Louis Vuitton reveals Watch Prize for Independent Creatives finalists


French fashion house Louis Vuitton is platforming an effort that offers money and mentorship to individual horologists.

The launch of a newly established biennial competition continues as a shortlist of finalists is revealed. The five inaugural Louis Vuitton Watch Prize for Independent Creatives participants will present their projects to a panel of experts at the Fondation Louis Vuitton on Feb. 6, 2024, where a winner will be chosen that evening.

“The Louis Vuitton Watch prize exists because we believe that the future of watchmaking belongs to the dreamers and rule-breakers who meet the highest standards of craftsmanship,” said Jean Arnault, director of watches at Louis Vuitton, in a statement.

“I would like to congratulate our five finalists — in your hands, the horizon for Independent Watchmaking is looking very bright indeed.”

The finalists in Louis Vuitton’s watchmaking competition. Image courtesy of Louis Vuitton
The “who”

Nearly 1,000 submissions were received for the very first round of the Louis Vuitton Watch Prize for Independent Creatives, announced last November.

Of the applicants, 20 semi-finalists were pre-selected and presented to a committee of 45 watch enthusiasts in April 2023 (see story).

One candidate was selected for each of five categories: design, innovation, craftsmanship, creativity and technical complexity.

The fate of these final five watchmakers now lies in the hands of an expert set of jury members, which Louis Vuitton has just made public.

Nominated by peers, the panel includes Carole Forestier-Kasapi, director of movements at Tag Heuer and winner of the 2021 Gaïa Prize; Auro Montanari, watch collector, watchmaking expert and writer; Rexhep Rexhepi, founder of Atelier Akrivia and independent traditional and contemporary watchmaker.

Jiaxian Su, founder of SJX Watches and freelance journalist specializing in watches and Michael Tay, group managing director of The Hour Glass and president of the jury, are also named.

The “Mechanical Bee” by John-Mikael Flaux. Image courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Ultimately, the award winner will receive a monetary prize and a year’s worth of mentorship by experts at La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton in Meyrin, Switzerland.

Finalist Simon Brette has run his namesake company since 2022. His work involves the Chronometre Artisans, a neoclassical timepiece with an in-house caliber, manual-wind mechanical movement, balance wheel and visible gear train.

John-Mikaël Flaux, an independent watchmaker since 2018, entered with the L’Abeille Mécanique, a silver and gold mechanism with manual winding, carousel movement, a key, an AB-01 movement and a stinger for a poetics hours indicator, and was selected as well.

“What immediately appealed to me about this initiative was the recognition it offers to the world of independent watchmakers, and the trust it places in us,” said Mr. Faux, in a statement.

Independent timepiece craftspeople since 1995, Andreas Strehler and Enrico Santoni, will also be headed to Paris in 2024.

A perpetual desk calendar and pocketwatch combo by Andreas Strehler and Enrico Santoni. Image courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Together, they created the Tischkalender Sympathique, a time object that has a gilded brass and mechanical perpetual desk calendar beset with lapis lazuli. The invention is additionally fitted with a pocket watch — the “master timekeeper” features Damascus steel and sapphire crystal.

Finalist Raúl Pagès has been a Swiss independent watchmaker since 2012. His entry is the RP1 Régulateur à Détente, a manual-winding stainless steel wristwatch with an in-house caliber.

Fitted with pivoted detent escapement, Mr. Pagès designed and handcrafted the item himself.

Gaël Petermann and Florian Bédat, the duo behind Swiss watch store Petermann Bédat, round out the finalist list. Independent horological artisans since 2017, their entry is the Chronographe Rattrapante Reference 2941, a pocket watch-inspired mono-pusher split-seconds platinum timepiece that comes with a jumping minute counter and open case back.

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