Tambour at Twenty

From content partner JustLuxe iW Magazine

Louis Vuitton celebrates two decades with its signature watch collection.

When Louis Vuitton launched its Tambour collection twenty years ago, international fashion houses’ watches were primarily quartz-powered and mass-produced. With a few exceptions, notably Cartier, Chopard, Hermès, Gucci and Dior, global clothing and accessory manufacturers have historically found the high-end watchmaking market too challenging to enter. and succeed, in addition to launching a few novelty products or partnering with an existing Swiss manufacturer.

New Louis Vuitton Tambour Twenty.

But with Tambour, Louis Vuitton entered the field of high-end watchmaking with serious intentions and long-term goals that, twenty years later, have succeeded in navigating this fashion house to be recognized as a peer in the world. of the world’s leading luxury watch manufacturers.

Tambour Twenty

To celebrate the importance of the Tambour collection to its success as a luxury watch manufacturer, Louis Vuitton this year launches Tambour Twentya 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 expands at its bottom (tambour is French for drum). The commemorative watch is once again engraved around the 41.5mm case with the twelve-letter Louis Vuitton name, with each letter corresponding to the hour markers.

The commemorative watch is once again engraved around the 41.5mm case with the twelve-letter Louis Vuitton name, with each letter corresponding to the hour markers.

And as on the original series, the new limited edition model features a sunburst brown dial that displays the seconds with a long yellow hand to repeat the threads that Louis Vuitton uses in much of its leather goods.

While the ETA-based movements power Tambour’s original GMT and time-only models in the series launched 20 years ago, Louis Vuitton has partnered strategically with sister company Zenith to provide provided the base movement for the first Tambour chronograph watch.

That movement, the LV277, based on the Zenith El Primero movement, once again powers the new watch, providing the high frequency, tenth of a second precision built into the series. Zenith’s famous. Louis Vuitton has placed a 22-karat gold rotor on the movement, which offers 50 hours of power reserve.

“Watch enthusiasts will recognize all the features that make up Tambour’s design,” said Jean Arnault, director of marketing and development for Louis Vuitton watches. “While this limited edition is the true focus of everything that has made this watch stand out, it also boasts brand new features that will set collectors apart. .”

Many tricks

Louis Vuitton has used its Tambour case as the basis for various models throughout the past two decades. Most Louis Vuitton sport watches are built in Tambour boxes, especially many of the maritime themed models produced to accompany the Louis Vuitton Cup sailing races.

Since 2009, the self-winding LV119 movement of the Tambour Spin Time with Chronograph and GMT functions has been developed and patented by La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton.

In a more complicated realm, you may also recall the Tambour Spin Time (2009) which displays the time using rotating blocks instead of hands and indexes, or the Tambour Mystérieuse (2010), the result of collaboration between La Fabrique du Temps and Renaud et Papi to create a full ‘floating’ movement with no obvious link to the case or winding.

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, the Geneva-based movement builder 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 range of innovative and often highly complicated timepieces, most of which fit inside a Tambour case. Even Louis Vuitton’s famous entry into the smartwatch market, Tambour Horizon Light Upbuilt in the Tambour framework.

Tambour Horizon is a smart watch from Louis Vuitton.

However, the Tambour case was far from static during 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 was also the watchmaker’s first watch with an in-house tourbillon.

Tambour Slim Monogram 2013 rose gold color.

In what is perhaps the most unusual iteration of the Tambour shape, Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Moon (2017) retains the signature Tambour round case but reverses its arc. The new concave case essentially created the second Tambour shape, which Louis Vuitton used in 2020 with the Tambour Curve. That watch had a titanium and carbon case that Louis Vuitton then matched with a Geneva-Seal certified sublime aircraft set.

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

Louis Vuitton won one of the watch industry’s most important awards last year when their Tambour Carpe Diem received the Audacity Award at Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. As an encore, Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver won the GPHG Diver Watch of the Year Award.

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

Louis Vuitton offers Tambour Twenty is 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 production is being done at La Fabrique Du Temps?

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

We have watchmakers, enamelers and, most recently, dial enamellers. As you probably 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 case engineers, two designers and ten dial manufacturers. We have an electroplating workshop where we can make rose gold, yellow gold and rhodium.

Do you also work for external brands?

We can not. We work seriously with Louis Vuitton and we certainly have a lot of work to do. In the LVMH group we also have TAG Heuer, Hublot, Zenith and sometimes we will meet. But we focus our spirit and mind on Louis Vuitton.

What are some recent additions to the plant?

We recently worked with enameler Anita Porchet. And if there are some other artisans that we need, we will try to add them to our capacity. Very soon we will add a professional engraver in house.

One of the reasons we are in Geneva is to obtain the Seal of Geneva. We received that Seal in 2016 and we are very proud of it. Very hard to get and very hard to keep. And we had to finish all of our components by hand, even the screws. Everything must be polished, angled and finished by hand. In addition, each watch must arrive at the Geneva Seal office in two weeks.

Do you see an expansion of other collections beyond Tambour?

Now, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Tambour watch, but we have a collection of Voyager, Escale and different Tambour variants. Tambour is our iconic case, it’s pure and elegant. It looks simple, like a drum, but it’s quite complicated. The shape is a perfect ambassador for Louis Vuitton.

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

We strive to offer our customers a different watchmaking style that includes the best of tradition inside but also Louis Vuitton on the outside.

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

Would you recreate Louis Vuitton’s original Monterey case?

I like this case. I like how it’s smooth on the wrist so maybe I’ll talk to my designer about that.

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

Louis Vuitton is quality and craftsmanship, bold and high quality, and you can’t find this combination elsewhere. For example, when we developed the minute repeater in our Tambour case, this was the premiere because you have a second time zone, managed only by the crown, which you put in second. Our World Time is a world time watch without hands, and Rotary Hour, which displays time using cubes is also a world premiere.

Do you have plans for your next anniversary?

Louis Vuitton fashion and leather goods can move faster than our high-end watchmaking. We always work two, three and four years ahead of schedule, but we have to be patient. You will be amazed by our high-end watchmaking techniques.

—Interview with Gary Girdvainis


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