Kari Voutialinen

A Vision Of Authenticity By Kari Voutilainen

Exclusive interview with Kari Voutilainen, who shares with us his optimism in face of todays' pessimistic state of affairs.

By Audrey Humbert

Kari Voutilainen, you agreed to give us this exclusive interview. You rarely speak out. Why did you decide to do so today?

When I look at the events around the world and in the watchmaking industry, I see very little by way of good news. Nothing but dark prospects and negative messages. I wanted to issue a positive message and show that the world is how we build it.

In order to reassure our readers, can you tell us how things are doing at the Atelier Voutilainen?

We're doing well! And we're doing all we can to make sure it stays that way. We're lucky enough to have not only a few loyal customers, but also a number of collectors who are unknown to us and interested in what we do.

Voutilainen Aki No Kure

But if we take a look at the figures, there is a general downwards trend.

Yes, that's the problem. Brands today are focusing very much on figures and have moved away completely from their raison d’être. They no longer direct enough attention to their customers, the big fans of watchmaking and, by the same token, its best ambassadors. Instead, they are offering them technological innovations that are economically attractive, but no longer capturing their imagination as it used to.

Can you cite any examples?

Take silicium, for instance. The technology built around it is not based on the expertise of a particular region, but on a patent, which, when it runs out, could be copied anywhere in the world. Plus, there are two factors that might prevent us from envisaging its continued use in watchmaking: the little-publicised use of glue in the assembly process for silicium parts, which are deemed fragile, and the sustainability of the technology itself. Look at the cylinder escapement, for example, or the more recent tuning-fork. Both technologies took a long time to be developed. But since they aren't used any more, it has become almost impossible to repair timepieces. I'm therefore very surprised to see brands focusing on values that don't seem to lay any foundations for a long-term approach. 

In that case, what do you think about connected watches?

I think they have incredible marketing potential! The iWatch is already posting results that almost rival those of Rolex! I should imagine this might be of some concern to brands in a similar price segment.

Voutilainen Aki No Kure

Given this context, what kind of future is there for Fine Watchmaking?

The watchmaking industry has always been a source of fascination throughout the centuries and I think it will continue to be so. However, I think it's important to share the watchmaker's dream with as many people as possible. Those who try to pull the wool over the customer’s eyes with a lack of transparency are a dying breed. Buyers turn to the watchmaking industry, precisely because they want to hold on to their dreams. Of course, a watch is an outward sign of social status, but it is more closely linked to its wearer than any other object I could mention, for many reasons. The cost of a watch is, in many cases, a secondary, not a primary, purchase motivator. We must respect that fact and continue to cater to the customer's need to dream, if we want to continue seeing the Fine Watchmaking industry prosper.

How do you, yourselves, hope to contribute to this prosperity?

In 2017, we rolled out a new hours and minutes display with the 28ISO model, which has been selected for the Geneva Grand Prix d’Horlogerie (GPHG). The new display shows the hour after a brief focus. We see it as a way of nurturing an intimate connection between wearer and watch. We are also working on a new calibre, for which there will also be a new design. Unfortunately, it's still a bit too soon for us to say anything about it.

All that remains is for us to thank you for your time and wish you good luck for the Geneva Grand Prix d’Horlogerie.

Thank *you* for dropping by! As for the GPHG, it's one of my favourite high spots in the year, because it brings together many of us, watchmakers. We look forward to this gathering every year.

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