Welcome back to an original aBlogtoWatch feature, “My First Grail Watch.” In this series, we ask prominent people in the watch industry about the first timepiece that they lusted after. Today, we’re speaking with Kari Voutilainen, a watchmaker who owns his exclusive brand, Kari Voutilainen.aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): Who are you, and what is your relationship to the watch industry?
Kari Voutilainen: I am first and foremost a watchmaker. I also have a watch company in which we are making our own in-house movements, as well as dials and hands. My production is extremely exclusive and I will keep it this way. My relation is good with watch industry – actually we are part of it – but we are very independent. This is because we don’t have suppliers – we do everything by ourselves.
ABTW: When did your fascination with watches start?
Kari Voutilainen: When I was a child, we had a family friend who had a watch shop, and was also a watchmaker.
ABTW: A great way to be introduced to a wide variety of watches! What was your first grail watch?
Kari Voutilainen: It was a Leijona diver watch, which I got when I was 12 or 13 years old. I would admire the watch during school lessons when things turned a bit boring…
ABTW: What drew you to this particular watch?
Kari Voutilainen: It was a gift from my parents. I, of course, did like the look of it.
ABTW: Is the Leijona still part of your collection?
Kari Voutilainen: I never sell my watches which are personal.
ABTW: Since then, have there been any other grail watches for you?
Kari Voutilainen: I think one of the most beautiful watches today is Urban Jürgensen perpetual calendar in rose gold. I had been dreaming about it, and I was able to purchase it as a gift to myself on my 50th birthday.
ABTW: It seems you have had some great fortune getting your grails. Have there ever been any that slipped away?
Kari Voutilainen: I have missed two watches. The first was 20 years ago when I was on a summer holiday. While on the trip, I found a beautiful marine chronometer, which I bought. A few days later, I accidentally went in to antique shop and they had a very rare tourbillon demonstration model from Glasshütte watchmaking school, dating from the early 1900s. So, I bought that one as well! Then the seller told there is one similar one in another shop, which I went to see.
As I was completely broke after these two purchases, I decided to decline the purchase because my travel budget was ruined. This escapement model had been lying in the shop for years, and I kept thinking about it, even after I was back at home. I ended up changing my mind and called to the shop, but it had been sold the day after my visit. So now, If I find something, I won’t let it go. This is still bothering me after all these years.
The second watch, that happened 15 years ago. It was a stunning Breguet marine chronometer. The balance staff was broken, and the repairs would have been rather expensive. So, the owner asked whether I would be interested! Of course, I would be, but I had just bought machines for my workshop, and just did not have the money. If this happened today, I would go to the bank!