One of the best things about having long-time watch buddies is that they make new friends – and in time introduce you to them! I’ve been fortunate over the past year, pandemic constraints notwithstanding, to “meet” a friend of a friend who not only has a jaw-dropping collection of watches but who is also generous to a fault – leading to the loan of a newly arrived unique piece from Kari Voutilainen for me to handle, shoot, and share with you.
One of the best things about dealing with independent watchmakers, especially if you’ve been a loyal customer, is the ability to request unique touches on your watch – or in more extreme instances, significant alterations from standard production pieces. That’s just what happened after my new friend first saw Kari Voutilainen’s Sport28, a titanium-cased watch that itself is quite rare with only eight examples made in total.
While my friend very much liked the idea of a sportier Voutilainen watch with luminous hands and indices and a sandwich dial, there were a few things that he wished were different.
Size: the production pieces are 39 mm in diameter, and my friend was looking for something bigger to match his view of the “sport” nature of the watch. Voutilainen agreed to 44 mm, a size that he had made previously for custom orders, including the “Blue Pearl” platinum Vingt-8 with mother-of-pearl dial and a Vingt-8 ISO, also in platinum.
While a 44 mm platinum watch in the Voutilainen style must be quite hefty indeed, the owner of our current piece felt comfortable that a titanium piece in that size would wear well.
On the reverse, the increase in size translates into a larger bezel around the now-familiar Vingt-8 movement. The movement itself is large enough at 30 mm and commands the eye so completely that the wider frame doesn’t seem out of place, although I do wish that the six case back screws were a bit larger and set inward from the periphery a little more – one of my very few quibbles with this watch.
Shape: in addition to the changes in overall dimensions, my friend opted for a return to Voutilainen’s original teardrop lug shape from the sculpted cutaway teardrops of the production Sport28.
I don’t think there’s a bad choice to be made between the two: when my next Voutilainen piece eventually joins the collection, I will likely pick the cutaway look both because I admire its modern take on the teardrop motif and for a bit of variety. But the classic teardrop is so closely associated with Voutilainen that I completely understand choosing it for this watch.
Colors: the original run of eight 28Sports featured onyx central sections to the main dial and seconds subdial with a surrounding guilloche ring available either in black or dark blue.
For this watch, the buyer retained the onyx and pronounced barleycorn guilloche, but specified the latter in a brighter blue color. Consistent with the use of blue on the dial, the brand-characteristic rings on the hour and minute hands and the central disks on the hour, minute, and second hands are in blued steel rather than the white gold of the production watches.
One additional color shift becomes apparent at night as the green Super-LumiNova treatment of indices and hands on the original 28Sport gives way here to an intense blue consistent with the color of the ring on the dial.
As mentioned above, this particular dial is made with a “sandwich” construction: in daylight the upper surfaces and bright orange indices take precedence, while in darkness the glowing lower layer of the sandwich grabs our eyes.
Enjoying the custom Voutilainen 28Sport
While the happy new owner had to wait about a year for his order to be filled, I was fortunate to get my hands on this watch shortly after hearing about it – and I really enjoyed shooting it from a variety of angles and in different lighting conditions.
At low angles, the perfectly smooth blackness of the onyx layer, the height of the orange indices, and the depth of the guilloche on the silver ring become clearly evident.
With more direct angles and lighting, it’s possible to eliminate light scatter almost entirely or to re-introduce it using a combination of reflections from the dial and crystal.
I don’t know what magic elixir Voutilainen is using for anti-reflective coatings these days, but the coating on this watch is amazingly effective, allowing any of a variety of subtle splashes of light to accent part of the dial and add a sense of depth to the view without getting the harsh blown-out areas or bright blotches that are difficult to manage when photographing many watches.
As it’s a Voutilainen watch, the movement is of course gorgeous and beautifully finished. I’m pleased that in both the production version of the 28Sport and on this watch we see striping. While I’m not opposed to frosted finishes, there’s something about beautifully done stripes that I think is hard to beat.
Voutilainen developed the Vingt-8 movement in 2008 (hence the name) and in the decade-plus it has been with us I don’t think it’s really gotten the attention it deserves.
There are of course features that have been offered by Voutilainen from the start including the carefully formed hairspring with its Breguet overcoil and Grossman terminal curve, but in the Vingt-8 construction we also see a highly efficient direct-impulse escapement utilizing twin escape wheels for reduced energy consumption, increased stability, and improved longevity of the escapement components. I’ve always known they were there but photographing this watch with its bright blue escape wheels really brought the point home for me.
Another traditional Voutilainen feature is the use of color – in this case pink gold plating – and the resulting contrast with white metal elements to make the movement-side view really pop.
There’s also the smoothly rounded beveling of plate and bridge edges that throws a glowing light as seen from pretty much any angle. Add in the distinct striping, eye-catching interior angles, black polishing, frosting, and a bit of subtle perlage on the main plate and the result is mouth-watering.
As I did with the front side of the watch, I played around with several positions and lighting schemes for the rear, including some shots against a reflective white base that gave a somewhat different perspective on the gold-against-white movement look than the shots using a black backdrop.
On the wrist: the Voutilainen 28Sport 1/1
Did I sneak this piece onto my wrist for a quick check? Dear readers, you may be assured that I did!
There’s no doubt that this is a big watch, but the curved teardrop lugs initiate the bend of the strap around the wrist quite well and the overall lightness makes it very wearable on my wrist. When I asked the owner for his favorite thing about this watch, he said, “The lightness and comfort and a bigger surface area to admire the beauty of Kari’s work.”
Especially at this size, it’s certainly a departure from Voutilainen’s more traditional dress watches. For comparison, I grabbed a side-by-side shot of the unique 28Sport next to my 39 mm diameter Voutilainen Masterpiece Chronograph II. In the photo the watches are in the same plane, so the shot gives an accurate sense of the size difference as well as the aesthetic distinctions between the two watches.
When it comes to Kari Voutilainen’s evolving work, I’m really pleased to see him branching out into new embodiments of his craft, from the upside-down 28TI Inverse to the 2019 Only Watch pocket watch with daughter Venla to the 28Sport.
And it’s great to see that he continues to stay close to collectors with custom pieces like the one we’ve seen here while at the same time remaining true to his standards in areas such as movement finishing and dial and case quality.
Is there a particular custom watch you would love to have from Kari Voutilainen – or from any other maker? I’ll look forward to your comments. In the meantime, happy wearing!
For more information, please visit www.voutilainen.ch/item/28sport.
Quick Facts Kari Voutilainen 28Sport 1/1 Unique Piece
Case: 44 mm, Grade 5 titanium case, manufactured in-house; sapphire crystal front and rear crystals
Dial and hands: engine-turned silver dial with onyx centers, manufactured in-house; silver dial in unique blue color; sandwich dial construction with applied orange markers and blue Super-LumiNova accents and indices; white gold hands with blued steel rings and Super-LumiNova fill
Movement: manually wound Caliber Vingt-8 with free-sprung balance, 18,000 vph/2.5 Hz frequency; design, construction, fabrication, hand-finishing, and assembly in Voutilainen workshops
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: not disclosed
Production year: 2021
* This article was first published on August 28, 2021 at Behind The Lens: Unique Kari Voutilainen 28Sport
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