Louis Vuitton’s Tambour watch made its debut in 2002 and its distinctive drum-shaped case — an immediately recognisable silhouette — soon became a striking mode of time interpretation. Twenty-one years later, the Tambour in its latest avatars appears remarkably mature – think exceptional finish, sophisticated and sculptural with a slimmer form and more fluid lines.
Louis Vuitton has just introduced two new steel versions of the Tambour — one with a silver grey dial (W1ST10) and the other with a contrasting deep blue dial (W1ST20). In an official statement, Jean Arnault, Marketing and Development Director at Louis Vuitton Watches, says that these new models offer an unprecedented level of sophistication. “With this launch, we seek to open a new chapter in the history of the Maison’s watchmaking by creating a watch with strong horological credentials while being identifiably Louis Vuitton in style,” he stresses.
The elevated Tambour iterations also mark a couple of firsts for the brand — an integrated bracelet, and a brand new, exclusive, and exquisitely crafted automatic movement, designed by La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton.
Design and Details
The quintessential feature of a Louis Vuitton Tambour watch is its round case, along with its innovative approach to dimension and proportion. The latest iterations retain these staples and amplify them through intricate details.
With a modern morphology and a fully unisex 40 mm diameter, and an 8.3 mm thick case, each watch offers a luxurious fit that follows the line of the wearer’s arm. The integrated bracelet, a first for Louis Vuitton, blends robustness with fluidity. Its slim, curved links provide a close and comfortable fit on the wrist in order to rival the softest leather strap. Design certainly takes centre stage even with regard to the exterior of the watch; every surface that makes contact with the skin is shaped to accommodate the body. Even the caseback is not completely flat but ascends in an arc towards the case middle, fitting the natural curve of the forearm as it approaches the wrist.
The bracelet is fused seamlessly into the case, a lug-free construction that makes the new Tambour the only truly round watch with an integrated bracelet. Completing the sleek aesthetic is an invisible closure of the bracelet, attained with a triple-blade folding buckle, whose position can be identified only through subtle cues: the engraved ‘LOUIS VUITTON’ on the end link and the absence of the polished central link that separates each brushed link from the next.
The craftsmanship is not only visible to the eye but also tactile with the prevailing brushed finishes, except for the polished bracelet chamfers and central links or the polished crown. The drum-shaped case is fluted with distinct yet soft grooves that make winding and setting the watch a sensory indulgence. A sandblasted bezel with polished rims carries the name of the Maison, a Tambour hallmark, with raised and polished letters, each minutely sculpted in line with an hour marker.
Light and Lightness
The taut curves and smooth exteriors are contrasted with the crisp and sharply delineated dial display under the sapphire crystal. The textures of the Tambour’s display are brought out effortlessly when light shines. Even though the dial is just over a millimetre thick, it conveys surprising depth and three-dimensionality. A split-level chapter ring, divided by a polished step, consists of an outer ring for the minuterie and an inner ring for the hours, both with micro-sandblasted main surfaces. The dial markers complement each other in terms of spatial balance, with the five-minute markers being recessed. The hours are indicated with appliques. This difference in the height level of the markers offers quick reading. The indexes are in gold and diamond polished to amplify their interaction with light. Yet the new Tambour remains fully legible even in dim light, thanks to the numerals and hands, filled with Super-LumiNova.
An additional sense of space is brought out by the tapered and faceted openworked hands, an evolution of the broad batons. The slimmer hands ensure that more of the dial can be seen at any moment, resulting in an overall ‘lightening’ of the watch, visually and conceptually.
The new Louis Vuitton Tambour watch puts forth a new statement of identity on its central brushed dial section, ‘LOUIS VUITTON PARIS’, a declaration of the Maison’s origins — the brand was founded in Paris in 1854. The watch also replaces the familiar ‘SWISS MADE’ with ‘FAB. EN SUISSE’, placed below the snailed small seconds counter. It’s a small change that refers to the historic fine watchmaking dials of the 1950s and 1960s. The phrase actually stands for ‘Fabriqué en Suisse’, an allusion to La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton and the elevated levels of craftsmanship present in this timepiece.
Movement and Motion
The new Louis Vuitton Tambour watch is a result of the advanced watchmaking expertise of Louis Vuitton, incorporated by La Fabrique du Temps, the watchmaking atelier of the Maison in Geneva. Founded and led by master watchmakers Enrico Barbasini and Michel Navas, La Fabrique du Temps has brought award-winning horological complications to Louis Vuitton.
The new cal. LFT023 is more than a movement driving the evolved Tambour. It also marks the first proprietary automatic three-hand movement, designed by Louis Vuitton in collaboration with movement specialists Le Cercle des Horlogers, to fully encapsulate the Maison’s visual codes, from the barrel cover with openworking, reminiscent of a Monogram Flower, to the micro-rotor, accentuated by a stylised LV in a repeating motif.
The resolutely contemporary design, with micro-sandblasted bridges, polished edges and chamfers, parallels the aesthetic vocabulary of the rest of the watch. The circular grained mainplate is a nod to traditional movement decoration. Instead of the conventional magenta movement rubies, the colourless transparent jewels maintain the avant-garde visual approach of the cal. LFT023. The micro-rotor is in high-inertia 22 ct gold, paired with peripheral gearing that provides exceptionally efficient winding to the barrel with 50 hours of power reserve on a 4Hz (28,800vph) escapement. The new Louis Vuitton Tambour watch is water-resistant for up to 50 metres.