LV’s latest timepiece ushers in a new era for the fashion giant’s watchmaking division — and it might not be the move you expect
In the world of fashion, travel goods, perfumes, luxury as a whole — its hard to escape the ever-present influence of Louis Vuitton. For nearly one-hundred-and-seventy years, the fashion house has inspired, influenced, even dominated Eurocentric fashion. Two of those seventeen decades have been spent honing an edge on their watchmaking expertise; an exercise that has since produced occasional showstoppers via their Haute Horlogerie collection, featuring automata and premium-grade movements, while the Core Collection played host to a series of relatively muted models.
LVMH royalty Jean Arnault, who took the reins to Louis Vuitton’s watch division last year, ushered in a new era for the company’s timepieces with a focused, determined approach to elevate, refine, and curate the LV watch range. The exercise, he claims, was difficult to execute — unlike fashion collections, watches take considerably more time to design and manufacture. This means that disruptive tectonic shifts in the watchmaking industry are few and far between — as much as every other Swiss manufacturer claims to have reinvented the wheel (or dial, as it were), things largely remain the same.
Except that this time, it really hasn’t. LV’s La Fabrique du Temps, under Arnault’s hand, has wielded a serious force of change during the 24-year-old’s brief stewardship, culling the total number of watches available significantly — about 80 percent, in fact. Gone are the label-forward fashion-oriented models — LV are now skirmishing on the edges of ‘serious’ watchmaking territory, and the first charge will be led by the brand’s most iconic Core Collection model — the all-new Tambour.
True, if placed next to LV’s entire range of Haute Horologie models, the Tambour stands out simply because of how inconspicuous it appears — not only is it strictly playing within the rulebook of modern watch design, it also sits within the rather crowded luxury sports watch segment. Within this bustling battleground, however, the Tambour has quietly and confidently put forth its 2023 identity in the form of two stainless steel models — a classic dark blue dial, and a silver-grey variant that I’ll admit is strikingly sleek and tasteful.
The new Tambour doesn’t stray far from its design roots. If you give it a good once-over, you’ll notice some familiar touches borrowed from earlier Tambour models — a mix of baton markers and Arabic numerals for telling time, a familiar 40mm case diameter, and of course, the drum-shaped case that lends the watch its curiously percussive nomenclature (Tambour meaning ‘drum’ in French).
Look closer, and the watch’s deceptively simple design begins to morph, revealing interesting design cues. From the outside-in, the dial offers a split-level chapter ring for the hour and minute hands, each sandblasted and designed to balance out the overall readability of the watch — a factor enhanced by the recessed 5-minute markers and white gold, Super-LumiNova coated markers. The inner and outer portions of the dial are also treated with different brushing styles — resulting in a duotone variation that adds another illusory layer of depth.
Finally, there’s the open caseback, under which beats the calibre LFT023. The result of a collaboration between the movement experts at Le Cercle des Horlogers and the design and manufacturing talents at La Fabrique du Temps, the latter of whom took charge of designing the movement, defining its aesthetics, and even had a hand in producing some of its components. This is a 3-hand automatic movement, powered by a micro-rotor and good for 50 hours of power reserve once fully wound by the high-inertia 22k gold rotor. What sets it apart is its Geneva Chronometric Observatory certification, which means it’s incredibly precise, with a deviation of just -4/+6 seconds per day.
Apart from further enhancements to lightness, thinness and wearability, what Louis Vuitton seem to have accomplished here is an attempt to create — more seriously than ever before — what we may call an ‘objectively’ beautiful timepiece. More femme, more delicate than its competition, and yet offering serious utility both on a wrist and as part of a fashion ensemble, this is one watch design that we’re certain LV has only scratched the surface of — and we can’t wait to see what other tricks are up Jean Arnault’s sleeves.
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