Now best known for the Vingt-8 chronometer, particularly when combined with its exemplary and versatile guilloche work, Voutilainen also produces high complicated watches. Though the brand now largely focuses on the time-only Vingt-8, it once completed striking watches on a fairly regular basis.
One of the best examples of such a chiming masterpiece is the Decimal Repeater GMT “L’Esprit du Bois” that was delivered a decade ago, when Voutilainen was a far smaller operation centred on its founder, Kari Voutilainen. This unique repeater is now available at Phillips Perpetual in London.
Before he found the success that led to the current three-year waitlist for the Vingt-8, Mr Voutilainen made perhaps two dozen repeaters (compared to hundreds of time-only watches), all equipped with refinished vintage ebauches.
Most were decimal repeaters that struck the time in ten-minute blocks, as opposed to the quarter strikes of convention repeaters, making time telling more intuitive.
“L’Esprit du Bois” is one of the most elaborate of Mr Voutilainen’s chiming watches. Delivered in 2013, the watch combines a decimal repeater and second time zone display, all presented in the quintessential Voutilainen manner with a case featuring teardrop lugs and a dial finished with a variety of guilloche patterns.
But it is distinguished by something special: the hinged case back is entirely relief engraved and enamelled with a motif drawn from Greek mythology.
The watch is instantly recognisable as a Voutilainen. Featuring Roman numerals, the silvered dial is finished with three distinct guilloche patterns, while the hands in his signature “observatory” style.
The hands are of course hand made and as is often the case with Voutilainen watches, composed of several parts to create a two-tone finish. The main body of the hour and minute hands are polished steel, but each has a chamfered blued steel ring pressed into the end.
The most striking feature of the dial is the second time zone at two o’clock. Though mechanically simple – it’s a 24-hour hand that can be set in one-hour steps – it is beautifully presented with a day and night disc hand engraved by Eddy Jaquet, a leading engraver in watchmaking whose work can be found on a number of Voutilainen watches.
Like several of his other repeaters, the “L’Esprit du Bois” is larger than the average Voutilainen watch. Measuring 42 mm in diameter, the case is 18k white gold and features his trademark teardrop lugs.
But the most impressive aspect of the case is on the reverse. It reveals the hunter back that lifts to show the movement within. The hinged back, however, is perhaps as exquisite as the movement.
Like the day and night disc, the back is the work of Eddy Jaquet. Mr Jaquet decorated the back with both relief and recessed engraving.
Portrayed in Art Nouveau style, the Seven Sisters known as the Pleiades, daughters of Atlas, are depicted in relief. Around them and also on the rim of the case back is translucent, dark blue fired enamel done in the champleve technique where the enamel fills recesses engraved into the case back.
Under the back sits the hand-wind repeating movement. Like all the other repeaters Mr Voutilainen created, the calibre is based on a vintage ebauche, or movement blank. According to Mr Voutilainen, this particular calibre was originally a LeCoultre ebauche.
Measuring 12.5”’ in diameter, the movement is fairly large and was likely originally created for a small pocket watch. Its historical origins means the layout is eminently classical with finger bridges for the going train and wolf’s teeth on the winding and barrel ratchet wheels.
However, as is the norm for Mr Voutilainen, he didn’t merely dress up an old movement. The decoration is of course exemplary, but he also upgraded the movement.
Most obvious is the conversion from conventional repeater to decimal repeater, but perhaps more practical is the installation of a shock-protection spring on the jewel for the balance staff, a feature that was not yet invented when this movement was originally produced.
The “L’Esprit du Bois” is naturally an expensive watch, but relative to the current retail prices or secondary market values in independent watchmaking it is a reasonable proposition considering the brand, complication, and elaborate execution.
The Decimal Repeater GMT “L’Esprit du Bois” is priced at £360,000 (equivalent to US$457,000 at time of writing) before taxes. It is available at Phillips Perpetual in London. For more, visit Phillips.com.
This was brought to you in partnership with Phillips Perpetual.
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