The Louis Vuitton x Akrivia LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie proves Louis Vuitton is a safe haven for independent watchmakingZach Blass
- The LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie is Louis Vuitton and Akrivia’s first-ever collaboration for both brands, and the last watch to ever be signed with Akrivia on the dial
- New LVRR-01 calibre developed entirely by Rexhep Rexhepi of Atelier Akrivia
- It is a two-dial chronograph with a chiming complication and five-minute tourbillon – limited to 10 pieces, priced at US$500,000
Normally speaking, an independent watchmaker’s greatest enemy is watchmaking conglomerates. A corporate entity with multiple brands can have red tape, bureaucracy, and the worry and consideration of the other parts (brands) that make up the whole. Independent watchmaking is at its best when it is truly free and uninhibited – put simply – independent. So when Louis Vuitton, a bigger name outside of watchmaking and burgeoning manufacture within, revealed their intention of being a custodian and cultivator of independent watchmaking, there was understandably some scepticism amongst enthusiasts – especially those less familiar with the inner workings of Louis Vuitton watchmaking behind the scenes.
With the purchase and acquisition of high-end movement specialist La Fabrique du Temps in 2011, Louis Vuitton acquired some of the best talent in independent watchmaking – Enrico Barbasini and Michel Navas. Navas, for example, had previously worked for Gérald Genta in the 90s, spent seven years with Patek Philippe developing many of their complicated movements, and also developed the first-ever wristwatch tourbillon for Audemars Piguet. LFDT, prior to its acquisition by LV, had developed high-end movements for Speake-Marin and Laurent Ferrier among many others.
So, being acquired by LVMH, or Louis Vuitton in particular, initially could have been construed as problematic. Even Navas and Barbasini have said in interviews they were initially concerned with how their freedom and engineering creativity may be constrained. To their surprise and delight, however, they were not restricted in any sense – if anything, it was the opposite. This would lead to a variety of high-end creations nobody would have ever expected from Louis Vuitton, the leather goods leader-turned-watchmaker. Highly complicated watches such as the Escale Spin Time and various automaton watches revealed an independent spirit was strong within Louis Vuitton.
A decade after the integration of LFDT into Louis Vuitton, then-23-year-old Jean Arnault ascended to the role of Director of Watches for Louis Vuitton. Jean, who worked within Louis Vuitton prior to his promotion, was a part of the business as this independent spark was a kindling fire within LV. While youth can be seen as a disadvantage in positions of leadership, being a young enthusiast and collector gives him a distinct insight into the marketplace. Rexhep Rexhepi himself remarked to our T+T founder Andrew, who spoke with him at the launch in California, that Jean’s nuanced understanding of the next generation of collectors was a driving factor in his acceptance of the collaboration project. Rexhepi remarked: “If it wasn’t for Jean, I would never be doing this collaboration.” Jean out of the gate proved prowess and understanding with a pivot to clean up the Louis Vuitton catalogue and refocus the future of Louis Vuitton watch novelties. Also, the debut of the new Tambour was indicative of his new vision for the brand as a watchmaker. With the announcement of the Louis Vuitton Watch Prize for Independent Creatives last year, it was clear Jean wanted Louis Vuitton to be a source of long-term support for independent watchmaking within and outside of the Louis Vuitton brand. To do this right requires a balance of involvement and support while also knowing when to be hands-off – a balance the LFDT team appears to advocate.
This has been a long preamble, and if I can summarise one pivotal theme on both sides, it would be trust. Rexhepi trusts Louis Vuitton due to a deep respect for Navas and Barbasini who have both been a wonderful resource for him along his watchmaking journey and his trust in Jean’s next-generation instincts. Louis Vuitton, in turn, displays their trust in Rexhepi’s talent by enlisting him to collaborate on the first of five watches within this series – which will no doubt be followed up with other powerhouses in independent watchmaking. This trust manifests in many significant firsts: Rexhepi’s first-ever collaboration, Louis Vuitton watchmaking’s first-ever collaboration, and the first time Louis Vuitton has ever integrated their monogram into another logo. This trust also leads to a significant last, as this is the last watch that will ever be signed with Akrivia on the dial. Without further ado, let’s dig into the new Louis Vuitton x Akrivia LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie.
Metalwork courtesy of Jean-Pierre Haggman
Rexhepi is not the only esteemed figure of independent watchmaking to have his hand in the finished product. The Louis Vuitton x Akrivia LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie has a 950 platinum case, 39mm in diameter and 12.2mm thick, produced by the legendary case maker Jean-Pierre Hagmann. Over Hagmann’s long career, he has produced cases for many of the most respected watch brands in the world – notably producing minute repeater cases for Patek Philippe that are widely praised for the sound quality they offer for the complication. Hagmann would retire in 2017, but then later come out of retirement in 2019 to join the Akrivia team producing cases for their watches. The Louis Vuitton x Akrivia LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie case bears the collector-coveted “JHP” hallmark on the back of the bottom left lug, just like the famed cases he made for Patek, AP, and others. The shape is a refined and reinterpreted form of the Tambour case and bears an impeccable array of decorations. Largely adorned with a rich brush, just the right amount of edges exhibit a level of fine mirrored beveling expected of Hagmann and the Akrivia team. Even the crown and pusher have hammered frosted centres that are a continuation of an Akrivia signature. It is also worth noting that a JHP-produced and signed ardillon buckle is used on the leather strap.
A new calibre developed entirely by Rexhep Rexhepi
Rexhep Rexhepi is probably most beloved for the level of decoration he is able to achieve in his movements, rivalling titans such as Philippe Dufour. He is far more than just an assembler and decorator, however. The intricate and complex LVRR-01 calibre you are able to see beneath the smoked sapphire dial is entirely of Rexhepi’s design. The highly complex calibre boasts both a five-minute tourbillon and chronograph à sonnerie complications, while also delivering a weekend-proof 72 hours of power reserve. Above the calibre, you will notice dial indications comprised of a 3N gold railroad minute track plus a logo and six gold cubes filled with translucent plique-à-jour fired enamel that alternates with gold hashes to serve as hour indices. The logo is a notable detail, as the letter ‘V’ within the Akrivia name has been transformed into the Louis Vuitton ‘LV’ logo – a merging that marks a first for both brands.
The chronograph indications are not visible from the front of the watch, as the caseback has been turned into a second dial dedicated to the chronograph complication instead. It is a clean and crisp white grand feu enamel dial performed on a palladium-gold base. The colour, font, and overall style of the dial feel very similar to the dials of neo-vintage Louis Vuitton watches such as the Monterey, which has become a cult favourite in recent months due to #watchtok shining a light on the reference. An extending blue hand serves as the central chronograph seconds hand, while a shorter red hand denotes the elapsed minutes on a 60-minute scale. The railroad tracks for each indication are also neatly matched to their corresponding hand. It may seem impractical to have a complication that is not visible while the watch is worn – but the complication is also audible. Sure, you cannot see the second dial while the watch is worn, but as a chronograph à sonnerie, each elapsed minute results in a single striking chime, sounding out the passing minutes,
Hand-painted Louis Vuitton trunk as packaging
As a limited edition of 10 pieces, with a commanding price tag of US$500,000, the ten lucky buyers will be glad to know that the watch is packaged in a custom Louis Vuitton leather trunk designed for this watch. The trunk is adorned not only with the signature Louis Vuitton monogram, but also hand-painted motifs of the chronograph, the Akrivia x LV logo, and the number of the watch. The buckle that closes the trunk, as a little Easter egg, was made by Jean-Pierre Hagmann as well.
With any collaboration, the balance of brand aesthetic cues is always an interesting observation. Are the cues equal? Does one brand dominate over the other? What fascinates me the most about the watch is just how much more subtle the Louis Vuitton signatures are when compared to Akrivia’s. Louis Vuitton is historically known for overt designs on their watches, but here, restraint is exercised. Their balance can be ascertained with a deeper analysis, but on the surface, it feels much more like Akrivia is the primary focus. Firstly, the mainstream would not necessarily recognise the case as a reinterpreted Tambour form. Secondly, the connection of the second dial’s aesthetic to Louis Vuitton creations such as the Monterey is a deep-cut connection only die-hard watch enthusiasts would be able to spot – and it’s not like they’ll be able to spot it often considering its placement. Lastly, the cubic motif that serves as a nod to Louis Vuitton’s Spin Time jumping hours display requires an aficionado level of understanding, and Louis Vuitton even describes the golden accents as a subtle brand signature. Were the dials not co-branded, you could easily think this was a solo outing from Akrivia.
I know this collab has just been announced, but judging from the freedom Louis Vuitton has afforded Rexhepi with the LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie, I am already excited to see what the next collaborations will hold.
Louis Vuitton x Akrivia LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie pricing and availability
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The Louis Vuitton x Akrivia LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie is a limited edition of 10 pieces. Price: US$500,000
|Brand||Louis Vuitton x Akrivia|
|Model||LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie|
|Case Dimensions||39.9mm (D) x 12.2mm (T)|
|Case Material||950 platinum|
|Water Resistance||30 metres|
|Crystal(s)||Sapphire crystal front and back|
|Dial||Front – smoked sapphire with plique-à-jour enamel and 3N gold appliques
Back – grand feu enamel on palladium-gold base
|Strap||Natural calfskin with platinum ardillon buckle|
|Movement||LVRR-01, developed by Rexhep Rexhepi, manually wound|
|Power Reserve||72 hours|
|Functions||Hours, minutes, five-minute tourbillon, chronograph à sonnerie|
|Availability||Limited edition of 10 pieces|