Today, we are in Montecito, California, for the unveiling of a collaboration from two brands we didn’t necessarily predict would collaborate – but maybe we should have? Louis Vuitton Watches, spearheaded by Jean Arnault, and Rexhep Rexhepi’s Akrivia have come together to create a profoundly complicated timepiece that fuses the sensibilities (in both style and watchmaking tenets) of both houses in a truly fascinating way. Feast your eyes on the LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie. It’s a first-of-its-kind timepiece – in some ways – and it aligns with Arnault’s vision of a revamped LV watchmaking outfit. And if you’re going to share a watch dial with another name, who better than the most well-known young independent watchmaker on the planet? We know Rexhep from watches like the Chronomètre Contemporaine or his bolder designs through Akrivia. I have been to his workshop in the old town of Geneva on more than one occasion and am constantly blown away by what he is able to accomplish from this space, with a relatively small footprint. It’s pure modern watchmaking that doesn’t turn a blind eye to the history of horology. It’s about detail, and it’s about precision. It’s why he brought in someone like Jean-Pierre Hagmann – the famed casemaker – to make the cases for his creations (more on that soon enough).
On the other side of the coin, there’s Jean Arnault and his recent leadership of Louis Vuitton watches and Le Fabrique du Temps (where the brand’s watches are manufactured). Just a few months ago, we witnessed Arnault’s first significant move as Director of Watches with the launch of the revamped Tambour in integrated bracelet form. That watch is now the centerpiece of the LV collection. I had a chance to spend time with him earlier this year when we sat down for an episode of Talking Watches, and to say that he was excited for what the future had in store would be an understatement. I now realize that he had the Tambour ready to roll, as well as this brand-new and truly wild collaboration with Rexhep. So what is the LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie? Well, much of it is right there in the name: Louis Vuitton, Rexhep Rexhepi, number one, chronograph, sonnerie. But – of course – it’s far more complicated than that (literally), and the details are where this thing sings (also literally).
Let’s begin with the aesthetic cues before diving deep into the mechanics. This is a watch with two dials, one which you can see when you wear it on your wrist and the other only visible when you take the piece off. The front side reveals a tinted sapphire dial, giving life to the movement inside. This side of the watch is signed Akrivia only, but it’s not as simple as that. Look closer, and you will notice that the “v” in Akrivia takes the form of the iconic LV emblem. This might seem like a small detail, but it’s a big deal. This is the first time the famed LV logo has been combined with another brand’s logo… ever. Turn the watch over, and you’re met with a white grand feu enamel dial done in a far more traditional execution that speaks to the history of the Louis Vuitton brand – whereas the front side evokes the contemporary nature of Akrivia.
What this watch is, however, is a double-faced chronograph with a chiming complication, powered by a completely new tourbillon movement developed from scratch by Rexhep Rexhepi, in a redesigned Louis Vuitton Tambour case crafted by Hagmann. The front translucent dial features six gold cubes filled with translucent fired enamel, utilizing a technique similar to stained glass known as plique-à-jour. This is also a subtle homage to the Louis Vuitton Spin Time jumping-hours display. Then there’s the tourbillon, which completes its revolution every five minutes. The chiming function for the sonnerie sounds off for each minute of elapsed time when the chronograph function is engaged. LV and Akrivia believe this to be the first time a sonnerie mechanism in a chronograph for elapsed time has been effectuated in a wristwatch, which makes this release all the more interesting. Of course, this brings to mind the Chrono Chime from Omega, released last year. Here’s a watch at a similar price point that also technically chimes elapsed time, but in a different way than the LV x Akrivia. With the Omega, you activate the chronograph function, stop it, and initiate a chime pusher, which then audibly indicates how much time has elapsed in total (plus you’re able to view time elapsing on the dial). With the LVRR-01, the chronograph dial is hidden from view when worn. When you initiate the chronograph function, the sonnerie mechanism will sound for each minute of elapsed time on a running basis. It is a feat that requires a ton of energy from a watchmaking standpoint and is a truly unique proposition.
There is a reason that the brands chose to come together for this watch, and the thinking points to the history of each brand’s watchmaking endeavors. The very first Akrivia watch, the AK-01, incorporated both a chronograph and tourbillon. The first complicated Louis Vuitton watch, the Tambour LV277, was a chronograph, and its first “haute horlogerie” complication was the tourbillon. Together, they have taken this backstory and turned it into a single watch and a horological first. The creation of the new bespoke movement inside this piece required some problem-solving to allow the exhibition dial to reach maximum effect. The LVRR-01 is inverted, with the chronograph and chiming mechanisms visible on the front, allowing the movement architecture to be visible when peering into the dial. Each component of the movement features finishing such as anglage and black polishing. The dial features six gold cubes filled with translucent fired enamel and represents a nod to the LV Spin Time’s jumping-hours display.
Moving, once again, to the backside of the case, all chronograph functions (start, stop, and reset) are controlled by the pusher at two o’clock. Each passing minute is then marked with the aforementioned chime, which is produced by a black-polished steel hammer striking a tempered steel gong. So we know the complication is, by all accounts, marvelous – but how was it done? The answer is twin barrels, where one powers the timekeeping and the chronograph, while the second powers the chime – sort of. Rexhepi made it so that the second barrel is also linked to the gear train.
According to the press release for the watch, “once the chronograph is activated and the central mobile is released by the hammer, the rotation from the second barrel is no longer blocked. Energy is thus supplied to the base gear when the chronograph and striking mechanism are running, ensuring that the complications have sufficient energy to function properly without disturbing the movement.”
The brands describe the watch’s function and accuracy, noting, “the sonnerie and second barrel are linked to a secondary escapement featuring jeweled pallets. This escapement releases the energy of the second barrel cyclically, ensuring the sonnerie strikes precisely and regularly.” The fact that Rexhep and Louis Vuitton intersected in this way is nothing short of amazing. It is the pairing of a true independent innovator with one of the largest luxury houses known to humankind. This meeting of the minds has produced a truly limited timepiece (only 10 will be made), but one that also represents more than the object itself.
The proceeds of this release all go toward the Louis Vuitton Watch Prize, and one must imagine that the funds Rexhepi will see from this launch will assist in the realization of his future creations. But in all this talk, I haven’t tackled two of our favorite categories: price and size.