WATCHESPEDIA: What is your first impression at SIHH this year?

Kari Voutilainen: I would say that yesterday was perhaps a bit quiet. But today I am feeling more positive. I don’t know about the others.

WATCHESPEDIA: Good, good. That means you’re positive. What are your main releases for this year?

Kari Voutilainen: It’s this one. A watch like that which breaks the rules a little bit in a way. We have to think of the time. So, we have the indication which is different. We call it ISO. It comes from “isogon,” so “isogon” means equal angles and here we have 2 o’clock. So, when it’s a full hour, the hands are always top of each other. So here we have 3 o’clock and then when it’s for instance half past, hands are on the line. So, for instance, maybe at 6 o’clock here and then 6:30, and then going to half past – quarter to. It’s in 90-degrees angle and square. So, it’s a bit different way of reading the time and I think it’s not bad. Like, it’s an exercise for the brain. You have to think. It’s also …

WATCHESPEDIA: An initial complication.

Kari Voutilainen: Yes. Well, anyway. When we were doing this, to calculate the gear train because the ratio is still the same. On this watch, we have 12 to 1, so 12 turns and 1 turn for one hand and here we have 13 and 1. So we have a new gear train from there and the other watches. Then in design as well, we have a different gear train and the gears to turn the disc. The disc is pivoted on the jewels so it’s really free. That’s what we are.

WATCHESPEDIA: This is the watch you’re wearing – this is SIHH.

Kari Voutilainen: Yes, I’ve been wearing it for two weeks now. But still, I have to concentrate on what time it is.

WATCHESPEDIA: Even you…

Kari Voutilainen: It’s … So yes, and then – it’s also how we are working. As I said, the psychologist, (Daniel Kahneman). So he called this an economical behaviour. It’s an economical study and he got a Nobel Prize from that. He’s also a psychologist and he has written a book which is called Thinking, Fast and Slow and in his book, he writes that we have two ways of thinking: System 1 and System 2. System 1 is where everything is automatic so we do things we don’t have to think about. So yes, we’re using a fork and spoon for eating, no problem. But suddenly, you have to use the chopsticks and you are not used to it. It’s so hard and it’s so slow and it’s slipping and you have to concentrate all the time. So, that’s a system too. Then all these things that we are not used to, or something that is unexpected and here we are in the same way that we have the right time. But we have to concentrate to be able to read the time.

WATCHESPEDIA: So, you’re creating new neuro pathways for your customers.

Kari Voutilainen: Yes.

WATCHESPEDIA: Brilliant. A follow-up question is, what is a typical day for you in workshop?

Kari Voutilainen: I wake up about 5:15 almost every morning. And then I start from 6 o’clock and work to the middle of the day. In the morning, I take my post and then I do my practical work. Then in the afternoon, I start at 1 o’clock until 7pm. And then very often in the evening – I still go for a few hours, 9:00 to 11:00 or like that. So, that’s a typical day.

WATCHESPEDIA: Oh, wow.

Kari Voutilainen: I try to avoid working over midnight.

WATCHESPEDIA: It’s a practice throughout the years …

Kari Voutilainen: Oh, yes. You know, like 30 years like that. It’s OK. I’ve been married for 27 years with my wife, so it’s OK, we know where we are.

WATCHESPEDIA: Congratulations. Where do you see your name growing from here? From where you are today and what’s your vision and mostly plans for the next three to four, five years? Where do you want to go?

Kari Voutilainen: Well, I have a very clear vision from the beginning that I’m not going to start to make more quantities and numbers.

WATCHESPEDIA:  I understand.

Kari Voutilainen: So, I did understand at the beginning when I started that there are two things to be independent. First of all is financial independence. When you’re alone, you start alone, and you are independent. Nobody is telling you what to do. So, that’s definitely why I’m alone. I have no financial partners or investors. And another point is the liberty of creation. So, it means that I do things by myself. I have the know-how and knowledge, and so, if you have the know-how, then you can work. Then you are free to create. If you are buying everything from suppliers, you don’t have the know-how. You know how to pay bills, but you don’t know how to make parts.

WATCHESPEDIA: I like that …

Kari Voutilainen: If you don’t have the know-how then you are not independent. You are depending on suppliers. One day he might shut down his company and you are in trouble then. Our production is less in numbers during past years. But the turnover goes up and the profit goes up even more. More bespoke watches. There’s no reason to make more. We have more people in my workshop. We have 23 people now, and we made less than 40 watches this year.

WATCHESPEDIA: Wow.

Kari Voutilainen: But there’s no reason to start to make more. More of these pieces and more direct sales.

WATCHESPEDIA: Who would be a typical Voutilainen buyer, collector?

Kari Voutilainen: I mean it’s difficult to say typical. But I think the one common thing is that they do appreciate things which are well-made. Perhaps they also appreciate the human relations because I know most of my customers, they come to visit.

WATCHESPEDIA: Direct contact.

Kari Voutilainen: Yes, and very often comes afterwards – it’s a watch, OK? But there’s also the story behind it. He will come meet us and perhaps we will go eat together and we have a relationship and through that, this person, when he has his watch, he can tell his story. I know the watchmaker, and I saw how he was working and I know when he was doing my dial and he has pictures. So, he has a story to tell his family and his friends. That’s important. If I start to make more, I can’t do that anymore. The industry can’t do that anymore. So, when you think of a company, they are making watches. That’s wonderful. But they have a salesman. There’s a sales guy and perhaps he gets fired and there’s a new one coming and so I don’t know. You can’t. You don’t have that relation. So, we’re big on relations, but in a different way. In our case, as we’re making everything we have quite strong relations with customers and at the end of the day, I see many of my customers once per year or some of them as many times per year. So, you think of the different creations, which is sort of…it’s never really friendship because they are a customer but still…

WATCHESPEDIA: But it’s an organic relationship. I have two other questions and we will finalise this. Where do you draw your inspiration from? Where does the magic of Voutilainen come from? What inspires you in your work?

Kari Voutilainen: A few things. Most of all, I think the restoration. Still today I’m doing a bit from there, I get the values. When you have an older movement, it’s “robust” you can push the hand. Nothing will happen. You have the screws which are real screws. You have the long head. You have a long thread. So – yes, yes, it’s one millimeter diameter. We do the screws by ourselves. We do all the components by ourselves. And like that, you can’t destroy the watch. You can’t break the screw because it’s big. It’s strong and everything is a bit – all the measures. And this means that today and in the future, I’m sure that we can assemble and disassemble as many times as we want. But we can’t destroy the watch. If we have…and I don’t talk about it too much, but as I said, sometimes, people are using very weak winding components. Weak, like a baby’s watch. Tiny. They have this screw for the setting lever. It might be 0.5 or 0.6. It’s so tiny. You pull off the crown…

WATCHESPEDIA: And you can rip it out …

Kari Voutilainen: Yes, exactly. You have this winding stem. It’s 0.90 and you have a big screw. There’s one company – they’re doing systems that are like torque friction so that when you are over-winding, there’s a torque system inside. But it’s completely stupid it should rather be that the mechanism is stronger. So, there’s weak movement inside, big watch..

WATCHESPEDIA: Inspiration from the restoration.

Kari Voutilainen: So that’s one thing and another thing is aesthetics also because I like these things rounded. These things, you can polish as many times as you want and it will remain rounded. This small edge is half a millimetre higher than the middle part. So, you can put the watch like that so the middle part will remain easily polished. Well then, it’s also the design. I like the sleek forms. I’m always coming to this – I mean this costs now 40s, 50s, 60s. We have all this …

WATCHESPEDIA: And the last question would be, “What would you say to someone that doesn’t know your brand?” What would you tell them? How would you spark their interest? How would you invite them in? I think that’s where I’m going to go.

Kari Voutilainen: The best is to come and visit us because that’s the best way for me. I made a book which explains everything, but the best is still to come and visit us because like that, you can see what we are doing and you can feel the atmosphere. We are making everything and I’m working with passion.

WATCHESPEDIA: Of course, I can tell.

Kari Voutilainen: And I’m not a businessman.

WATCHESPEDIA: No, no, you’re not. But to your own way, you’re here and you have an amazing piece of art.

Kari Voutilainen: We are still alive. It’s OK. So, I don’t have this business approach that we have to have – extremely profitable or this and that. So, I would rather concentrate on watches and then we adjust the price that we can make our living on.

WATCHESPEDIA: Of course, of course, fair enough. You are – where you’re currently based?

Kari Voutilainen: We are in Môtiers. It’s a village which is next to Fleurier. So, that’s where we are. In the middle of a village, old house. I’m living in the same house where we’re working. That’s the best luxury today, I can tell you.

WATCHESPEDIA: No driving, no commute. That’s for sure.

Kari Voutilainen: It is absolutely – like we’re really – middle of the day, you can take a walk in the forest or like now, next week, I will go to ski every day in the middle of the day. We leave 11 o’clock and we come back 2 o’clock.

WATCHESPEDIA: It’s quality of living.

Kari Voutilainen: It’s a luxury, fewer luxury.

WATCHESPEDIA: Having time. That’s the greatest – well, it has been a great pleasure, Mr. Voutilainen. Thank you.

Kari Voutilainen: Thank you very much.

WATCHESPEDIA: Thank you for sparking even more interest in your work.