When we think of collaboration watches between companies, it is most often a watch manufacture working with someone outside of the industry. In this way, the watch company gets to keep doing things their way, and have the final say on the design. However, if everyone can set their egos aside, there are some really amazing things that can happen. Case in point, the Schwarz Etienne Roma Synergy by Kari Voutilainen line.
For the Schwarz Etienne Roma Synergy by Kari Voutilainen, we don’t actually have to go back that far. Schwarz Etienne CEO Mauro Egermini first crossed paths with Kari Voutilainen in 2017, at Salon QP in London. After a dinner at that event, they met again in Luxembourg in 2018. Later that year, at Salon QP once again, Egermini broached the idea of the two collaborating on a design.
They started working on it, and determining who would be responsible for which elements. While the dial definitely looks and feels like a Voutilainen design, it clearly started as a Schwarz Etienne, and Egermini actually designed the three guilloché patterns that Voutilainen’s team was responsible for putting on the dial. It was introduced in 2020, immediately selling out the allocation. Since then, additional colors have been introduced, and have brought tremendous growth to Schwarz Etienne.
The dial is the obvious start of the Roma Synergy show. Here, there are three different guilloché patterns contrasting one another, all done on the classic rose engine. There’s a sun pattern on the outer track, fish scale pattern on the majority of the dial, and then a waves pattern utilized in the small seconds subdial. The rounded bezel of the 39mm case allows the eye to focus on the dial, here done in a lovely emerald green. The finishing on the hands and indices allow the focus to remain on the dial, while still maintaining legibility.
Inside the Schwarz Etienne Roma Synergy by Kari Voutilainen beats the ASE 200.0 in-house micro-rotor movement, a particular build that SE has come to be known for since restarting operations back in 2015. With the micro-rotor, that left a large canvas for Voutilainen’s team to work, and there are a number of hand-finished touches that were added to the original movement. Perlage was added to the ratchet wheel, and frosting was the treatment settled on for the microrotor. That left the bridges, which come together to form an ¾-plate look. Here, Voutilainen wanted to hand-guilloché a sunray pattern. To our eyes, this sets off the other finishing to great effect, while bringing visual interest to what could otherwise be plain slabs that would require a loupe to see if anything special was done to chamfer the edges. In short, the movement side of the watch is just as stunning as the dial.
Versus The Competition
Before we get into the competition properly, we have to acknowledge one thing. Even looking at market prices of this watch, it has little in the way of direct competition. With Schwarz Etienne being a more entry-level brand, in relative terms, the watches it competes with below are often two or three times the price, albeit offering greater refinement in some form or fashion.
The first piece we would present as competition also features three regions of guilloché on the dial, albeit all of the same pattern – the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1. If the Schwarz Etienne felt a bit too busy for your tastes with the trio of patterns, the dial here relies on just the wave pattern, while keeping things complex with three different centers for the pattern. While the main plate of the movement may not be as decorated, the hand-engraved balance while certainly be a delight to view.
Then again, what can truly compete against a Voutilainen design but another that sprung from the same mind? The first of two that we’ll present is another collaboration, the Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire Constant Force Kari Voutilainen Dial. That the Grönefeld brothers have created some sublime designs – and movements to power them – is not questioned. And this design, in particular, has quite a tie into the family history and story of this brand that you need to read that article to appreciate. For all the things that the brothers are able to do, the Voutilainen dials that graced 188 of these pieces elevates these rare jewels all the more.
Finally, we’ll present one that is all Kari Voutilainen himself – the Kari Voutilainen Ref. 217QRS Retrograde Date. As we’ve seen, his dials grace a number of different makers, but he’s also producing his own watches (no more than 50 a year). While there are several to choose from, we settled on the 217 because — like the Schwarz Etienne — it has three totally different guilloché patterns on the dial. Along with the pattern variety, we see powerful pops of color (including red at the compass points, blue on the subseconds), Breguet-style hands, and retrograde date indication to help it stand out from staid, classic dress watches. Additionally, flip the watch over, and you’ll be treated to some wonderful finishing on elements of the manually-wound movement.
This watch, more than anything, runs closely akin to the growing phenomenon of top tier watchmakers delivering more approachable offerings through collaboration. It runs in the same circles of Hajime Asaoka’s releases as Kurono Tokyo that use Seiko mechanical calibers, the MAD1 designed by Max Busser of MB&F, or how Sarpaneva has been unveiling Moomin-themed watches under its sister brand SUF Helsinki. This is a watch for those who have a deep appreciation for high horology, but who aren’t necessarily ready to part with six figures in order to acquire one of Kari’s own watches. This segment has been growing rapidly, and the way it has been acting as a gateway into independent watches is great for the hobby.
What more can be said about the Schwarz Etienne Roma Synergy by Kari Voutilainen that we have not already covered? There is one more element to explore. As appreciators and collectors of watches, we understand and cherish what is going on in the design here. To the casual eye, it would be “just another” green watch that you’re wearing. In that way, that humility again shines through.
While it can be an opening to talk about watches with someone not familiar with what has been done, we enjoy that this is more a treasure for the owner. Yes, it would no doubt be the talk of the evening if you brought it to your local watch get-together. At the end of the day, however, the watches you add to your collection are a reflection of your aesthetic and what you value in a design. And for that machine to remind you, every time you wear it, of what humility can accomplish in this tumultuous, over-the-top world? There’s not a price that you can put on that, and something we could all strive to keep on our minds.