Watch collaborations seem to be sprouting out every now and again, but this is not a new phenomena. We take a look at the collaborations, and pick the six of the best.
Six of the best and favourite watch collaborations of recent times
As mentioned, watch collaborations are not new. Some are between a watch maison and a big or famous retailer, like the Patek Philippe final edition of their Nautilus Ref. 5711 with Tiffany. Or old time collaborations between Rolex and Bucherer, before they bought the retailer. These are perhaps simpler affairs of co-signing a watch produced by one of the parties. Or even between Rolex and Panerai. Others are interesting projects by big maisons to celebrate the work of independents which in our memory was first done by Goldpfiel with 7 independent watchmakers, and later followed up more famously by Harry Winston with the Opus Project. Or sometimes are between two watchmaking maisons working with each other, like the recent collaborations between MB&F and Moser. Or the dial collaborations between Kari Voutilainen’s Comblémine and various makers like Grönefeld, Armin Strom and the like. But our exploration in this article is for something deeper, where both partners become equal in contributing to the final product.
Here we pick six of our favourites. No particular order.
Louis Vuitton x Rexhep Rexhepi LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie (full review soon!)
Perhaps the most recent release from last week, and certainly the one which sparked off the idea to do this series is the new Louis Vuitton x Rexhep Rexhepi collaboration. This is also interesting as the project is one of many which is driven by LV’s Jean Arnault. The AkriLVia collaboration release is the first in five planned by LV. And part of the even larger initiative of the LV Watch Prize. By virtue of the backing of Jean Arnault and the LV machinery, both of these projects will have legs. Very powerful legs indeed. And we are looking forward to both future editions and collaborations, as well as the derivatives of the winners of the Watch Prize.
The watch is a very interesting take on the chronograph, and is a non-trivial derivative of Rexhep’s very first watch – the AK01. The basic monopusher chronograph with tourbillon is used, but with an additional trick up its sleeve. When the chronograph is started and running, the watch chimes one single strike of the hammer at the top of the minute en passant. And continue to do so until the chronograph is stopped. The watch, of course is imbued with the design aesthetics derived from LV’s Tambour range.
Since the first of the collaborations was released in 2019, which also marked the revival of Louis Erard as a watchmaker, with the effervescent Manuel Emch at the helm. The duo have also released several more collaboration projects:
- Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein Triptych
- Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein x Watches of Switzerland Asia
- Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein Le Diptyque
- Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein x Stephen Silver
This is not the first the duo has collaborated on a watch project. As far as we know, their first collaboration occured when Manuel was head of RJ Romaine Jerome, and they worked together on the Subcraft.
Any of the series are excellent pieces, but our top pick is the original black Le Régulateur or its re-incarnation as the grey number in the triple collaboration with Watches of Switzerland Asia.
And we return to the granddaddy of the big giving a hand to the tiny. In 2001, German luxury company Goldpfeil (German for Golden Arrow) gave dual commissions to seven members of Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI). The AHCI masters of Sven Anderson, Martin Frei with Thomas and Felix Baumgarter, Vincent Calabrese, Vianney Halter, Frank Jutzi, Bernhard Lederer and Antoine Preziuso each created a special piece unique and a set of series production watches to showcase the collaboration.
Our pick from the seven available in series is the Vianney Halter. Not only is this from one of our favourite independents, but also it retains the charming quirks not only in the unique design but also in the very special nature of hand made elements. The display itself is quirky, implementing a digital jumping hour with a more traditional hour and minute hands, both enclosed in their own square sub-dials. An equally quirky moonphase indication is also found, and the entire dial assembly is encased in a very special case with polished, brushed and hand hammered finishing. Even the buckle is an interesting work of imagination.
This is yet fro a series which turned out to be another incredible project. The Opus series was inaugurated by Harry Winston when Max Büsser was at the helm with the aim of infusing the creativity of independent watchmakers into the DNA of Harry Winston. The series began with the Opus 1 by François-Paul Journe in 2001. Antoine Preziuso’s Opus II followed the year after. The year 2003 saw the totally original, innovative and crazy Opus 3 by Vianney Halter, which showed the risks and commitment Harry Winston was prepared to both take and make. Christophe Claret continued the series with his amazing musical Opus IV in 2004. And Opus V was made with Urwerk. Opus 6 was a collaboration with Greubel Forsey, and 7 with Andreas Strehler. For more on the Opus series, our friends at Quill & Pad have published the complete overview: see The Harry Winston Opus Series: A Complete Overview From Opus 1 Through Opus 13.
We could have easily picked any of the Harry Winston Opus series. All were done in collaboration with genius watchmakers of the day. And any would have a runaway winner. The Opus 3 by Vianney Halter is a magnificent piece of watchmaking. Or the Opus 7 with Andreas Strehler. Or the Opus X with Jean-François Mojon.
But our pick is the Opus V. The project was derived from the first explorations that Thomas, Felix and Martin had with using cubic satellites to show time. For the Opus project, Urwerk put three initial proposals to Max. And the one which Max chose resulted in the Opus V. This had a rotating mechanism which held three arms, each with a rotating cube, showing the hour. This turret aligns with the retrograde minute hand which transcribes an arc to indicate the time in hours and minutes. All enclosed in a case with the now famous three claw lugs and a concealed crown.
The extensive and ultra creativity of the MB&F HM series cannot be over emphasized. Created by Max Büsser after he left the Harry Winston’s Opus project, each new horological machine, as he calls them, is one creative triumph after another. Of the HM watches so far, all the way from the first HM1 and HM2 to the latest HM10, each is an exercise in sculpture, watchmaking and imagination.
But our favourite remains the incredible HM3, first introduced as two variants as Max could not decide which was better. Eventually, the “Starcruiser” with the crown at conventional 12 o’clock dial position (not that the HM3 has a conventional dial) won out over the “Sidewinder”, though the latter have its own fans. The Moonmachine is a variant of the Frog which is a Sidewinder, with bulging hemispheres in place of the turrets of the orignals, and the funky hour and minute markers. And was done in collaboration with Stepan Sarpaneva, who is well known for his moonphase creations, especially the use of his caricature face motif.
An interesting collaboration between two of our favourite independent watchmakers. Czapek leverages on the expertise of Bernhard Lederer to adapt the latter’s interesting and unique dual escapement with differential gearing to the former’s architecture and styling of their existing Place Vendôme collection. The result is quite stunning.
What we find most interesting is that Czapek did not just slap Lederer’s Central Impulse Chronometer movement into the Place Vendôme case. That would be the easy and lazy thing to do. But the new Czapek Calibre 8 is a brand new caliber, with the most prominent character – the dual escapement being the only connection. Without a doubt, Bernhard’s expertise in dealing with two escapements has been helpful in the development. More on our explanation article linked.
Ok, there you have it. Six magnificent collaborations between two (or three!) amazing horological entities, coming together to create new watches which fascinate and continue to fascinate. What is your favourite collaboration watch?