In the last decade, we’ve seen an explosion in small, independent, high-end watchmakers. They have grown in popularity over the years because of their unparalleled finishing techniques and unique style. Kari Voutilainen is one of these watchmakers. If you are familiar with Voutilainen’s watches you will instantly recognize one of his watches without looking at the name on the dial. He is known for his dial artwork and open-tipped hands. At this year’s SIHH Kari released two new additions his iconic Vingt-8 collection. In this article, I will cover the most fascinating of them, the Vingt-8 ISO.
The Vingt-8 ISO is a very special watch. It is designed to make you think a little extra when figuring out what time it is. This is so that you will pay more attention to the artistic dial and appreciate the mechanical obstacles (We’ll get to that in a minute) Kari had to overcome when making this watch, which is made all by hand. It did take me a while to understand how to read the time on this watch. In the picture above, it looks like the time is 12 minutes past 9. And on a regular watch that would be the case as the minute hand counts the minutes from 12 o’clock. But on the Vingt-8 ISO, the minute hand counts from 60 on the minute track around the dial. However, the 60 on the minute track is always moving, along with the rest of the minute track. Meaning that in the photo above, the time is actually 25 minutes past 9.
To achieve this rather complicated way of reading the time, the tip of the hour hand is always pointing to 60 on the minute track. This means the minute track and the hour hand is moving at the same pace. The minute hand however, is moving 8.33% faster than a regular minute hand, meaning it will take 65 minutes from it passes the hour hand until it passes it again. The minute and hour hand is also overlapping every full hour. This way of reading the time is based on the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman’s theory of “System 1 and System 2” thinking. System 1 thinking is everything you do without really thinking about it, they are things you do instinctively, such as reading the time of your watch by a quick look at your wrist.
System 2 thinking are things you do that you really have to concentrate about and often figure out a solution to. Voutilainen’s goal is to move the reading of time on a mechanical watch from System 1 to System 2. And as far as I can tell he has been very successful.
Now naturally, a watch that is harder to read is also harder to make, this also applies to this watch. It actually has two escape wheels to allow for a direct impulse to the balance. This makes the watch 30% more efficient. The escape wheels are made from steel for added strength and above them, we find Voutilainen’s signature free-sprung balance wheel which is a staggering 13.60mm in diameter and has a balance spring that features both a Breguet overcoil and a Grossman inner curve. The movement has a 65-hour power reserve thanks to the direct impulse and beats at 18.000 vph. The finishing on this movement is as you’d expect from a Voutilainen, second to none. The edges of the German silver three-quarter plate movement are beautifully polished and bevelled and the huge balance wheel bridge has a mirror polish to it.
Overall this is a very interesting addition to the Vingt collection, and the goal of this watch certainly is interesting. That we should spend more time appreciating the charm and craftsmanship that goes into making a watch like this. However, as soon as you get used to this way of reading the time, I suspect you will go back to glancing quickly at it to tell the time. What makes it hard for me to take my eyes of this watch isn’t that I’m still trying to figure out what time it is. It’s because of the beautiful guilloché on the dial that is one of the best in the business.