Here’s a report from an interesting event I attended last wednesday:
The Finnish Watchmaker’s Association organizes monthly meetings which are open to all watchmakers, professionals, collectors and enthusiasts as well. Occasions usually include lectures about themes like dive watches and their servicing, visits to watchmaker’s school, importers’ presentations of various brands, etc. I haven’t attended these meetings before, but now I decided to make a two hour drive to capital region in order to see and hear evening’s guest, which happened to be no other than independent watchmaker Stepan Sarpaneva.
I arrived early enough to make a short visit to Finnish museum of horology (Suomen Kellomuseo), which is located just few hundred meters from the association’s premises. Exhibition is fairly small, but it has no entrance fee and it’s anyway always worth a visit. After a quick tour I headed for the association’s clubroom which started to get full while the showtime was getting closer, all seats were already taken and many attendees had to stand. Audience was so big that some even had to follow Stepan’s presentation from the hallway.
The evening was extremely interesting. Sarpaneva started the show with a biography and told about his background, how he got into watches and landed in Finnish watchmaker’s school. After that followed WOSTEP-training in Switzerland and working for companies like Piaget, Parmigiani (with Kari Voutilainen), Vianney Halter and Christophe Claret. Finally this lead to founding his own company in 2003. We heard the stories behind his watches, models, names and design elements. For instance Stepan showed how a Harley-Davidson kickstart pinion gave influence to Supernova case shape, and how iron gratings on a pavement insipred creating a perforated dial for Korona watches.
After Sarpaneva signature watches Stepan told also about his other brand, more affordable S.U.F watches and the ideas that brought them into being. Komentaja (Commander) model is about how a watch and time itself commands people to obey their schedule; to be in time at work, meetings, home for dinner, etc. Paroni model (Baron) was inspired by early 70’s world champion TT-motorcyclist Jarno Saarinen, who tragically died in a race crash in Autodromo Nazionale Monza in 1973. The new Myrsky (Storm) model is a pilot watch named after a fighter plane designed and built in Finland during WWII. All S.U.F watches are related to things in Finnish history, and according to Stepan, have elements of stubborness and resilience in them. Existing models have connections to air and land, and he reveiled that something related to sea might be in the pipeline someday.
It was an excellent opportunity to hear stories and experiences of an independent watchmaker, how he sees the design element in watches and what is his approach to movements and complications. His emphasis looks to be rather in the appearance and "wow-factor" of the watch, than in the small details and ”in-houseness” of the movements. His complications seem to be a necessary way to reach the desired effect, not something done for the sake of showing off his competence and raising the price. Some might wonder his use of Soprod movements, but Stepan designs and makes heavy modifications to them. Some of his developements have raised interest in movement manufacturers and other watch brands as well, but he has decided the keep the innovations in his own use. My favourite contemporary brand is Nomos Gashutte with its’ austere designs and developments of in-house manufacturing capabilities, and to me Sarpaneva seems to be in the exact opposite end of the spectrum. From this perspective his creations appeared very refreshing to me, and my respect for him was raised to the nth power.
In the end Stepan gave the audience some watches to see in person, a couple of Sarpanevas and a few S.U.F watches and prototypes. Korona K3 Northern Stars had amazing shiny blue dial with pierced constellations, but my favourite was his first dive watch Korona K0. Rest of the evening was free chatting with Stepan, he seemed to be a very nice fellow and had a good sense of humour. There were about 70 watch fans present and I happend to meet at least one other WUS member. Jef83 spotted my watch and we recognised each other from our El Primeros. It was nice to see him live, and chat with other collectors too. A big difference from my normal daily life when nobody else seems to care about fine watches. Next to me was sitting a young man with a nice Hamilton Khaki on his wrist, he told me he had just started his studies at watchmaking school only two weeks ago. Maybe someday he will follow the footsteps of Sarpaneva and Voutilainen.
And now some pics:
The artist himself leading the show.
Who other would name his watch ”Moonshine”?
The place was totally packed.
Some Sarpaneva advertising material up for grabs.
A range of S.U.F watches and Korona K0 on the right.
S.U.F Paroni prototype with a printed paper dial.
S.U.F Myrsky pilot watch.
Another S.U.F Myrsky.
Sarpaneva Korona K3 Northern Stars in gold case.
Movement and rotor of Korona K3 Northern Stars.
Some decoration on the premises.
More items on display.
A great evening and event indeed, many thanks to organisers!
Some better pictures can be seen at Joona Vuorenpää’s site Kellomies (The watch man), texts are only in Finnish.
In the end there’s a list of all watches worn on participants wrists.
Sarpaneva otti haltuun tilan ja tunnelman | Kellomies
A brief report at Finnish watchmaker’s association’s site, also in Finnish.
Suomen Kelloseppäliitto ry
More info about Sarpaneva Watches at his homepage.
Sarpaneva Watches - Home
Read about the oddball world of Stepan Sarpaneva.
ISSUU - The Oddball World of Stepan Sarpaneva by Sarpaneva Watches
Sarpaneva Uhren Fabrik S.U.F -site is still under construction.
SarpanevaUhrenFabrik - S.U.F Helsinki