Finding Fresh Talent for Fancy Watches

Watches make up only a small fraction of sales for LVMH, the biggest luxury goods empire in the world. The group is far better known for Louis Vuitton leather handbags and Moët Champagne. But lately, with Swiss watch exports reaching record highs and growing interest in fancy timepieces from a new generation of wealthy global consumers, LVMH is showing heightened focus on its fine watchmaking business, which includes TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith.

Last week, Miami hosted LVMH Watch Week. On Tuesday, a glittering new prize was unveiled at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the soaring glass museum designed by Frank Gehry to house the art collection of Bernard Arnault, the LVMH chief who is also the richest person in the world (this week anyway).

The bash on Tuesday night was a celebration to announce the winner of the first edition of the Louis Vuitton Watch Prize for Independent Creatives. Five finalists were vying for a 150,000-euro prize and a yearlong mentorship from the luxury house, rewards similar to those received by the winner of the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers.

Nearly all of the 250 guests wore black; many carried Louis Vuitton handbags. The talk was all about the inner workings of eye-wateringly expensive timepieces, an impenetrable dialect for anyone who doesn’t speak “watch.” Mingling with watch-world titans like Rexhep Rexhepi and Carole Forestier-Kasapi, snippets of overheard conversation included: “My god! He is the Mozart of the mechanical movement!” and “Now there is someone who really understands their way around orbital complications.”

Guests inspecting one of the finalist’s pieces before the ceremony.Credit…Violette Franchi for The New York Times

Jean Arnault, 25, the twinkly-eyed youngest son of Bernard Arnault and the director of watches for Louis Vuitton, was the evening’s host. The new prize is his baby (though he was not a member of the judging panel). His parents and his glamorous girlfriend, the influencer and YouTube strategist Zita d’Hauteville, watched proudly as he presented the award.

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