Ultimate Cars, Watches & Hi Fi S02 ep17 : Kari Voutilainen, Voutilainen Watches, [Switzerland]
Interview with Kari Voutilainen
There are watchmakers today who are craftsmen, but do not innovate, and there are those who innovate, but only in theory and with computers, but leave the actual crafting for others to do, and then there are those who innovate and craft, however, it is not beautiful: it is strictly about function - not about art. This, in fact, is quite normal. We don't usually find, nor expect, one watchmaker to have all of these qualities.
Voutilainen: I did my schooling at B… and then the military service and then I went to watch
Voutilainen: Afterwards I worked one year in Finland and then I wanted to learn more and in …
there is a watch making school where you can do the further education. To be a good watch maker
it takes 10 years at least.
Voutilainen: When I was a young boy I knew a watch maker in my home town. He was a family
friend and I get the atmosphere of the watch making, watch maker’s workshop.
Voutilainen: I was something like 18 or 17, I decided I want to do a profession that I can do
something with my hands and to be an independent. I went to the watch makers for exams and
when I started the school it was the first school I felt that, that’s it, that’s my life. Sometimes I call
my workshop, that’s my small paradise.
Voutilainen: When I do the construction for instance for a watch, I make pieces which is
something very frustrating and yet by making for example fabricating one piece I have a good idea
and I have made the drawings and making a fabrication and spending one day, two days and it’s
almost ready and then I do the heat treatment, psst, I dip it in the water and the piece bends – no,
very good, start again, it happens for everybody but that’s something which is frustrating. You’ve
prepared all the work before so well and you just missed the last, and then you start again.
Voutilainen: I can think in three dimensions. When I do something I don’t draw so much, when I
do a unique piece I do only sketches. Of course I draw something which is important but for the
levers and springs I make a small sketch and that’s it. But perhaps that’s my force, that I can do
something very, very quickly, especially when I’m working with a unique pieces I am used to work
Voutilainen: It was my first work in Switzerland, that was 16 years ago. At that time I was 28
years old and he was 70. I had already experience in the watch making and he was already retired
but he was working because he liked it so he was working in the company but he came in every
days, sometimes in the winter time he didn’t come because it was nice and wanted to go to ski and
he was the fifth generation of the watch makers from V… and he had the great experience with
complicated watches. During four years I am sharing the workshop with him and that was my best
period. I learned much more than I have ever learned before.
Voutilainen: The book of the watch making it’s thick eh, it’s 400, years yes absolutely and I know
already a small part of it. He knew much more than me, he did share that with me. He did the
watch making school in L… during the wars. His schooling was five years long, five years. They
were working also Saturdays almost 9-10 hours per day. They may for instance three school watch,
the normal, chronicle and minitriple as a school watch. They learned so much during schooling
time that nobody today perhaps engineers or I don’t know, they don’t have the same skills any
Voutilainen: So in Parmigiani I was in the workshop with this gentleman. Well then I was
teaching three years in the watch making school.
And then after that now you’ve started our own?
Voutilainen: Yes now it makes four years on.
Voutilainen: Since I was watch maker I had my workshop at home, 16 years ago I started already
do one pocket watch tourbillion for me evening work, I did that, and then afterwards I had been
doing several watches for me during the evenings because it’s my passion. I had already orders
from collectors, they asked me to do something so afterwards just to do it for instead of during the
evenings I do it during the days.
Voutilainen: I don’t want to be purposely different than the others, I want to do things what I like,
that’s, I start from there. I have an idea for the precise for the mechanics move for the dial I want it
like that and I make it. And for instance, chronograph, I wanted to have a small dial for the hours
and minutes down and then I do the rest after that and I didn’t think if there’s a market for it or not.
Voutilainen: Yeah I have a lot of ideas and the more you do the more you have ideas. We do
unique pieces, when I do one I have an idea already the next one I will do something different,
something different and that’s the very good and strong point to do a small service centre, unique
pieces as it doesn’t come as a routine.
Voutilainen: So this is a chronograph which is hand made, so it’s in white cork case, cold dial,
cold hands, and the movement as well it’s hand made and it is very special regulating organ it
means the balance wheel and hand spring that is done by a company called Carbon Time, it’s an
English company indeed, I know the gentleman who is in charge very well, he’s a friend of mine.
So this is one of the first watches that does this?
Voutilainen: It’s the first watch.
It is the first watch.
Voutilainen: It is the first and it’s the prototype for the series of 11 chronographs.
What’s so special about this carbon steel, everyone keeps talking about it.
Voutilainen: It’s sort of milestone, not only that but all the developments happening today that
there was the invention of the hand spring 400 years ago, invention of the anwar, 1920’s and now
today invention of the new materials I think it’s as important milestone as the other ones.
How did you meet this chap in the first place?
Voutilainen: We were together in the school teaching and he did studies for many years in
university, he do five well more than five years doing development, and then now he has several
patents for it so it’s protected.
Voutilainen: In the industry very often it’s a tradition which is more than strong. I have another
watch which is except, it’s a perfect example for the tradition, I have this wrist watch, looks very
classical, it’s a repeating watch but it’s striking 10 minutes and minutes, it’s a minute repeater I
call it decimal a minute repeater. In the tradition for watch making it’s minute repeaters always
striking hours, quarters and then the following minutes.
How many pieces a year do you actually make?
Voutilainen: Well last year, two watches.
You’re joking? You have to make a living out of just two watches?
Voutilainen: Oooh, it’s alright I mean repeater like that it’s a couple of hundred Swiss, a couple of
hundred thousand Swiss francs.
But you also get unemployment benefits here in Switzerland I gather. Just joking.
Voutilainen: I want to get, the quantities are small though my passion is the watch making, I want
to do watches by myself, like this chronograph I will produce 11 watches and that’s it yes, and also
in that’s the excellent way to keep the quality of the torque because I can do it by myself, I know
what I’m doing.
In terms of being from Finland, is there a Finnish design element do you think?
Voutilainen: I think there’s two elements. It’s sort of a sobriety that is sober
Yes, the northern European austere winters.
Voutilainen: Exactly, it’s sober, it’s peaceful to look at and it doesn’t look like a Christmas tree
that you have all the colours it’s
What’s wrong with Christmas trees? Well they come from Finland you know that that’s where it
Voutilainen: I know.
Santa still lives there doesn’t he?
Voutilainen: Yes here, he lives in the town where I born.
Seriously? What town is this?
Voutilainen: It’s near …
Voutilainen: Personally I love the elegance of the lines. Like the cars, I think the classic cars like
the old Bentleighs, old Jaguars, they were fashion in that day but they’re in fashion still today and I
try to present that in my watches as well.
Voutilainen: Sometimes a more embarrassing thing is that you are making your work you have
client is coming and you are working and oh the piece is broke, client is coming and it’s just
please, can we go somewhere else, piece are dropping on the floor and you have to go and
Do you have to, have you learned the art of doing that without showing off too much that it’s a
Voutilainen: Yes it’s and in gentle way.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Kari Voutilainen, Voutilainen Watches, Switzerland