Sometimes a watch just comes out of nowhere and even when it’s sitting right in front of you on a table, you still can’t believe it’s actually real. A few days ago at the SIHH, I was having a chat with Kari Voutilainen about his Comblémine dial factory when he said “Oh, I have something else to show you.” What appeared on the felt-lined tray was a piece unique 44mm stainless steel watch that looked every bit a Kari Voutilainen. And it was awesome.
Most of Kari Voutilainen’s watches are custom orders. His small team of fewer than two dozen people makes just about 30 watches per year. Recently, a physically larger customer with bigger wrists wanted to order something that he felt suited his frame better. So, instead of ordering a watch in the standard 39mm Vingt-8 case, he opted for the same design, just in 44mm. Kari told me this isn’t the first time he’s done something like this, though it’s extremely uncommon.
The unique piece is also made of stainless steel, adding to the rarity factor – Kari makes very few watches not in precious metals, including this titanium Vingt-8 we showed you a few weeks ago. The customer opted for a pretty traditional Voutilainen dial style, with numerals at 12, three, and six, combination blue and steel hands, and multiple guilloché patterns on a dark grey ground.
On its own, the watch looks big, but when you place it next to one Kari’s more typical watches, with the standard 39mm case, it looks absolutely massive. Importantly, all the dial, hand, and case proportions have been properly scaled up, so you don’t end up with a wonky large case anchored by small lugs or a dial with a massive empty space in the center.
You’re probably wondering what the back of this watch looks like. You’re also probably expecting a massive bezel around a small sapphire window showing the standard caliber 28 movement in the center. But that’s not the way Kari does things. For this watch he created a new version of his caliber 28 that is mechanically identical, just larger. The proportions are kept in tact on the back of the watch as well as on the front. This is also how the small seconds register can stay in an appropriate position on the dial, instead of being smushed to the center like you’d find if the movement were too small.
This watch is a good reminder of what can happen when a watchmaker is open to doing truly custom work. Everyone knows that Kari will do custom dials, but he can do much, much more than that if you ask. Here’s hoping I get to see another one of his more eccentric creations soon.
For more, visit Kari Voutilainen online.