Louis Vuitton An Unexpected Time
The new Louis Vuitton timepieces reinforce the luxury brand’s return to creative watchmaking
Last year, Louis Vuitton stunned audiences and industry insiders alike with their Tambour Carpe Diem, a complex piece of watchmaking with an animated dial that showed the time on demand via an articulated, engraved and enamelled gold snake, sinuously winding around a grinning, moving skull. At the 2021 edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, the Tambour Carpe Diem was awarded the prize in the Audacity category, recognising its innovative mechanical achievement.
Following up in the same vein are the two new timepieces from Louis Vuitton, the Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum and the Tambour Slim Vivienne Jumping Hours, which emphasise the new approach to creativity for Louis Vuitton watchmaking.
Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum © Louis Vuitton
At first glance, the Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum is just like any other Spin Time watch, with the iconic spinning hour modules that have by now become a design staple of Louis Vuitton watchmaking. Pressing the crown, however, causes 12 tiny LEDs, set around the inner case flange, to illuminate the hour cubes for three seconds. The LEDs are powered by two tiny batteries, and the challenge in creating this piece was to integrate these additional components within the existing Tambour Air dimensions. Answering this sort of watchmaking challenge is usually an issue of experience rather than outright mechanical ingenuity, but the watchmakers of La Fabrique du Temps, led by industry veterans Enrico Barbasini and Michel Navas, have plenty of both.
Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum © Louis Vuitton
The Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum would be a surprising watch from any other brand than Louis Vuitton. But this is the advantage of running a brand like Louis Vuitton, I observed to the brand’s chief executive, Jean Arnault. Without ossified traditions to be tied to, Louis Vuitton has complete free reign to reinterpret traditional watchmaking on its own terms — something that can be particularly exciting when you have a talented high-watchmaking outfit such as La Fabrique du Temps at your disposal.
In the Tambour Slim Vivienne Jumping Hours, Louis Vuitton introduces a world premiere for a wristwatch — the alternating jumping hour. I’m always excited to see interesting developments in the domain of feminine watchmaking, and the Vivienne Jumping Hours is simultaneously accomplished in the mechanical as well as the design side of things.
Tambour Slim Vivienne Jumping Hours - Circus © Louis Vuitton
In the internal mythology of Louis Vuitton, Vivienne is the brand mascot who made her first appearance in 2017, popping up here and there to lend her inimitable charm to certain aspects of the brand’s storytelling and global identity. The Tambour Slim Vivienne Jumping Hours comes in three versions, featuring Vivienne on the dial, dressed up as a fortune teller, a casino croupier or a circus juggler. The watch plays on the ability of Vivienne to transport audiences to new worlds and imaginary realms, using a combination of artistic techniques and mechanical ingenuity.
Two dial apertures, located at the ends of Vivienne’s hands, display the hour in turn, while a floating hand (mounted on a near-invisible sapphire crystal baton) indicates the minutes. When the minute indication goes past the 12 o’clock position, the hour display switches instantaneously from one aperture to another, creating a playful illusion where Vivienne magically manipulates the time in a show of skillful prestidigitation.
Tambour Slim Vivienne Jumping Hours - Casino © Louis Vuitton
In order to achieve a precise and energy-efficient jumping-hour display, the traditional system of star wheels and jumper springs has been replaced by a complex compound cam and Geneva cross (otherwise known as a Maltese cross) in the Tambour Slim Vivienne Jumping Hours. This allows for an aesthetically perfect jumping indication while avoiding the fluctuating energy requirements of the conventional star-cam-and-jumper system — thereby preserving the chronometric integrity of the watch.
This level of mechanical sophistication in a feminine watch is rare, and it’s thanks to the expertise gained in creating the Tambour Carpe Diem that the Tambour Slim Vivienne Jumping Hours succeeds as a horological creation. Paired with the use of decorative materials — blue aventurine, white mother of pearl and green skarn — and miniature hand-painting, the Tambour Slim Vivienne Jumping Hours brings new levels of horological and artistic creativity to the venerable French luxury house.
Tambour Slim Vivienne Jumping Hours - Fortune © Louis Vuitton
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.Find out more >
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