TORSTI LAINE × REVOLUTION ‘ONE LOVE’
Independent watchmaker Torsti Laine and Revolution create 12 unique timepieces celebrating the power of horology to unite people.
The moment I held my first Torsti Laine watch, I fell in love with it. In some ways, I feel that the understated and under-the-radar Finnish watchmaker has been creating the type of watches that the collector world loves — vintage-inspired designs with incredible attention to detail, like the works of Kikuchi Nakagawa in Japan and Atelier de Chronométrie in Spain — but with more exuberantly expressed dials and at a far more accessible price point. That is to say, Laine’s watches are wonderful 1940s and ’50s-inspired watches with stunning handmade dials and calibers that hark back to the golden age of watchmaking with their massive slow-beating balance wheels and beautiful movement architecture.
I decided to make the pilgrimage to his atelier located in the heart of Le Locle, Switzerland, unassumingly situated on the first floor of a nondescript building. Inside, I found a wonderfully refreshing, incredibly authentic one-man show where Laine creates his watches. Sure, there was something of a mad scientist’s laboratory at his workshop, but that spoke of Laine’s inventiveness and self-reliance.
The Rising Star of Torsti Laine
So who exactly is Torsti Laine? After a brief stint writing and even teaching code programming, he became enamored with watches and enrolled in the famed Kelloseppäkoulu watchmaking school where Kari Voutilainen, too, had received his education. Amusingly, Laine began to supplement his formal education by deciding to build his own clock, which he accomplished in three years.
In 2014, he entered a competition held by A. Lange & Söhne. Fascinated by how the moon appears in different positions around the globe, he submitted an innovative design. It was of a watch with a single pusher that could be used to correct the moonphase so that it was accurate in any position on earth. The project also featured an indicator of the earth’s position as viewed from the moon. This design won him a 10,000-euro prize which he used to purchase his first tools. Following his success at the competition, Laine relocated to Le Locle to live in the epicenter of watchmaking and has operated his own brand since 2016.
Torsti’s initial work focused on chronographs using movements like the Valjoux 22, 23 and 72, and he even made one stunning sector dial pièce unique featuring a vintage Longines 13ZN movement.
Today, Torsti focuses less on chronographs and more on his time-only watches which are offered in two sizes: a 38mm version powered by a Vaucher micro-rotor movement and a 40.5mm version with a manual wind, largely proprietary movement based on a Unitas gear train. These are known respectively as the V38 and the GG3. Incidentally, GG stands for “Gelidus,” a frosted finish reminiscent of the snow in Laine’s native Finland, and “Guilloché,” the engraved decorative pattern he has become famous for.
In character, Laine is a stoic man of few words, though he possesses an intense intellect with an amusingly dry sense of humor. If you haven’t heard of him, then congratulations because you’ve just discovered an individual that I consider to be one of independent watchmaking’s very last best-kept secrets — partly because of his humility, as Laine doesn’t like talking about himself, and partly because his watches aren’t the type that shout at you, but man are they beautiful!
After wandering his watchmaking lair, I gathered my courage and proposed a collaborative series of watches with Laine, who looked back at me and basically said nothing for almost a minute. I started to panic. Had I offended his pure watchmaking sensibilities by proposing a commercial project? Then I realized he was reflecting on the nature of our project.
Laine looked down at the stunning GG3 watch in his hand and said, “I like the fact that Revolution is present in three major parts of the watch collecting world, the United States/Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Maybe we could make a watch that expresses the unity and solidarity that is created by our love for watchmaking.”
The Torsti Laine GG3
I would come to learn that the thing with Laine is, he is almost the Finnish version of a Buddhist monk, meaning that he doesn’t say a lot but when he does, his words are redolent with meaning.
One of the things I’ve always loved best about horology is that it transcends, age, race, religion, gender and nationality. I’ve always thought of watches as the great unifier. I replied to Laine, “How about if we were to create four watches — all united by the same color dial and micro-engraved movement, but each with a unique dial featuring a decorative pattern showcasing your mastery in guilloché à main? Then we will make these same four watches with Breguet (Western Arabic) numerals, Chinese numerals and Eastern Arabic numerals to pay tribute to the three languages that we at Revolution create our content in? Meaning that we will have a total of 12 pièce unique timepieces that are meant to be symbols of unity and solidarity, watches that remind collectors of the international appeal of horology and its capacity to bring people together. In fact, I have the perfect name for our timepiece — the Torsti Laine “One Love,” based on your 40.5mm in diameter GG3 platform.”
Why the 40.5mm watch? I get it that prevailing tastes have shifted to smaller sizes. But hear me out. It all has to do with the movement. The V38 is a spectacular watch from a size perspective, but the movement is a relatively straightforward execution of the Vaucher micro-rotor movement used by several brands, including Parmigiani Fleurier for the fantastic Tonda PF and even the aforementioned Nakagawa for his Murakumo. With the V38 watch, the customization is limited to the micro-rotor which Laine reworks to fantastic effect.
However, the GG3 is a different story. I remember being impressed with Torsti’s GG3 watch already for its sublime and purposeful take on classic ’40s-style chronometers, but turning the case over seriously took my breath away — that’s how beautiful the movement is.
While Laine might start with a relatively pedestrian Unitas 6498 ébauche, to say that he works some serious transubstantiation worthy of King Midas would be something of an understatement. Also, let’s take note that many of the world’s best independent watchmakers use relatively ubiquitous ébauches as the base of their movements. Kari Voutilainen, Ludovic Ballouard, Felix Baumgartner and Michiel Holthinrichs have all depended on the Peseux 7001. And both Richard Habring and Stefan Kudoke rely on the Valjoux 7750. Why? Because these are, first of all, available to them, and secondly, they are tried, tested and highly reliable. The Unitas 6498 is what is called in industry parlance a “workhorse,” meaning that, in the words of the old Energizer Bunny commercials, it “keeps going and going and going….”
Says Laine, “When it comes to a vintage-style chronometer, the Unitas offers all the characteristics that you would expect from the movement architecture. It features a large oversized balance wheel that vibrates at the classical speed of 18,000 vibrations per hour, like the old chronometers of the ’40s and ’50s, a single large barrel with an extremely stable performance, and a three-quarter-plate construction.”
But looking at a standard Unitas ébauche versus Laine’s GG3 movement is like looking at Eliza Doolittle before and after she meets Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady. Or Gigi and Bella Hadid before and after they decided to become supermodels. The point is, starting with the Unitas movement as his base allows Laine to create beautiful watches at an accessible price point.
Torsti Laine: Master of Decorative Techniques
What do I mean by beautiful? OK, hold on to your seats and let’s go through the particulars of Laine’s LA18.1 movement.
To begin with, the entire architecture of the movement is different. Instead of a straightforward three quarter plate, Laine has created a magnificent, sensually curved baseplate which snakes around the ratchet and barrel wheels with the litheness of a belly dancer, and features razor-sharp spear points that are hand beveled and polished to perfection just to showcase his extraordinary ability at finishing. This plate is made by Laine with his own miniature computer numerical control (CNC) machine. Then a custom finish is applied, combining frosting and the best miniature engraving in relief that I’ve seen, using Laine’s very own laser-engraving machine in a room in his atelier, next to where he applies the rose gold galvanic treatment to the plate himself.
For those of you who may have an opportunity to visit Torsti in the house where he works and lives in the center of Le Locle, I urge you to do so. In an era where many are jumping on the independent watchmaking bandwagon, Laine is seriously a wonderfully refreshing one-man show, with an incredible MacGyver-like atelier, which is a testament to his self-reliance, inventiveness, authenticity and autodidactic creativity. When I look at his incredibly efficient yet largely jerry-rigged laser-engraving machine, after carefully placing safety goggles on my face, I couldn’t help but ask how in the hell he’d invented his own laser engraver. He looked at me with a totally straight face and replied, “I read some books.” Classic!
OK, but I digress from the beautiful construction and hand finishing of his movements. Take a look at how all the parts of the baseplate’s complex engraving at the highest level are mirror polished by hand. Look at the beauty of the beveling around the entire plate that, as I’ve explained, forms one of the most complex shapes I’ve come across. Look at the stunning snailing on both his ratchet and barrel wheels. The contrast in reflection between light and dark on these wheels is truly magnificent.
Look at every one of its countersinks holding either a screw or a ruby, they too are polished to stunning effect. Look at the head of each screw and the way it reflects light, or more correctly, doesn’t reflect light at all because it is black polished, the pinnacle of polishing. This technique is also known as “spéculaire” in French, which means polishing a steel part to such perfection that it only reflects light in one direction, producing a “black” effect when the light strikes the surface at a right angle. But not content with this, Torsti also black polishes the click for the barrel as well as the two screw heads that you see underneath the balance wheel.
My favorite part of Laine’s movement, however, are the two bridges — the bridge that retains the escapement wheel and the complementary bridge that retains the balance. There exists a tradition for beautifully finished steel bridges in independent watchmaking. Christian Klings made some very beautiful ones on my friend Mark Cho’s pièce unique, while the Grönefeld Brothers and Petermann Bédat have also used them to ravishing effect. But you don’t normally find this element in an accessibly priced watch like Laine’s. I also love the beautiful and elegant shape of these bridges which feature slim Constantin Brâncuși-like elements. Being positioned close to the rubies retaining the balance staff and escape wheel staff, the bridges feature pointed wing-like shoulders, which to me makes them look like birds in flight.
A Paean for Peace
When it came time to design the relief engraving, Laine and I decided to push his laser-engraving machine to the outer edges of its capability. He explained to me, “Since our watch is about unity and respecting different cultures, why don’t we try engraving the word ‘Peace’ in as many languages as we can fit on the baseplate?”
After a lengthy design process arranging each of these words to the best aesthetic effect, we managed to fit “Peace” in 70 different languages on the movement’s baseplate. It was only when I saw the final effect that I realized it reminded me a little bit of the secret engraving used on the Greubel Forsey Invention Piece watches, though I suppose that association can only be a positive one. As a surprise, Laine also added a tiny peace symbol and a dove of peace tucked into a roof shaped section of the baseplate beside the barrel and ratchet wheels.
What was truly impressive was that once this spectacle of micro-engraving was completed and we were satisfied with the sharpness and clarity of each word under magnification with a watchmaker’s loupe, Laine set about the process of linear graining each “Peace” so that it stood out in fantastic shimmering contrast to the baseplate’s frosted finish. The end result is something that to me resonates with positivity and unity.
Each Torsti Laine × Revolution “Chronometer One Love” watch has the same steel 40.5mm × 11.3mm case, and features a domed sapphire crystal as well as a lug width of 20mm. All four executions of the dials will be rendered in Torsti’s absolutely stunning shade of purple. Why purple? Because it represents strength, power, positivity and love. It is also the color of transformation. The four different watches offered are as follows:
Chronometer One Love with Double Guilloché À Main Dial: Both the outer and center sections are decorated with Flamme guilloché. The seconds section is decorated with Clous de Paris guilloché. Priced at CHF 11,000 each, excluding taxes
Chronometer One Love with Triple Guilloché À Main Dial: The outer section is decorated with horizontal Panier (a basketweave pattern) guilloché. The center section is decorated with Flamme (a twisting sunray pattern) guilloché. The seconds section is decorated with Clous de Paris guilloché. Priced at CHF 11,000 each, excluding taxes
Chronometer One Love with Two-Tone Meteorite and Frosted Dial: The outer section has a frosted finish. Both the center and seconds sections are in meteorite, rhodium plated for color. Priced at CHF 11,800 each, excluding taxes
Chronometer One Love with Double Guilloche and Frosted Dial: The center section is decorated with panier guilloché and paired with Chinese numerals, flamme guilloche paired Eastern Arabic numerals or grain de ritz guilloche paired with Breguet numerals; the outer section has a frosted finish. Priced at CHF 11,800 each, excluding taxes
The first three dial executions are available with white rhodium Breguet, Chinese or Eastern Arabic numerals. Together with the three one-of-a-kind guilloche-and-frosted dial execution, our One Love project comprises a series of 12 pièce unique timepieces.
The Torsti Laine × Revolution “One Love” is available to the public for purchase on RevolutionWatch.com on 04 October 2023, 10pm SGT/ 4pm CET/ 10am EST. For enquiries, email [email protected]
Movement: Manual winding caliber LA18.1, based on Unitas 6498-1; 46-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes and small seconds
Case: 40.5mm; stainless steel; water resistant to 30m
Dial: Four executions in 12 examples featuring variously triple and double guilloché (Panier, Flamme, Clous de Paris), meteorite center with frosted outer, and guilloche center with frosted outer
Strap: Leather with stainless steel pin buckle
Price: CHF 11,000 / CHF 11,800 excluding taxes
Availability: 12 unique pieces
FEATURED FROM ARTICLE
|Movement||Manual winding caliber LA18.1, based on Unitas 6498-1; 46-hour power reserve|
|Functions||Hours, minutes and small seconds|
|Case||40.5mm; stainless steel; water resistant to 30m|
|Dial||Four executions in 12 examples featuring variously triple and double guilloché (Panier, Flamme, Clous de Paris), meteorite center with frosted outer, and guilloche center with frosted outer|
|Strap||Leather with stainless steel pin buckle|
|Limited Edition||12 unique pieces|