Behind The Lens: Kari Voutilainen Masterpiece Chronograph II In Platinum
Without a doubt, my favorite watch acquisition journey was the opportunity to collaborate with five of my Northern California watch pals in commissioning a customized set of chronographs from master independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen (see more about it in Commissioning A Watch: My Journey With The Kari Voutilainen Masterpiece Chronograph II).
Since the delivery of our watches in early 2013, it’s always been a treat to see one or more of my piece’s sisters, especially as those occasions always coincide with a get-together of some or all of our gang. And over the years I’ve had the chance to borrow a couple of the other bespoke watches for photo sessions but had so far failed to get one of my favorites into my light tent: the black-dialed platinum version owned by a member of our group who now lives in London.
Heart of darkness
Our six-watch series constituted 60 percent of the total run of ten Masterpiece II Chronographs. The other four were all cased in white gold with two-tone grey dials. Among our set there were two pink gold pieces (including mine), one white gold, one in stainless steel for our devotee of lightweight watches, and two in platinum – one with a dark blue dial and the present example in black.
As we worked through the process of generating detailed dial mockups to share with Kari, the buyer of this watch was inspired by the look of the F.P. Journe “Black Label” Chronomètre Souverain already in his collection. You can see the results in some of the details of the finished watch that are unique to this example:
- Of course, the all-black dial
- Printed, rather than applied, hour numerals and indices, all in white
- Bright, silver-colored hands without the blued rings and central disks characteristic of Voutilainen watches
There’s one additional tweak that makes this piece different: can you pick it out in the image below?
In this case, it’s not something that’s added, but rather something removed. Quite unusually for a Voutilainen watch, the traditional “Hand Made” notation was omitted from the bottom section of the dial at the buyer’s request.
On the flip side
There’s nothing omitted on the reverse side of this watch, though!
If the front of this watch (with the sole exception of the splash of blue in the moon phase indication) is a study in monochromatic sobriety, the back is a riot of colors and textures. Frosting, brushing, perlage, black polishing, bright bevels, yellow, pink, ruby, and blue – it’s all there.
I for one could spend hours (in fact, I may already have done so) staring at the detail image above and checking out features such as the brilliant mirror polishing of the sinks, the subtle tapering of the frosting as it nears the edges of the plates, the true blackness of the black polishing, the insane shape of the balance cock and stud holder, and the beveled interior edges of the wheels.
An added feast for the eyes is that brilliant blue hairspring with Voutilainen’s characteristic Breguet overcoil and Grossmann inner curve added.
One thing you can’t see, but about which I’ll happily tell you, is how good the pusher feel is on this baby. The chronograph actuation on all of these watches is quite good, but this particular watch seems to have a bit of extra secret sauce as the smooth, progressive resistance from the pushers is just sublime.
To some extent that needs to be credited to the architecture of the chronograph mechanism whose pedigree can be traced to the earlier Valjoux 23, but I know that Voutilainen also did some extensive tuning of the spring shapes and thicknesses on this particular example’s movement – and you can see it too if you look at the profiles of the springs at the left and top left of the image above.
That superb performance does come in part from a sacrifice in the water-resistance of the case at the pusher apertures, but this is the sort of watch that justifies the few extra seconds needed to take it off before doing the washing up, if you ask me.
This movement has depth, too: I couldn’t resist the temptation to lay the watch almost flat and create a focus stack (from 23 source images) of the worm’s-eye view of Caliber 25Q glowing in the darkness.
Photographing the Voutilainen Masterpiece II in platinum
Imagine that you’re trying to photograph a black cow inside of a barn at midnight on a moonless night, you and the cow are both wearing blindfolds, and you’re trying to make sure that you get the color of the cow’s eyes in the shot. Oh, and the cow is wearing a mirrored collar that will shoot out blinding reflections of any light that reaches it.
That’s pretty much how I felt after my first couple of attempts at photographing the dial side of this watch!
I did finally succeed in capturing some solid shots against my favored black background, but also had some fun using a white base and backdrop to capture alternate views – including the image below, which is how I imagine this watch might have appeared in a 1950s product brochure.
Shooting the back was simpler, and in addition to the colorful shots using direct light it proved possible to get some more dramatic images using angled light – including the one below also shot against a lighter background – in which the visual emphasis is on the engraving of the watchmaker’s name.
Since last November’s theft of my Hasselblad X1D I’ve been back to shooting with my old reliable Nikon D810. While I miss the incredible resolving power and color rendering of the Hassy another type of secret sauce in the form of a set of tailored Camera Raw presets has helped a lot with the color and tone performance I’m able to achieve with the Nikon. And I’m now able to intentionally create a variety of looks including lower-key ones.
It’s all about the people!
More than anything, I love this particular watch because seeing it reminds me of my great friend who owns it, the shared experience of our small group of collectors, and the loving labor put into its creation by Kari Voutilainen.
With the passage of time our bonds of friendship have only grown, and I strongly suspect that further adventures of the sort that resulted in our Chronographs will be in our future!
For more information, please visit www.voutilainen.ch/item/masterpiece-chronograph-ii.
Quick Facts Kari Voutilainen Masterpiece Chronograph II
Case: pink gold, white gold, steel, or platinum, 40 mm; one watch with unique officer case back engraved by Eddy Jaquet
Dial: 18-karat gold dial in a variety of color schemes (black, anthracite, silver, blue) with applied or printed indices and printed markings
Movement: manually wound Caliber 25Q with gold or rhodium plating; 55-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds; large date, 30-minute chronograph, moon phase display
Limitation: limited series of 10 watches
Production year: 2013
Price: not disclosed