Timekeeping was once a domain dedicated to the pursuit of accuracy, and to this end, so-called ‘observatory watches’ were created. These watches possessed exceptional accuracy concerning all the important technical areas of movement functionality; however visual finishing was of secondary importance.
The surfaces of pinions and wheels were completely true and highly polished with exceptionally accurate tolerances; balance and winding springs were pre-tested and hand chosen, the dimensions of shafts, bearings and pivots perfectly realized. Watches such as these, created solely for accuracy and nothing else, are capable of a mean accuracy of only tenths of a second per day in test conditions, something virtually unheard of even in 21st century mechanical watch making.
Observatory watches were in general never offered for sale to the general public since they were destined solely for timing trials, a gesture of competitive spirit amongst watch companies jousting to prove their individual merit through the attainment of the greatest possible accuracy.
After the introduction of so-called ‘high-beat’ mechanical movements followed by the perfection of electronic, quartz based timekeeping during the1970’s, the culture of official observatory testing declined and slowly died out. This was replaced by a method of electronic batch testing uncased movements en masse as a method of quality control for large production numbers. With ever-larger amounts of movements being offered for testing each year, an institution called COSC was created to handle the chronometric measurement of movements in large quantities.
The resurrection of the Observatory Timekeeper
As chance would have it, Kari Voutilainen stroke of luck and found several Peseux caliber observatory movements that had never been finished since their initial production. After closely examining them, he made the decisions to a very limited series of wristwatches using these remarkable calibers. Each movement has been taken completely apart, technically adjusted and tested before being hand finished with anglage and perlage to bring it to the highest levels of visual and technical perfection possible. After this work is completed, each watch is foreseen with a finely turned dial, casework and hands in the distinctive style of the Voutilainen workshop.
Grossmann internal curvature of the balance spring
Benefiting such exceptional and historic calibers, Kari Voutilainen decided to use a very rare and unique system of balance spring curvature in their final production. In this special system the exterior trajectory of the spring uses a hand set Breguet over coil as found in the finest watches, whilst the equally important internal curve uses the little known Grossmann curve. Grossmann codified a technique that gives the same amount of attention to the internal curvature of the balance as to the external over coil. Virtually unknown and fallen into disuse, the OBSERVATOIRE wristwatch marks the first use of the Grossmann curve in the 21st century, underlining the fact that many of the present day.
Besancon Observatory restarts chronometer certification in 2007
With this exceptional quality and historical background in mind, it came about that a chance meeting, between clients of Kari Voutilainen’s and Mr. Francoise Meyer of the Besancon Observatory, in April 2007, led to a request if the watch created for him could be submitted for chronometric testing by the observatory. After considering the special character of the watch and what it shares with the history of the observatory, a perfect moment was revealed to initiate the rebirth of chronometric certification at the Besancon observatory, which since the end of the 11970’s had concentrated mainly on scientific activities. Kari Voutilainen’s watch was the very first to be certified in this manner since the observatory ceased their regular issuing of chronometer certificates.
It is perhaps interesting to note that the Besancon certificate differs from COSC testing in that the entire watch assembly, including the case, is tested, not just the movement alone. This means that the complete watch in its final form as sold is certified to be a true chronometer. With COSC, although the movement might pass testing, the rest of the watch still needs to be assembled, cased and complication modules added, so there is no official guarantee(beyond perhaps that of the brand) that the finished watch maintains the identical precision it had upon leaving testing.
Grand Prix de Geneve 2007
All this horological activity was quit amazing for the Voutilainen workshop in 2007; yet there was to be a surprise in the store. Out of a pre-selection of 9 watches submitted by major and minor brands for the men’s watches category of the Grand Prix de Geneve, the Kari Voutilainen OBSERVATOIRE wristwatch was chosen as the ultimate laureate. It represents an extraordinary recognition of Kari Voutilainen’s independent workshop as well as his distinctive yet classic visual designs combined with a superlative attention to mechanical details. This prestigious achievement, voted upon by top Swiss watch industry insiders, is a public acknowledgement of horological mastery and a commitment to the creation of exceptional timekeepers.
- Observatory caliber peseux created solely for observatory trails and never commercialized for production. Hand finished with Geneva stripes, anglage and perlage.
- 30mm x 5mm movement.
- Ruby cap jewels for the escapement wheel.
- 19 jewels.
- Free sprung balance wheel with timing screws beating at 18,000 v.p-h.
- Balance diameter 13.3mm with Breguet / Grossman balance spiral.
- 38mm x 10.5mm thick 18-carat gold case and crown.
- Engine turned gold dial, with gold applied numerals and gold hands.
- Hand sewn, crocodile strap with 18-carat gold buckle.
- Hand made wood presentation box with drawer, instructions and certificates