August 11, 2017
by Bilal Khan
Les Artisans De Geneve is a company that was created in early 2016 with a mission of “recreating” existing and vintage watches. Initially distinguishing themselves from the customizers like Bamford, they chose to create pieces like their tribute to the Rolex Daytona 6263 watch which strayed from being too radical in how it was reimagined. Later in the year, came this watch, the Les Artisans De Geneve & Kravitz Design LK 01 Rolex Daytona. Partnering with Lenny Kravtiz’s design firm, Kravitz Design, Les Artisans De Geneve went all out in creating a brash and audacious black DLC and gold Daytona on a black military cuff strap. The mere inception of this concept is designed to generate love or hate opinions, but after spending time with this watch there is one undeniable fact – the product is meticulously done and objectively impressive in its execution.
The LK 01 is based on- the Rolex Daytona Ref. 116523. This is the two-tone steel and gold model introduced in 2000, but the two have little in common when you consider the before and after. Les Artisans De Geneve disassemble the watch and movement by hand and then begin their extensive process of modifying the piece. The case is treated with a black DLC and the bezel is replaced with one that is bakelite treated, done using a machine that dates back to the 1970s.
I really appreciate the use of bakelite for the bezel as it’s a novel and actually practical material. For those not familiar, bakelite is a temperature resistant plastic made of phenol and formaldehyde that is flexible to mold and durable once set. This is no ordinary plastic, and vintage bakelite items like jewelry, billiard balls, and chess sets (among many other items) are highly valuable and prized. And, of course, the Rolex GMT Ref. 6542 has a bakelite bezel and was sold for something around six-figures. Of course, part of the reason for this value may be due to the fact that the watch was discontinued when the decision to fill the numerals with radium was met with the unfortunate reality that bakelite could break, subjecting the wearer to the radium. In any case, in a world of ceramic bezels, I really enjoyed and appreciated the distinct aesthetic and feel of the bakelite bezel on the LK 01.
The black bezel has white tachymeter numerals and indices with a gold inner and outer ring. In addition to this, the chronograph pushers and crown are also done in gold which contrasts quite nicely with the black DLC case. It’s far from being an entirely original pairing of contrasting colors, but the exquisite quality and finish is clear as soon as the watch is handled.
The theme continues on the dial, with gold hands and indices set against the black dial. It’s all pretty attractive but it’s impossible to not want there to be a line or two less of text. Some editing here would have aesthetically paid off, in my opinion. On the other hand, I think the touch of the red chronograph hand was a good choice in breaking up the gold and black aesthetic. That dual color scheme can get a little too serious, so this was a good decision. Legibility is sacrificed here, there’s no way around it. The polished gold hands are difficult to read if it’s a very sunny day (which we have a lot of in Los Angeles) and glare can make the dial unreadable. With that said, the polished gold hands are definitely part of this watch’s identity and I wouldn’t expect this piece to sacrifice style for practicality. That’s just not what it’s about.