Discover more from ScrewDownCrown
SDC Weekly 17; Akrivia & Louis Vuitton, explained.
If Thierry Stern won’t sell Patek Philippe to LVMH, Arnault will make his own!
👋 Hello again,
We’re 12 hours early, and that’s because I didn’t feel like waiting until tomorrow! Thank you for subscribing to SDC Weekly - please find the older editions of SDC Weekly here.
Quick story before we crack on… this week I met an old friend who I have not seen in over 20 years. The reason this friend is worth mentioning here, is he is one of the two lads who invented my nickname “Flum” back in the year 1999/2000, I can’t recall exactly. The best part about recollecting this story is that he actually forgot his role in the whole thing! He was in London, and was wearing an appropriate London-safe watch… and of course, I had forgotten to change the date after September ended. Go figure!
Ok, enough of the small talk… LFG.
AkriviA collaborates with LV
On Sunday, Jean Arnault shared the image above, with the caption “October 9th, 2023.”
Initially, I shared a wild guess that LV had somehow secured a minority equity stake in AkriviA in the same way that Chanel had done with F.P. Journe and others. I later discovered from several other sources, this was not the case at all.
On the 9th of October, LV will reveal a double-sided chronograph, limited to 10 pieces. It will expose the watch’s inner workings on one side, with a white enamel dial on the other. Other sources suggest it will also be a minute repeater, and aesthetically, be inspired by the old Monterrey pieces from LV, where everything is read from the center. I had the opportunity to speak to Rexhep himself, but he obviously could not confirm any of this prior to the announcement.
The collaboration with AkriviA is the first - but there will be many more.
I understand the movement will be supplied by AkriviA and allocations will be made by LV exclusively. Some of you might know about the chronograph minute repeater made by Hublot:
Food for thought offered from industry veterans … The movement in this Hublot was developed by BNB for Hublot, and LV also has access to La Fabrique du Temps (LFdT) for their high-end watchmaking - through which they may have leftover calibers which can be repurposed and refinished to AkriviA’s standards.
The implication of the above is such a collaboration with no real invention and simply refinishing … would not be too impressive. I have however been reassured, this is NOT the case, and the new LV collaboration watch will be an entirely new movement, developed in-house by AkriviA.
If you take a look at older movements, you can see the similarities for yourself… again, there are of course improvements, upgrades, and finer levels of finishing, but the starting point of architecture is the most difficult part, and this is where huge R&D costs can be avoided by starting from a ‘base caliber’.
The reason this is an important distinction, is because developing an entirely new movement is a major step up for AkriviA. This might explain why the watch is supposedly going to retail for half a million bucks! Fundamentally, most of the watches we see are inevitably connected. In the links section below, there is a link to a post by Brendan Cunningham which adds some colour to this point… but it comes back to the watchmaking system referred to as établissage.
Although the Swiss watch and clock industry started around the 1500’s … it took until the mid 1800’s for watchmaking to become a major industry in Switzerland. The Swiss economic and political landscape, which was tangentially driven by the country's geological landscape, played a role in the watch industry's growth. Unlike other regions like the US or England where industrial production tended to be concentrated in major cities, Switzerland's mountainous geography created separation, which resulted in the industry being less centralised … each canton, and sometimes even individual cities/towns, developed a high degree of self-reliance.
Such disaggregation, led to the development of a production system known as établissage - what this meant, was the production of entire watch was distributed instead of centralised. Various Swiss craftsmen specialised in the production of specific different components (dials, cases, mechanisms, etc). These were then sourced and assembled by the country's watchmakers. This établissage system is credited with providing the foundation for the surge in innovation and sophistication as the Swiss watch industry fended off all the lower-priced competition from watchmakers in other parts of the world.
This is also why Jean-Claude Biver used (invented?) the “in house” argument as a term which would later become synonymous with “quality” (which is BS, I might add). A watch being put together by a skilled watchmaker, using parts sourced from makers who are the best at what they do, can hardly be scoffed at when its being compared to an alternative which might be “fully in-house”, but not necessarily the best possible version of every part. Which would you rather have?
Here, AkriviA is highly regarded as a watchmaking brand, ad Rexhep Rexhepi is highly regarded as the head watchmaker at the brand. So if he’s about to unveil a movement developed in-house, and put it in a watch for LV: that is a big deal.
The big picture
I posit Jean Arnault has a 3-part plan to shift the perception of LV Watches from being “fashion watches made by LV” to “haute horology by LV”. Why? To become a serious player in the watch industry. This is a future where LV are regarded as a genuine horological enthusiast’s consideration, rather than just another LV accessory for LV fans.
In short: If Thierry Stern won’t sell Patek Philippe to LVMH, young Jean will make their own. (Thanks C!)
Part 1: Create a funnel for talent
You may recall Jean Arnault’s first public move at LV watches was to set up their watchmaking prize “for independent creatives.” As part of this process, he assembled a committee of watch experts and aficionados to choose the winners, and Rexhep Rexhepi was one of them (the group, as you will notice, also includes several clowns, some shills, and even a pastry chef, but that’s beside the point).
What better way to start a journey to becoming a haute horology powerhouse, than to lure in all the best current watchmakers with a cash prize, and the offer of ‘support’ through La Fabrique du Temps (LFdT)? Of course, this comes with a promise of independence, and it all sounds really lovey and kosher. In practice? LVMH can throw huge sums of money at the best talent after observing them at work, and with promises of future growth, support for R&D to develop their own calibers for LV watches… this seems like a difficult thing to turn down. Eventually, they will probably hoover up a lot of the modern talent and house them within LFdT.
Part 2: Boost credibility and relevance
Let’s be honest… no matter how much Wei Koh and all the other merry men on Instagram bang on about how amazing the new Tambour is, most people don’t give a sh*t. It is still an LV watch - a fashion accessory, which is overpriced by at least 30%, despite the fact that it comes with a trunk worth 5 grand. Wonderful… but no matter how much Jean explains to the world that they have now reduced production from 1000’s to 100’s… and describes how the design was painstakingly refined, and reiterates how the movement finishing was dutifully considered - this means very little in the grand scheme… for now.
Something more substantial was needed. Introducing… AkriviA. A collaboration with a “serious” watch brand… remember, he isn’t going to take on Patek Phillipe overnight. He will start off as a small independent but work towards becoming a truly recognised brand among serious watch collectors. Doing collaborations with already recognised independent watchmakers will simply become a tool for LV to build recognition.
The collaboration with AkriviA is the first - but there will be many more. Take a look at the GPHG members and jury, and all the people who attend the Revolution parties during Geneva watch days… Jean has had plenty of time to build a network of allies, and the guy seems to be extremely good at it!
Imagine, in 5 years from now you perhaps see a Romain Gauthier, Urwerk or Kari Voutilainen collaboration with LV watches? Yes, they will be highly limited, but don’t forget about LVMH’s corporate marketing power. With just a few watches, the marketing potential is enormous. Generally speaking, nobody in the world has heard of AkriviA (or any of the others apart from maybe, Journe) outside of watch collecting circles. Suddenly, with a collaboration like this, we might just see Jay-Z wearing an AkriviA, right? Can you imagine what this would do for the AkriviA brand? That’s the power of LVMH.
So yeah… In this model of LV’s growth to becoming relevant in the watch world, small independent brands will become recognised as being globally desirable and appealing, as well as representative of “high horology”. Famous people will talk about their new LV collab with some famous independent, and perpetuate the BS they’ve been sold - the finest watchmaking in the world… highly limited and rare… hand finished… polished with a special llama wool… whatever Jay-Z tells all his mates, who knows. But you can bet your a** this is what the masses will start to believe. And that belief, is crucial, it is what creates lasting brand power.
In return, the likes of Rexhep and others who might collaborate early in LV’s journey, get to benefit from the recognition that a global powerhouse like LV looked to them to gain credibility in the right circles. Nothing like a bit of mutual back-scratching; But make no mistake, as of today, the bigger beneficiary in the AkriviA collaboration is LV watches, because the credibility which AkriviA imbues on a watch for ‘serious collectors’ is difficult to replicate.
Part 3: Scale
Over time… maybe LV will have done a few more collaborations with famous independent brands… and they get some global recognition for being associated with the highest echelons of watchmaking. Don’t forget, they have a funnel of talent!
So now, they can use that LVMH war chest to scale up. Patek Philippe is an independent watchmaker too… but they make 80-100k watches per year. They can do that, because everyone believes Patek watches to be worthy of the price, and the brand value is priced in accordingly. LVMH has done this with other luxury goods, so why would you bet against them doing it with watches too?
What watch collectors often forget, is the ‘mass market’ is vastly uninformed about the nuances of the industry, and so we assume the ‘logical’ conclusion for any random person will be an informed one. This is false… marketing works, perception matters, and while it is seemingly preposterous, today, to suggest LVMH will ever catch up to Patek Phillipe… The famous Normal Peale quote comes to mind:
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.”
What’s your take?
📌 Links of interest
🤖 AI is being put to good use, and fast! Here’s a few AI-related links about new developments in the last week.
Spotify’s new voice translation capabilities will make podcasts originally recorded in English, available in other languages while keeping the original speaker’s distinctive speech characteristics!
ChatGPT can now see, hear, and speak! The new voice and image capabilities give the product a more intuitive interface and expands its use cases.
ChatGPT can now search the web in real time. The feature, called Browse with Bing, is only open to those with Plus and Enterprise subscriptions for now, but the company says it will roll it out “to all users soon.”
And a new flavour of Coke … brought to you by AI.
🏠 Brendan Cunningham delves into a report posted by the Swiss Competition Commission, where they investigate whether Nivarox abused its market power.
⏳ Is the physics of time actually changing?
🤩 Enjoy these curated links to the very best documentaries. Pretty epic!
🗣️ Have you heard about the “whom of which” trend?
🏁 The internet’s greatest sport? Wikiracing.
⌚ A Short History of the Smartwatch - by the aforementioned @ghariyaan
💀 Martin Scorsese: “I Have To Find Out Who The Hell I Am.”
If you haven’t already seen it, I shared a new post on Sunday:
The post builds on Part 1 which discussed Social Comparison Orientation, and this post goes deeper into developmental psychology and envy.
Until next time!
Bonus link: Lockheed CL-1201
I thought this was pretty insane. One of the largest planes ever seriously proposed was the Lockheed CL-1201 flying aircraft carrier, with a wingspan of 1120 feet. Note the fighter jet on the left, for scale! The video above has more context about how it was meant to be powered, what fit inside, and how it would be used in battle. Clearly from an era where anything was possible!
Read more about this magnificent aircraft here.
If you enjoyed this post, please do me the HUGE favor of simply clicking the LIKE button below, thank you!