One of the more interesting releases this Baselworld from the Independents is the new Voutilainen 28 Ti aka “Inverse”. The watch is an re-interpretation of the venerable Vingt-8 by flipping the movement inside out…or front to back…but its more complicated than that. Details in this review.
The Voutilainen Vingt-8 is the base movement which has become a workhorse in the Voutilainen family. The Vingt-8 first appeared in 2011. It is a basic 3 hand watch, very classical, with a huge balance wheel. The escapement is a direct double impulse system. It has seen multiple (countless?) dial variations, culmilating in the curious Vingt-8 ISO and its very non-intuitive way of reading the time. What other variations is there? Well, flip the watch from front to back. Fresh new look. Fresh new watch. This has been done before. Witness the Glashütte Original Pano-Inverse. Or perhaps the Breguet La Tradition (a non-tourbillon version also exist). But we are getting ahead of ourselves, divulging the Competitive Landscape.
Voutilainen 28 Ti “Inverse”
For movement lovers, who form the bulk of Kari Voutilainen’s ardent followers, the back or the business side as we call it, of the watch draws much, perhaps more fascination than the creative Voutilainen dials. “I would wear the watch backwards”, is often the cry of those who are afflicted. And in the 28 Ti, Kari gives us just that.
But the process is not as simple as just reversing the straps, but much more involved. This is Kari Voutilainen we are talking about. Its about making it right. So he went about to make the changes. The basic principle is to open up the movement front and back. And to relocate the hour and minute hands to the other side.
As a result, the entire movement is redesigned, and now comprise of 269 components compared to 140+ in the standrd version. Of these more than 40 are new.
The case, dial and hands
But to do this, he had to change the direction of rotation of the hour and minute hands. This required additional wheels, and subsequently two additional bridges. He also had to change the aesthetics of the plates to eliminate visible pins and the insertion holes. These are ok on the main plate seen only from the case back. But on the dial side, it will be visually too busy.
The case remains the classical Voutilainen case used in earlier editions of the Vingt-8 measuring an almost perfect 39mm x 13.40mm thick. The case is in titanium and comes with the soldered ‘teardrop” lugs so loved by collectors. And is manufactured in house.
The hands also remain unchanged, and made in white gold. Voutilainen makes them in his atelier in Môtiers.
Other than the musical chairs game played with the moving of the hands and for the aesthetics of flipping the movement, the engine of the 28 Ti remains much the same. Same wheel train as the regular Vingt-8.
The balance spring system is also unchanged, but it is already quite special. The spring uses a typical Phillips overcoil but with an internal curve known as the Grossmann curve.
The escapement is a direct impulse system using two escape wheels, a development of a system first seen possibly in the Derek Platt Double-Wheel Remontoir Tourbillon. The system is rather elegant, as the escapement wheels give direct impulse to the balance through the impulse roller and jewel. This escapement is more efficient than the traditional Swiss Anchor and as a result requires less energy. The benefit being longevity and stability in daily usage.
As is usual in a Voutilainen, the execution is fautless. Movement finishing, both sides, are exceptional. We are already much in love with the highly polished conical shaped balance bridge. And all the haute horlogerie finishes are address to the highest levels. The surfaces of the pinions and wheels are completely flat and highly polished. The finnisage is done by hand.
The Competitive Landscape
As eluded in the starting paragraphs of this review, the two most immediate competition which come to mind are from Glashütte Original and Breguet.
The Glashütte Original Panoinverse is perhaps the closest. The Caliber 66 used is a new development, and not an adaptation from an existing caliber. It has the time – hours and minutes on a sub-dial, with a small seconds sub-dial. And the entire escapement is visible through a cut-out on the dial side. The Panoinverse uses the GO double balance cock system, where the first used for regulation of anchor asymmetry by adjusting the stud holder which moves the impulse pins so that it is centered in the anchor fork. And the second on the right is a regulation device. Both are beautifully decorated by hand engraving.
The Breguet La Tradition is in a similar vein, but this watch exposes the entire wheel train from the dial side. Two versions are offered by Breguet, one with a tourbillon and a fusée chain system. And the other has no additional complication. We have two full reviews of the tourbillon version.
The Voutilainen 28 Ti, which we nicknamed “Inverse” during our Live from Baselworld coverage is certainly one of the more visually captivating watches from this year. And being a Voutilainen, the process of inverting the movement is done correctly. With proper modifications to ensure excellent functions. The only small complaint we have on the 28 Ti is that the seconds hand is now flipped to the case back, and we think its not much useful there.