At his workshop in Môtiers, Kari disassembled each 21 jewel movement, fabricating new parts and testing them before decorating them in his own style. This is one of less than 25 watches produced, housing this movement. Some of the aesthetic changes made include the high-level of finishing we have come to expect from Mr Voutilainen, with a traditional frosted-finish to the bridges, chamfering on all the edges and perlage beneath. The free-sprung balance-wheel beats at a high frequency of 36,000 A/h, necessary for high precision.This example in white gold, was produced in 2008.
Prioritising watchmaking prowess over visual finishing and aesthetics, ‘Observatory’ watches come from a time when horology was dedicated to the pursuit of true mechanical accuracy. Parts were produced to exceptionally high tolerances and tailored to individual movements; fine-tuned, polished and resized by hand. These watches were almost exclusively used in timing-trials, precision timing competitions between famous manufactures, and were rarely available for public sale. Capable of a mean accuracy within a few tenths of a second per day under test conditions, these movements were an incredible achievement, even by today's standards.
Official observatory testing became less common with the introduction of ‘high-beat' mechanical movements and later, quartz-based timekeeping. Using these advances in technology, uncased movements could be tested in large numbers, coinciding with the increased commercialisation of watchmaking. COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres) was formed at this time, with its purpose being the chronometric measurement of movements in large quantities.
A regulator by design, the lineage of the Chronomètre 27 goes back to a time when watchmakers would use a master clock to set timepieces. The hour and minute hands are separated on their axes so the hands rarely align (only twice a day at 12 o’clock), allowing for the most accurate time readout at any given time. Considering the overriding importance of accuracy in Observatory watches, a regulator layout is fitting for this piece.
This example has a grey-finished gold dial displaying the level of complexity and hand craft that Voutilainen watches are known for. The clous-de-paris texture on the dial reflects light and casts shadow, giving the dial a mixture of tones and fantastic depth. Applied Roman numerals are found on the sub-dial at 12 o’clock displaying the hours, whilst a sub-second dial at six o’clock uses Arabic numerals. Above these is a regulator minute-dial, made from sapphire, raised above the main, by four blued screws. The 31.5 x 44mm case is unique to the Chronomètre 27 and made from white-gold. The lugs are integral, holding the watch close to the wrist, and the watch is on a hand-stitched black alligator strap with corresponding white gold deployment clasp.
With all of this, the Chronomètre 27 is a truly special watch that holds a place in horological history.
Viewings can be arranged in Central London by appointment.