Interviews • 06 Sep 2021
Interviewing Venla Voutilainen on Her Watchmaking Journey
For Only Watch 2019, Kari Voutilainen and his watchmaker daughter Venla Voutilainen teamed up to create a pocket watch like no other. The Voutilainen TP1 Only Watch 2019, with its silver engined-turned dial, orange and blue accents and quirky case shape, created quite the buzz amongst independent watchmaking enthusiasts.
With Only Watch 2021 on the horizon, we caught up with Venla Voutilainen to discuss her involvement in the Only Watch project, her watchmaking journey, and why staying independent is important.
David Morris: How did you get into watchmaking?
Venla Voutilainen: When I was young, I wanted to work with children. But when I was in secondary school, we went to an exhibition showcasing many professions. Each presenter explains their trade in 15 minutes. I saw one craft that interested me, however with only 15 minutes allocated, I couldn’t have a hands-on demonstration.
So, I went home and told my mum, “I want to learn more about this profession”. That being watchmaking!
The following weekend we went back, and I had a demonstration with an apprentice and loved it; I was surprised I didn’t make any mistakes. And so, I then asked my dad (Kari Voutilainen) if I can get more experience in his workshop. I found it entirely instinctual and didn’t need assistance from my father. I soon after decided this is what I want to do in the future. It was after I attended this exhibition that I decided what I wanted to do. Before this, I’d never really thought about watchmaking.
DM: It’s nice you found your passion rather than just deciding to follow in your father’s footsteps. It’s more natural.
VV: Yes, it was very natural. My father never pressured me to do watchmaking. I did my apprenticeship at Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier to be independent and have my own experiences.
DM: And so, you went straight into watchmaking school following secondary school?
VV: I first started with an apprenticeship. There’s a theoretical component and other hands-on components, such as learning micromechanics over 32 days, including things such as hairspring adjustment. After each step, there’s an exam.
DM: While studying, did you realise there’s an area that was of particular interest?
VV: I like complicated watches. I found it quite intuitive and was surprised by how much I loved it. Complicated old watches inspire me; my favourite would have to be the Marie Antoinette – it’s incredible.
DM: How did the Only Watch collaboration with your father come about?
VV: Mr Luc Pettavino asked my father. Initially, I wasn’t involved, but my father asked me to collaborate on this. I was a bit scared as I was already sitting my last exam, so I was pretty busy, plus my apprenticeship. So, at night I’d balance study with the Only Watch piece. Everything was happening at the same time.
We decided what sort of watch, and I asked him, “what was your first watch? How did you start?”, and he told me he started with a pocket watch. I said, “aha this would be interesting; we can revisit your first watch but with a modern interpretation.”
Auction Results: Voutilainen TP1 OW 2019 Pocket Watch on Christie’s
DM: Why the blue and orange colour scheme?
VV: I wanted to do something different, which is why I choose the orange and blue colour scheme. The case was my father’s idea. Combined, it’s aesthetically quite different to traditional pocket watches.
I wanted to offer a new perspective on an older style of watch. It’s the same with women’s watches. I’m not interested in starting my brand. But if I did, I thought it would be interesting to make mechanically interesting ladies watches. When brands create ladies watches, they resize a men’s watch and add a diamond bezel. I don’t find this interesting as a watch or as a collector. It would be great if there were more of a considerate approach towards making interesting ladies watches.
Read: Only Watch 2019 Voutilainen TP1 Only Watch 2019 – a Pocket Watch, a Collaboration, a Voutilainen on Monochrome
DM: Do you get into the zone when you’re working on watches?
VV: When I started making watches, I liked my work. When I worked on the Only Watch I liked the project because we both have a shared passion, and it was a memorable experience. I didn’t think I’d find my passion and instead have a job when I was young. But now, the two are the same. It’s more of a vocation. I found my passion because I choose this path for myself. Sometimes others assume my father pressured me, but no, this was my choice.
DM: Thank you Venla, it’s been fascinating talking with you.