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Louis Vuitton celebrates two decades with its signature watch collection. 

When Louis Vuitton debuted its Tambour collection twenty years go, watches made by international fashion houses were primarily quartz-powered and mass-produced. With a few exceptions, notably Cartier, Chopard, Hermès, Gucci and Dior, global clothing and accessories makers have historically found the high-end watchmaking market too challenging to enter and succeed, beyond launching a few novelty pieces or as a partner with an existing Swiss maker.

The new Louis Vuitton Tambour Twenty.

But with Tambour, Louis Vuitton entered into high-end watchmaking with serious intent and long-term goals that, twenty years later, have successfully steered the fashion house to be recognized as a peer among the world’s leading makers of high-end watches.

Tambour Twenty

To celebrate the importance of the Tambour collection to its success as a high-end watchmaker, Louis Vuitton this year launches the Tambour Twenty, a limited edition chronograph of 200 pieces that pays tribute to the original Tambour.

For the limited edition, Louis Vuitton revives the original Tambour’s deep, flared steel case that widens at its base (tambour is French for drum).  The celebratory watch is again engraved around its 41.5mm case with the twelve-letter Louis Vuitton name, with each letter corresponding to each hour marker.

The celebratory watch is again engraved around its 41.5mm case with the twelve-letter Louis Vuitton name, with each letter corresponding to each hour marker.

And as on the original series, the new limited edition model features a sun-ray brushed brown dial that displays seconds with a long yellow hand colored to echo the threads Louis Vuitton utilizes in much of its leatherwork.

While ETA-based movements powered the original Tambour time-only and GMT models in the premiere series twenty years ago, Louis Vuitton strategically teamed with its sister company Zenith to supply the base movement for the first Tambour chronograph.

That movement, the LV277, based on a Zenith El Primero caliber, again powers the new watch, offering the high-frequency, tenth-of-a-second precision built-in to Zenith’s famed series. Louis Vuitton has placed a 22-karat-gold rotor on the movement, which offers fifty hours of power reserve.

Watch enthusiasts will recognize all the features that made the Tambours design so unique,” says Jean Arnault, marketing and development director for Louis Vuitton watches. “While this limited edition is a true concentrate of everything that made this watch stand out, it also boasts brand new features that will set it apart for collectors.”

Many guises

Louis Vuitton has utilized its Tambour case as a base for various models during the past two decades. Most Louis Vuitton sports watches were built within the Tambour case, notably the many nautically themed models that were made to accompany the Louis Vuitton Cup yacht races.

From 2009, the Tambour Spin Time’s self- winding LV119 calibre with Spin Time and GMT function was developed and patented by La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton.

In a more complicated realm, you might also recall the Tambour Spin Time (2009) which displayed time using rotating cubes instead of clock hands and indexes, or the Tambour Mystérieuse (2010), the result of La Fabrique du Temps and Renaud et Papi teaming to devise a full ‘floating’ movement with no apparent links to the case or winder.

The Tambour Moon Mystérieuse Tourbillon Volant 3, from 2018. Encased in a 45mm diameter white gold case, it has an 8-day power reserve thanks to a double barrel.

La Fabric du Temps 

In 2011, after working closely with Louis Vuitton for several years, Geneva-based movement fabricator  La Fabrique du Temps (with master watchmakers Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini) became part of Louis Vuitton.

Inside La Fabrique Du Temps Louis Vuitton.

Since then, the watchmaker has continued to offer an impressive series of creative and often very complicated timepieces, most of which are fit within a Tambour case. Even Louis Vuitton’s acclaimed entry into the smart watch market, the Tambour Horizon Light Up, is built within a Tambour frame.

The Tambour Horizon is Louis Vuitton’s smart watch.

The Tambour case, however, has not remained static throughout its tenure. In 2014, Louis Vuitton launched the Tambour Evolution with a more traditional 45mm round case. Two years later a thin Tambour case framed the Tambour Slim, which also featured the watchmaker’s first watch with an in-house tourbillon.

The 2013 Tambour Slim Monogram in Pink Gold.

In what was perhaps the most unusual iteration of the Tambour shape, Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Moon (2017) retained the signature Tambour round case but reversed its arc. The new concave case essentially created a second Tambour shape, which Louis Vuitton capitalized on in 2020 with the Tambour Curve. That watch features a titanium and carbon case that Louis Vuitton then fit with a phenomenal Geneva-Seal-certified flying tourbillon caliber.

The 2020 Tambour Curve Flying Tourbillon has an innovative LV108 mechanical movement treated with black PVD, with 80 hours of power reserve and a flying tourbillon regulator.

Louis Vuitton earned one of the watch industry’s most important accolades last year when its Tambour Carpe Diem received the Audacity Prize at the Grand Prix dHorlogerie de Genève. As an encore, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver won the year’s GPHG Divers Watch Prize.

The Tambour Carpe Diem received the Audacity Prize at the 2021 GPHG. It combines a mechanism with jumping hours, retrograde minutes and a power reserve indicator.

Louis Vuitton offers the Tambour Twenty as a limited edition of 200 watches, each priced at $17,800.

 

Interview: Michel Navas, Master Watchmaker at La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton

What level of watch manufacturing is being done at La Fabrique Du Temps?

Louis Vuitton purchased La Fabrique du Temps in 2011, and now we are in Geneva in the cradle of watchmaking. We have all the tools and skills to create magnificent pieces. From amazing, complicated watches to simple watches. 

We have watchmakers, enamelers and most recently enamelers for dials. As you may know LVMH and Louis Vuitton both love artisans. So many other brands don’t have this kind of operation. 

We are a company of 125 people, we have twenty watchmakers, eight engineers, four casing engineers, two designers and ten dial makers. We have a workshop for electroplating so we can make rose gold, yellow gold, rhodium. 

Do you also do work for outside brands?

We cannot. We work strictly with Louis Vuitton and we certainly have plenty of work to do. Within the LVMH group we also have TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith and sometimes we will meet. But we concentrate our spirit and our minds on Louis Vuitton.

What are some recent additions to the factory?

We recently worked with in enameler Anita Porchet. And if there are some other artisans that we need we will try to add them to our capabilities. Very soon we will add an expert engraver in the house.

One of the reasons we are in Geneva is to obtain the Geneva Seal. We received that Seal in 2016 and we are very proud of it. It is difficult to obtain and it is difficult to keep. And we have to finish all of our components by hands, even the screws. Everything must be polished, angled and finished by hand. In addition, each watch has to go to the Geneva Seal offices for two weeks.

Do you see expanding other collections beyond Tambour?

Now we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of our Tambour watch, but we do have the Voyager collection, the Escale, and various Tambour variations. Tambour is our iconic case, it is pure and elegant. It looks simple, like a drum, but it is quite complicated. The shape is a perfect ambassador for Louis Vuitton. 

My first project with Louis Vuitton was with the Spin Time. When we finished the first prototype, we realized again the importance of the Tambour case shape. The three dimensional Spin Time fits perfectly with the Tambour shape. And today we have different models of the Spin Time, including with the Escale shape case.

We try to offer our clients a different type of watchmaking that includes the best traditions inside the watch but also has the Louis Vuitton touch on the outside.

For me the Tambour case shape is the Louis Vuitton archetype. It will always remain in our collection.

Will you re-create the original Monterey case from Louis Vuitton?

I love this case. I like how it is smooth on the wrist so maybe I will speak to my designer about that. 

What would you like our readers to know about Louis Vuitton watches?

Louis Vuitton is quality and craftsmanship, audacity and high quality, and you cannot find this combination elsewhere. For example when we developed the minute repeater in our Tambour case, this was a premiere because you have a second time zone, just managed by the crown, which you put in the second position. Our World Time is a world time watch without hands, and in the Spin Time, showing the time using cubes is also a world premiere. 

Are you already planning for the next anniversary?

Louis Vuitton fashion and leather making can move more quickly than our high watchmaking. We are always working two, three and four years ahead of time, but we have to be patient. You will be surprised by our high watchmaking.

—Interview by Gary Girdvainis

By Steve Lundin

What is the aesthetic behind Louis Vuitton’s latest entry into the field of connected watches? I tried unsuccessfully to extract the answer from the company itself, so I’m offering my own conclusion to explain what you get for $3,400-$4,100.

One night, a team of symmetrically self-medicated Louis Vuitton designers looked up at a starry sky and were struck with a revelation. “What if we put all those stars into a watch and splattered the LV logo all over it? Multiple logos mean multiple sales. Brilliant! Let’s drink some more!”

And so, a fluorescent fruit salad for the wrist was born, and with lots of logos, no one will ever mistake it for anything besides a Louis Vuitton product.

The Tambour watch is a showpiece, and should be worn full on, in “blossom” (one of several display modes), so that its twenty-four LED dancing dial show is given as many opportunities to activate as humanly possible.

Lifting your arm spools up a bevy of twirling colorful lights positioned around the dial, like the nacelles on the Starship Enterprise going into warp drive. The Tambour will command attention at any bar or party and would be spectacular at a séance.

Don’t worry about LV’s “smart features.” Any watch with more face treatments than apps isn’t really designed to be smartest timepiece in the room – and who cares! The company’s own website leads with form over function, so it’s clear that this baby is more for show then go. You want features, buy the Apple watch, you want art, wear the LV.

High quality

The build quality on this watch is exceptional, with a nice, beveled sapphire crystal, solid hefty case, and reliable feeling pushers (as a former owner of an Omega X33 I know what not-so-reliable pushers feel like).

The Tambour does have a few connected features that include calendar, step counter, some text/phone connection (depending on your platform), yada, yada, yada; see the list below if you want the rundown. Because Louis Vuitton aficionados (those who own the genuine articles, not the numerous knockoffs), presumably travel a lot (except during the pandemic, when this watch was released, or if you’re sporting  knockoffs, which means you probably can’t afford to travel anyway), the Tambour offers a nice variety of travel support software.

Think of it as a combination of Expedia, Yelp and Google Maps with some alerts thrown in for good measure. Looking for the weather and current latte prices at your favorite Starbucks in Paris? Rest easy, the Tambour has you covered.

Fireworks show

So what do you get for your money? Strapping on the Tambour is a commitment. It’s a hefty watch, in the same vein as a Royal Oak or Sea Dweller. It takes up 44mm of wrist space and is literally a half-inch thick.

Forget about French cuffs or even a shirt with long sleeves. Why would you want to hide this beauty anyway? This is strictly a warm-weather, short-sleeve fashion accessory; maybe a bit much for the pool or golf course, but great for evenings and nights out. Besides, anyone buying this watch already has a collection to pick from (hopefully not ALL knockoffs), and the Tambour is simply another bauble in the drawer.

It’s not super smart, but so what? It’s got something that no other watch in the world can boast: a built-in fireworks show.

On a purely entertainment level the watch is a hoot to wear. It comes with an amazing array of faces that can be tailored to match your mood, from slightly festive to off-the-charts Hunter S. Thompson on adrenochrome.

Feel like channeling the Bellagio forum while on acid? The Tambour has a face for that. The standard face, featuring location and time, coordinates perfectly with the LED bezel, creating one crazy, continual carnival of light every time your connected phone rings, alarm goes off or you just feel like coughing for show and raising it to your mouth to activate the feature.

It holds a charge for a good day and a half and has one of the brightest displays in the category.

Would I purchase one of these watches? Maybe, once they start appearing on eBay for under two grand. Would I accept one from LVMH in appreciation for writing the most candid and accurate article about this watch? Absolutely – please send it to my Florida address, available from the publisher on request.

The Tambour is a total blast and a great novelty that I don’t see getting anyone bored with any time soon. Granted, it doesn’t have the un-obtanium cachet of a Tiffany-faced Nautilus or the bling of a gold Big Bang Mecca, but then you don’t have to explain what brand it is when that showy Louis-Vuitton-themed light show blows up on your wrist.

In the final analysis, Louis Vuitton has produced the ultimate electronic art watch. Pair it with the LV sunglasses, LV shoes and an LV backpack and you’ll give any Supreme-bedecked Gen Z’er (wearing knockoffs or not) on Miami Beach a true run for their money!

 

Price: $3,405 – $4,110

Specifications: Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon Light Up

Case: 44mm polished stainless steel. Case diameter: 44 mm/1.7 inches, Case thickness: 13.2 mm/ 0.5 inches, sapphire glass, 24-hour ring: black ring with white numerals and LV logo, yellow indexes. LED ring: black ring with 24 Monogram Flowers backlit with LEDs. Water resistance: up to 30 meters.

Screen: 3 cm/1.2 inches full round AMOLED touch screen, resolution 390×390 (327 ppi). Exclusive Louis Vuitton watch faces, Louis Vuitton City Guides, ‘My Day’ function, 4 user modes (Blossom, Voyager, Pacific, Saver), find my phone.

Sensors: Heart rate monitor, microphone, accelerometer, gyroscope and ambient light sensor, actuator: vibration sensor. Micro-processor: Snapdragon Wear 4100

Compatibility: Android 9.0+, iOS2 14+ and HarmonyOS 2.0+

Price: $3,405 – $4,110

 

 

 

Louis Vuitton expands its smartwatch offering with the new Tambour Horizon Light Up, the third generation of the smartwatch since the fashion house debuted its first model five years ago.

Now running on a customized operating system (instead of Google Wear OS) the new series is the first of the brand’s smartwatches to feature pushers on either side of the crown. The pushers are meant to enhance access to various functions and shortcuts.

The enhanced functionality creates what Louis Vuitton calls “never-see-before levels of customization and personalization.”

The 44mm Tambour Horizon Light Up now also features an eye-catching wraparound curved sapphire glass screen that will display colorful, active notifications using a new set of twenty-four LED lights.

Now with an ‘always on’ display, the watch gives users quick access to any of eight dial configurations, all of which offer personalized color and font options. Look for additional face designs to reflect holidays, seasons and even fashion shows.

Louis Vuitton equips the new watch with an ‘all-day battery’ that can be affected with one of four efficiency modes aimed at reducing or expanding the watch’s animation or battery consumption level.

As one of the world’s top leather fashion houses, Louis Vuitton will offer Tambour Horizon Light Up users access to what the brand calls its “vast and colorful world” of straps.

At its launch, Louis Vuitton will include three watch case options: polished steel, matte black and the Louis-Vuitton’s historic matte brown.

Prices: Steel version – $3,450 (steel with rubber strap), $4,100 (matte black & matte brown with rubber strap).

Specifications: Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon Light Up

Case: 44mm x 13.2mm steel covered in sapphire glass front and back. Thirty meters of water resistance.

Display: 1.2-inch AMOLED touch screen, display resolution: 390×390-pixels (327 ppi)

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100, 8 GB storage, 1 GB RAM, pedometer, optical heart sensor.

Average battery life: 1 day under normal 
conditions of use (LEDs usage included)

Sensors: heart rate monitor, microphone, 
accelerometer, gyroscope and ambient 
light sensor

Actuator: vibration sensor

Compatibility: Android 9.0+, iOS 14+ 
and HarmonyOS 2.0+

Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11 B/G/N), 
Bluetooth 4.2, NFC
• MFi-certified
• Micro-processor: Snapdragon Wear 4100 • Memory: 1GB RAM – 8 GB Flash

Features and Functions

Exclusive Louis Vuitton watch faces

– Travel (flight/train/hotel) plans and boarding information

– Louis Vuitton City Guides

– Heart rate, calendar, steps, weather, air quality index

– Notifications
- Overview of latest notifications from

the user’s phone

Controls

Four user modes (Blossom, Explorer, Submarine, Saver)

  • –  Connectivity status (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth®)
  • –  Battery level
  • –  Find my phone
  • –  Alarm, timer & stopwatch
  • –  Remote for smartphone’s camera
  • –  Alipay (contactless payment from the watch)
  • –  Calls management
  • –  Music playback management
  • –  Other settings of the watch (second time zone, 
notifications settings, security, system updates).