoil hairspring. But Voutilainen also brought something new to the Vingt-8, fitting it with a direct impulse escapement with twin escape wheels. This unusual escapement functions more efficiently than an ordinary escapement, promising more stable timekeeping and longevity.
In the Vingt-8 Voutilainen also continued to use elaborated engine-turned dials, made of solid silver or gold. Such guilloche dials are made by hand on a rose engine that engraves fine, repeating patterns into the metal, and have become a signature of his timepieces.
A Voutilainen for voyages
Since the introduction of the Vingt-8 in 2011, Voutilainen has used it as the base on which to create other movements. One such calibre is the GMT-6, which has a dual time zone function. That takes the form of a 24-hour disc at 6 o’clock, superimposed over the subsidiary seconds so as not to clutter the dial. Divided into contrasting halves to distinguish between day and night time, the disc is usually decorated with enamel or engine turning. Pressing the crown advances the 24-hour disc in one-hour jumps.
Something left in reserve
A variation of the GMT-6 is the GMR, which adds yet another complication to the Vingt-8. It has the second time zone at six o’clock, as well as a power reserve indictor at 12 o’clock.
Another movement based on the Vingt-8 is the V-8R, which has the addition of a power reserve indicator at 2 o’clock. Limited to 25 pieces, the V-8R took home the Best Men’s Watch prize at the 2013 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve.
The Hour Glass is an official retailer of Voutilainen timepieces in Singapore.