Piece Unique Voutilainen L’Esprit du Bois Decimal Repeater
In the early days when Kari Voutilainen had just branched out from restoration work to making his eponymous brand, the Decimal Repeater was one of his signature complications; he invented it. Where a normal minute repeater will chime low for hours, sequence tones for quarters, and then a high pitch for minutes after the quarter, Kari’s more intuitive system chimes low for hours, 1 sequence tone for each 10 minutes, and then high for the additional minutes. This means you hear the precise time; 12:47 has 12 rings, followed by 4, then 7. Despite being somewhat known for them, Kari only produced one every so often. They’re not exactly easy to make, intelligent singing mechanical devices. In total, there are thought to be fewer than 24 examples.
This is a piece unique, named L’Esprit du Bois or Spirit of the Forest. It sports an unusually imposing (for Voutilainen) 43mm white gold case with an officer’s back. The dial sports three distinct guilloché styles with a GMT day/night indication and observatoire handset. Notable, the caseback has been engraved and enameled by artist Eddy Jaquet to represent the seven Pleiades, daughters of Atlas in Greek mythology. This example comes from the earlier years, 2012, when the movement was less elaborately modified with proprietary tech, but finished with the same expert eye that wooed critics and brought comparison to Dufour in media. Not that there was much media in 2012. I remember. It’s not just that Voutilainen wasn’t firmly established in 2012, independent watchmaking wasn’t really even a name. It is a brave, dedicated soul who toils endlessly for perfection in a domain no one is watching.
Now here’s where I go off the deep end again. Have you ever spent any amount of time learning about bees? Hear me out. Bees can sense Earth’s magnetism through their abdomen. If an invading hornet attacks they’ll swarm into a ball automatically and roast them to death. They perceive time, and when flown around the world will still behave according to home time. Darwin couldn’t explain their self-sacrificial tendencies. Only after DNA was discovered did science prove that they transfer more genetic code by ensuring queen survival than breeding themselves. They’re alien and no one understands how bees work. Minute or decimal repeaters are the bees of horology. As far as watchmaking mortals are concerned, they’re a black box. Magic happens, then noise. But they’re more magnificent for the mystery, arguably watchmaking’s most impressively intricate complication. If I could totally compute how one worked, it might actually be less special. Just like bees, I just want to have the spoon of honey. And damn this piece unique is sweet.
There’s little to note on condition here. I’m struggling to see a hairline on the case in the imagery. I’m sure it’s been worn, but very delicately. It comes with warranty papers, literature, and box from Phillips online retail presence.