It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Kari Voutilainen’s watches. They blend traditional techniques and watchmaking prowess with super high-end finishing and looks just modern enough to really catch your eye. The Vingt-8 is the best-known Voutilainen watch model and when most people talk about one of Kari’s watches, it’s this archetype to which they’re referring. But this new kind of Vingt-8, while it might look like a traditional watch at first glance, is nothing like its predecessors. It’s one of the coolest watches I’ve seen all year and I’m excited to finally share it with you.
When I first saw this watch a few months back, sitting across from Kari himself, I didn’t quite know what I was looking at. He explained, and a smile came across my face. On the surface, the ISO is every bit the Vingt-8 you know. It has that 39mm case with the short teardrop lugs, it has the intricate guilloch dial, and it has those open hands with the sharp pointed tips. But inside is a modified version of the caliber 28 that allows the ISO to tell time in a new way the minute hand makes 13 revolutions around the dial every 12 hours, meaning the top of each hour migrates over the course of each day.
Alright, I know that sounds confusing, but Voutilainen has given us a guide here. Theres a ring around the edge of the dial it looks like a normal rehaut that rotates along with the hand. This means that you can always read the minutes using that ring as a reference, so you don’t have to do any guess work. You continue to read the hours normally, with the hour hand rotating once per hour like normal.
In the image above, the watch reads 12:00. Nothing strange there. But, look below. What time is it? No, it’s not 2:43 it’s 2:30. Check the track. The effect of this over the course of each hour is extremely dramatic. Moment to moment you don’t quite notice it, but as a new hour nears, the minute hand seems to chase the hour hand, eventually catching up and meeting in the same spot at the top of each hour. Likewise, at the bottom of each hour, the hands sit in perfect opposition like in the image below.
Now, how easy is this to read on a day to day basis? Honestly, I’m not too sure. I haven’t spent more than an hour or so with the Vingt-8 ISO at a time. If my experience with other time displays is anything to go by though, I think you’d get used to it pretty quickly. The interesting thing is that typically you read a watch by gauging the relationship between the hands and the dial, while the ISO eliminates the relationship between the minute hand and the dial, using the hour hand as an guide instead.
While it would be easy to think of the new time-telling system as the main star of the ISO, but turn the watch over and you’re greeted by the caliber 28. If you’ve never seen a Voutilainen up close and in person, it’s impossible to appreciate just how incredible these movements are. The main plate and bridges are German silver and the finishing on every little component is off-the-charts good. The dramatic balance bridge in particular is mirror polished to such a degree that it can actually be hard to see its exact geometry. It’s also technically impressive, with a 65-hour power reserve coming from one barrel due to a special direct impulse escapement that uses twin escape wheels and is extra efficient.
Alright, time for a quick quiz. What time does the Vingt-8 ISO show in this photo:
The correct answer is 6:25. If you said 6:57, go back and read the article again.
Ultimately, the thing I love most about this watch is that it balances being smart and playful extremely well. That’s tough to do. Technically and artistically, the watch is superlative.; the unique time telling idea is almost like an inside joke that only those in the know can appreciate. This is a thinking man’s watch but one that demonstrates said thinking man doesn’t take himself too seriously, nor is he afraid to do something that others might not appreciate. I didn’t think Voutilainen could make a watch I’d enjoy more than the standard Vingt-8, but I was definitely wrong.
The Voutilainen Vingt-8 ISO, like all Voutilainen watches, is extremely customizable, with different metals and dials offering totally different looks. Pricing starts around 72,000 CHF. For more, visit Voutilainen online.