The drums of change have been beating in the house of one of the world’s most famous luxury brands, Louis Vuitton. Since 1854, Louis Vuitton has been creating highly crafted luggage, handbags, and accessories and has defined the “Art of Travel” for over a century and a half. In the last couple of decades, it has opened its doors to artisans and designers to develop high-end timepieces and jewelry.
Louis Vuitton’s fairly new Director of Watches is Jean Arnault, son of billionaire Bernard Arnault, the chairman and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy — Louis Vuitton. This is considered the world’s leading luxury products group. The elder Arnault became the new owner of LVMH in 1989 and has since served as the group’s CEO. The younger Arnault’s installation as the brand’s director who will oversee its watches division is a sign of things to come as the 25-year-old executive who’s a graduate from MIT introduced the new Tambour watch line. Within the year of the young Arnault’s new post, he is positioning to invigorate the brand’s take on high horology on its timepiece collections, starting with the Tambour. He was also instrumental in reviving the group’s niche timepiece labels, Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth, two highly respected brands named after its watchmakers.
In the late spring of this year, it relaunched the Maison’s core timepiece collection, the Tambour which first came out in 2002. Tambour is the French word for drum, and it was first seen with a 13.2mm thick round watch case fitted with leather straps and some two decades later, it has evolved and was reintroduced as an elegant integrated metal bracelet luxury sports watch with very serious haute horology firepower.
Although the visual emblems of the Tambour, starting with its drum-shaped case with curved sides, and a bezel marked with the twelve Louis Vuitton letters were retained, albeit a much thinner and more elegant 8.2mm thick and 40mm diameter case. The Tambour’s other visual aspects have been reinterpreted, which perhaps is because of the LVMH’s ownership of Gerald Genta, who crafted several iconic integrated metal bracelet designs for Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Omega and IWC.
The Tambour collection will have two models in steel with a blue or silver dial, a two-tone steel and rose gold with a gray dial, one in rose gold with brown dial, and one in yellow gold with a white dial. Arnault says it isn’t a watch for everyone, and much certainly not for someone who has just started to appreciate mechanical luxury timepieces. The new Tambour line has all the hallmarks of a well-made luxury timepiece, crafted with traditional watchmaking techniques and touches of modern details.
Starting off with the movement, the heart of every serious timepiece is a well-made and high quality chronometer-certified cal. LFT023 designed by La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton in collaboration with Le Cercle des Horlogers. The cal. LFT023 is rated with a timekeeping accuracy of between -4 and +6 seconds per day, and comes with a 50-hour power reserve supplied by a high-inertia 22k rose gold micro-rotor. Looking at the see-through caseback, the movement is highly finished with an engine turned baseplate with overlapping perlage finish, black polished screwheads, and instead of using rubies, it uses clear sapphire for its 31 jewels which visually worked very well visually to retain its monotone look at of the movement. The movement has a 50 hour power reserve and is powered by a nice and thick gold rotor.
The lovely blue dial of the all-steel version will probably be the crowd favorite, and its unique gradient dial finish with two different shades of blue between the inner circle and outer band of the dial. Other interesting details include 12 v-groove chamfered indices that are highly polished in contrast with the dial surface, which gives a playful and shimmering effect when looking at the face of the watch on different angles. Another notable detail is the “Fab. En Suisse” mark at the 6 o’clock position instead of the usual “Swiss Made” label. The luminescent hands and numbers offer high legibility even at night, and is featured in all the variants.
The Tambour in steel and rose gold on the other hand, also has a two-tone finish on the dial which includes the applique digits and chamfered indices in rose gold that pops out for that two-tone effect. It continues to reflect excellent craftsmanship from the case finishing to the bracelet, and is accented in rose gold used for its center links, crown, bezel, aside from the indices and skeletonize hands.
The flagship rose gold Tambour variant, the most expensive of the three, has a dark brown dial which is a nod to the original Tambour dial color introduced two decades ago. The warm gradient brown dial works very well with the rose gold accents and the precious metal bracelet enjoys contrasting finishes with both brushed and polished links, rounded and polished flanks, giving it a very supple feel that’s secured by a clasp that’s almost concealed to give a very elegant and thin profile. Last but not least, the full yellow gold Tambour with white dial is a future classic in the making. Featuring yellow gold accents in the dial, the two shaded dial offers a subtle yet playful mix of colors.
We look forward to seeing more models in the Louis Vuitton watch collection in the near future, and indeed, the drums of change aptly signals that one of the oldest luxury brands will be in good hands with the new generation keepers of time.