Finland-born Kari Voutilainen is one of the increasing numbers of talented non-Swiss watchmakers breathing new life into the world of timepieces by continuing the classical watchmaking tradition. His major innovation is a decimal repeater. His Vingt-8, priced equivalent to Rs 54 lakhs, has in-house movement designed, built, fabricated, finished and assembled in its entirety in Voutilainen workshops at Môtiers, Switzerland. Hiren Kumar Bose met the master watchmaker at the first Carré des Horlogers, SIHH
How does it feel being considered a rockstar among watchmakers?
(Laughs) I have my feet on the ground. I am not flying. I am happy that our work is being recognised. What I do, I do with passion. Passion for watchmaking drives me.
Your business card mentions you as ‘owner watchmaker’. What are the challenges one encounters being an independent watchmaker?
To remain an independent watchmaker itself is a challenge. We have to survive. We need financial independence. I’m a shareholder and am obliged for the livelihood of others who work for me. If I am dependent on others for the supply of my movements and parts I cannot call myself as independent. The liberty of creating my movements, suited to my needs, makes me independent.
You’ve mentioned that you have learnt from the mistakes of watchmakers like Daniel Roth and Franck Muller. Would you like to elaborate on the same?
Yes, I did learn from their mistakes. From the impossible choices they made. Franck Muller no more belongs to Franck Muller. It may have brought him money. But the company no more belongs to him. He has lost the freedom to create watches on his own. I plan to continue to remain independent. I want to create my own timepieces and stay on the right track.
Though made in Switzerland your watches do not carry the legend ‘Swiss Made’ but ‘Hand Made’. Making them universal. An ode to the craftsmen.
I think that ‘Swiss made’ is a much-misused word. I know there is a certain value of being a ‘Swiss-made’. Switzerland is an expensive country and Manufactures are making movements and parts elsewhere. For us, it doesn’t make a difference. It reflects our philosophy and appreciation of our work. We have only 15 people working and make no more than 50 watches a year.
You belong to the old school of thought for you are all praise about the watches made during 40s and 50s by brands like Patek Phillippe and Vacheron Constantin.
The golden age of watchmaking was between the years 1820 to 1880. The watches made during these years were wonderful and had a lot of technical evolution. The chronometers produced were good. They were of high quality and precision. The watches made during the 1940s and 1950s, made by watchmakers like Patek and Vacheron, were very classical. They had excellent movements, beautiful cases, especially those made by Vacheron Constantin, all made by hand. Not perfect but beautiful as it is in Nature.
Who is/are your all-time favourite watchmaker/s?
Those who comes to mind is none other than Abraham-Louis Breguet. I am in awe of his minute repeaters, his clock with two pendulums which I consider is an incredible piece and most importantly the stunning Marie Antoinette watch. I would also like to include Patek Philippe’s Packard Grand complication watch, an exceptional piece and the elegant and nice A Lange & Sohne’s chronographs in the list of my favourites.
Tell us about GMT-6 which you’re exhibiting here.
The proprietary movement of the GMT-6 was entirely conceived, designed, produced, finished and assembled in our workshops. The movement contains free sprung-balance system that ensures perfection. The balance has four gold inertia-blocks to adjust the daily rate. To equip this exceptional timepiece, a unique and very rare balance-spring system has been used. However, the watch’s outstanding feature is its escapement; it is the first watch to present two escape-wheels in such a configuration. The escape-wheels provide a direct impulse to the balance through the roller/jewel. This escapement is extremely efficient and requires less energy than traditional lever escapements, offering gains in terms of longevity and stability. All finishing work on the main plate and bridges has been carried out by hand in order to attain the best possible surface finish. Screws and all steel surfaces are finished and polished by hand too.