The Roma Synergy is a product of two important names in the world of high horology: Schwarz Etienne and Kari Voutilainen. It’s a partnership between two leaders in distinct facets of the watch industry. Kari Voutilainen has earned a sterling reputation as a master of hand-finishing techniques, and he also creates dials that showcase a bevy of guilloché, enameling, and other techniques. He plays with color in a way that certainly has roots in traditional Swiss high horology, but adds something new to the conversation. While Schwarz Etienne might not be quite as visible as Voutilainen, it’s a powerhouse in the industry behind the scenes. The company, over a century old, produces cutting-edge calibers both for its own watches, and others, like rising star MING.
The Roma is a staple dress watch in Schwarz Etienne’s line-up that serves as the canvas for Voutilainen to apply his craft. Sized at a modest 39mm, the stainless steel case handsomely fits under a cuff with a height of 11mm. Inside is Schwarz Etienne’s caliber ASE 200.00, featuring small seconds and a micro-rotor, something the manufacturer has come to specialize in. The micro-rotor sits flush with the movement plate, while still allowing a full 86-hour power reserve and a thin size.
Another interesting aspect of this particular micro-rotor movement that lends itself well to showcasing finishing is that it’s basically almost a full-plate movement, so there’s lots of real estate. The micro-rotor is decorated by Les Ateliers Kari Voutilainen, along with snailing and diamond drops on the ratchet wheel (the large visible wheel next to the micro-rotor). Additionally, the bridges are hand beveled. Black polished steel parts tie together the finishing. Black polishing is achieved by applying diamond paste on a tin plate and then, by hand, taking the part being finished and rubbing it on the tin plate until a mirror finish is achieved.
On the dial side, Voutilainen’s signature guilloché is on full display. Part of the magic of the design is the way in which various rose-engine-turned patterns play with each other in a way that creates interesting contrast and depth. The Roma Synergy comes in two dial colors: ocean blue and sand grey. Every dial is treated to a number of contrasting finishes by hand on a rose-engine machine. A soleil (sun) pattern in the hour track frames the écaille de poisson (fish scale) pattern that constitutes most of the dial except for the small seconds, which is treated to a vague (wave) pattern.
The Schwarz Etienne name appears on a cartouche just below noon, while a silver plaque at six o’clock points to Voutilainen’s role in the creation of this piece, of which 50 examples total will be made.
It seemed like there wasn’t a span longer than 30 minutes at the 2019 GPHG awards ceremony when Kari Voutilainen wasn’t walking up to the stage to snag another award. And the Roma Synergy is exactly the type of watch that demonstrates why the community finds his work so exciting and refreshing. A signature aesthetic has come to define Voutilainen’s work; it’s a style that began when he started at Parmigiani Fleurier. He’s since grown to become a darling of the independent world, sweeping the awards ceremonies. A Finn who relocated to Switzerland a number of decades ago, he’s quiet, humble, and reserved in person – he lets his work speak for him. At a lunch with him and his daughter, Venla Voutilainen, a horological force in her own right, Kari told me that he gets a great deal of excitement and satisfaction from collaborating with customers and other watchmakers on designs. When I saw the Roma Synergy release, I immediately thought about how exciting of a project this must have been. There’s a certain positivity about Voutilainen that’s infectious. I suspect that’s part of the charm that has spawned his cult following beyond his incredible work.
Collaborations at this level are already something of a rare occurrence, and to see Voutilainen pair up with a manufacturer like Schwarz Etienne is bound to drum up a great deal of interest among a very specific audience. Who knows, maybe he’ll be walking up to snag another award for this very watch come GPHG season.
Brand: Schwarz Etienne
Model: Roma Synergy
Reference Number: WROVMA03SSCUBCLTD-A
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Dial Color: Ocean blue and sand grey
Indexes: Arabic numerals and batons, applied
Water Resistance: 50m
Strap/Bracelet: Leather strap
Caliber: ASE 200.00
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds at six o’clock
Power Reserve: 86 hours
Winding: Micro-roto self-winding
Frequency: 21,600 VPH
Pricing & Availability
Price: CHF 29,500 with Swiss VAT or CHF 27,400 without it.
Availability: Early October
Limited Edition: Limited to 50 pieces total between the two dials variations.
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