Louis Vuitton’s New Watch Created With Independent Horologist Rexhep Rexhepi
Collaborations are ubiquitous in the luxury watch industry. Here’s why the LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie hits different.
What does the world’s biggest luxury group have to do with independent watchmaking?
If a surprising new collaborative timepiece from Louis Vuitton—unveiled on Monday at a private villa in Montecito, Calif.—is any indication, quite a bit, actually.
The flagship brand of the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) luxury goods group has teamed with the Kosovo-born, Geneva-based watchmaker Rexhep Rexhepi, whose Atelier Akrivia has been at the vanguard of independent watchmaking since its founding in 2012, to create the new LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie, a limited edition wristwatch that unites Rexhepi’s technical talent with Louis Vuitton’s aesthetic signatures.
The model comes in a 39.5 mm platinum Tambour case, whose roots go back to 2002 when Louis Vuitton first announced its ambitions in the watch category. Limited to 10 pieces, each priced at about $774,000, the model is a double-faced chronograph with a chiming complication.
“The goal was to do something a little different but still remind you it’s a Tambour,” Rexhepi said during the LVRR-01’s unveiling.
The wristwatch is powered by a new tourbillon movement developed from scratch by Atelier Akrivia, whose signature avant-garde style—evident on the tinted sapphire dial on the front—sits in sharp contrast with the more traditional look and feel associated with Rexhepi’s eponymous collection (as seen on the white grand feu enamel dial on the back).
“What I really love about the watch is it blends the three aesthetics together,” Jean Arnault, director of watches at Louis Vuitton, said at the unveiling. “Three meaning: Akrivia on one side, Rexhep Rexhepi on the other side, and Louis Vuitton with the case.
“And the bracelet, obviously,” Arnault added, referring to the watch’s calfskin strap. “We had to put our savoir faire to work as well.”
The collaboration is so central to the watch that Louis Vuitton did something unprecedented: The brand incorporated its signature “LV” logo into the Akrivia name, the first time it has combined its logo with that of another brand in any product category.
In addition to the watch’s impressive technical C.V.—it’s a precision chronometer equipped with a 5-minute tourbillon regulator, a chronograph function to measure elapsed time as well as a sonnerie mechanism to mark time passing—is the unique packaging that accompanies it.
Delivered in a handpainted trunk made specifically for each example of the LVRR-01, the box features the signatures of Rexhep Rexhepi, Akrivia casemaker Jean-Pierre Hagmann, and Nicolas Doublel, the master enamellist at La Fabrique du Temps, Louis Vuitton’s watch manufacture in Geneva.
Even more impressive, however, is the magnanimous visionary behind the timepiece.
At 24 years old, Arnaut, the youngest of LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault’s five children, is leading the high watchmaking charge at Louis Vuitton. Nearly a year ago, shortly after being named director of the brand’s watch division, Arnault announced a key initiative: the Louis Vuitton Watch Prize for Independent Creatives.
Designed to shine a light on independent watchmakers, the competition just announced its first round of 20 semifinalists, who are in the running for about $247,000 and a yearlong mentorship, similar to the LVMH Prize for fashion design.
Two years in the making, the Akrivia and Louis Vuitton co-creation is the first in a series of five collaborative timepieces Louis Vuitton has planned for the next five years, said Arnault. Together with the prize, whose inaugural recipient is due to be named in 2024, the partnerships are part of a broader effort to ensure that the interest in independent watchmaking, a category Arnault discovered about six years ago, doesn’t fade over the next few decades.
“LV is not a brand that’s going to disappear and hopefully we can use the huge brand name we have to shed a light on that part of the industry, which in my opinion, will move the needle more than the traditional part of the industry, which has very similar product and very little soul,” he said.
He pointed to the Akrivia model displayed behind him. “These products have soul,” he said. “It’s always a human story behind it. We’re not looking at a chart and saying, ‘Oh my God, I’m missing a product between $233,000 and $311,000 so let me do something,’ and many brands work that way, unfortunately.”
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