Kari Voutilainen is a man of contradiction. He’s very humble and understated, yet he has attained an iconic status in the watch-collector community, and even among his peers in the industry, simply through dedication to his horological art rather than any concerted effort at self-promotion or marketing. His work is widely recognized and applauded – and what a body of work it is. His production numbers are low – around 50 pieces per a year – and that makes sense when you consider that he works respectful of traditions and with a practically monastic dedication. As I said, we’re talking about art here. So let’s have a closer look at a superb piece: the Kari Voutilainen GMT-6 with Art Deco dial.
Like almost every watch made by Voutilainen, this one is a unique piece. Engraved or engine-turned dials are the norm for Voutilainen watches, and most of these are one-of-a-kind examples. Although the movements used for the watches are not entirely unique, they are all quite rare. To power this art-deco-dial model, Voutilainen uses the recently presented GMT-6, which is based on the beautifully constructed Vingt-8. The GMT-6 shares the same base caliber with the Vingt-8, and adds an additional GMT indicator, located at the 6 o’clock position on the dial. It is displayed by a rotating disk showing a second time zone as well as a day-night indicator. The GMT indication is integrated into the movement, as opposed to being a module added to the top. Compared with the original Vingt-8 caliber, the GMT-6 has more than 70 new components.
The movement has a special escapement featuring not one, but two escapement wheels. These send direct impulses to the balance, and this construction requires no lubrication. The impulses sent by both escapement wheels go in opposite directions, directly to the balance wheel, through the impulse jewels mounted on the balance staff. The lever in the middle holds the wheels and releases them, one after the other, as directed by the balance wheel – specifically, a huge, 13.6-mm free-sprung balance wheel, with four masses for fine adjustment, which ticks slowly at 18,000 vph. The single mainspring boasts a 65-hour power reserve when fully wound. The finishing on this fully in-house manufactured movement is simply stunning. First, the bridges which show a frosted gilt finish, huge and superb hand-chamfered edges, re-entrant angles and polished and beveled screws slots and heads. Then there is the balance -wheel bridge, itself a pure feast for the eyes. It is lavishly polished to a round and tapered shape, something that only a very trained hand – and no machine – can achieve. We could also talk about the gears and the ratchet wheel. Every aspect has a level of detailing that is rarely found, even on most high-end timepieces.
The dial is in the same vein. As we noted previously, almost every watch made by Kari Voutilainen is unique. This Kari Voutilainen GMT-6 with Art Deco dial is no exception. During Baselworld, earlier this year, we at Monochrome Watches got to see one with a gilt engine-turned dial, and another one with a bamboo-inspired engraving. This watch features a traditional Art Deco pattern, and is engraved by hand. The numbers and the central part remind us of the monumental atrium of New York’s Chrysler Building. The classical “mega pomme” hands also suit the dial perfectly. The dial-work is gorgeous and the details of the engravings on the hour track are tremendous. The dial is far from “pure and clean,” yet it showcases a superb level of refinement and discretion.
As you can see, once on the wrist, the complexity of the dial does not come across as too busy; the Art Deco dial reveals a subtle and elegant approach. The 39-mm case (here in 18K white gold) is typical of Voutilainen’s work: a round, fully mirror-polished case with teardrop lugs. It’s a classical design that allows one to concentrate on the dial and that is made to feel comfortable on the wrist.
At Monochrome-Watches, we’re always trying to keep a level of objectivity in our articles. However, when wearing such a timepiece, it is extremely difficult to find negative aspects, mainly because of the emotions that the watch transmits. We are not talking about mass production and consumer-oriented manufacturing here: this Kari Voutilainen GMT-6 is all about passion and, by its very nature, exclusivity. The only issue I have with the watch is its price, which is north of €100k — undoubtedly high, but entirely justified by the unparalleled attention to detail. So, in closing, dear Santa, help me… please.