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In the workshop of… - La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, Boldness on a human scale

In the workshop of… La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, Boldness on a human scale

Louis Vuitton is celebrating its 20th anniversary in watchmaking this year. A visit to La Fabrique du Temps, which is home to a formidable concentration of manufacturing expertise

Whether clients or journalists, visitors to the Fabrique du Temps come away stunned: firstly, by the impressive and joyful scenography of this 4,000sqm white building, and then by the diversity and expertise of the professions that work there in perfect symbiosis: dial makers, engineers, watchmakers and miniature painting specialists, not to mention enameling, engraving and gemsetting done in collaboration with external partners. Louis Vuitton is celebrating its 20th anniversary in watchmaking this year, more than half of it after its 2011 integration of La Fabrique du Temps, created by Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini in 2007.

La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, Boldness on a human scale

Michel Navas © Louis Vuitton

At the outset, after a career in large traditional watch companies, these two watchmaker-entrepreneur’s desire and vision was to exercise beautiful craftsmanship within a human-scale entity. The concept involved a workshop with a small number of watchmakers and construction engineers and thousands of ideas, resulting in projects already completed for a dozen brands including Louis Vuitton, for whom they designed the Spin Time. Its display of time indications on rotating cubes was so innovative and unexpected for Louis Vuitton that it proved a resounding success. So much so that the two enthusiasts were invited to join the world leader in luxury goods, much to their surprise. After a brief discussion between them, they decided to come aboard the Louis Vuitton odyssey: "It's a serious company, known and recognized in other fields, which respected our initial philosophy; the potential was fabulous”, comments Michel Navas. In the wake of this acquisition, Louis Vuitton also acquired the company Léman Cadrans, relocated its production entity from La Chaux-de-Fonds to Meyrin on the outskirts of Geneva and gathered the nearly 60 existing employees under the brand-new roof of this Manufacture in 2014. "Today, we have a 100-strong roster, but I feel we have still kept things on a human scale, we still remain as creative and free and still bring a take on Haute Horlogerie which differs from that of our colleagues."

La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, Boldness on a human scale

The Workshop © Louis Vuitton

World firsts and a GPHG double win

"We are turning our ‘handicap’ as a youthful watch firm into a strength compared to the venerable brands where we used to work, because we can afford bold approaches such as the Spin Time that would be inconceivable at these large traditional Maisons; it would be too disruptive”, says Michel Navas. While striving to operate as much as possible within the world of travel, his teams are keen to bring something new to displays or functions, as reflected in their first minute repeater chiming home time – a world first. Likewise with the Tambour Twin Chrono in 2013, a single-pusher bi-chronograph with a patented differential display that measures the race time of two sailboats in a match race on two counters, as well as the difference between the two boats' times in a match race on the 12 o’clock counter.

La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, Boldness on a human scale

Design Conception © Louis Vuitton

"Our challenge for the next few years is to continue to surprise people, such as with the Tambour Carpe Diem, which won the Audacity Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2021. We made it to show how far we could push complexity, known for the last six years by some customers of bespoke orders who preferred to remain discreet about it. The extent of the phenomenon forced us to forgo certain sales”, explains Michel Navas.

La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, Boldness on a human scale

Tambour Carpe Diem © Louis Vuitton

The strength of this Manufacture, which is not quite like any other, also lies in its dual culture in watchmaking, thanks to its founders; and in design, thanks to the world's leading luxury brand, Louis Vuitton. The aesthetic codes of timepieces such as the Tambour or the Escale are extremely advanced, nurtured by details of a brand universe that is as rich as it is sophisticated and clearly make them stand out from the crowd. By way of example: "When we developed the Escale Worldtime, it emerged from the technical office in a very traditional way. But when it came back from the design department in Paris, it had been given a dramatic makeover and was a huge success." All of which heralds great promise for the next 20 years. 

 

 

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True to its founding spirit, Louis Vuitton makes watches that combine excellence, innovation and originality for the benefit of people who love travel and adventure. The watchmakers of La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton in Geneva use their mastery of traditional craftsmanship and modern technology to reinvent the watchmaking of tomorrow.

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