A museum noted for the grandeur of its architecture and Impressionist paintings by Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Morisot and Renoir is bound to evoke a sensation of stepping into a portal that transcends time.
As you wander through the halls of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, France, the essence of the building’s past as a train station becomes evident, heightening art appreciation amid a unique and unforgettable atmosphere. The juxtaposition of artistic treasures against the backdrop of a place where “running on time” was the order of the day sets the perfect background for Louis Vuitton’s new Tambour watch launch.
On the morning of July 5, before an audience of watch editors and select media, watch director Jean Arnault introduced the elegant and exquisite minimalist steel grey and blue Tambour watches much to the delight of those present. It was an important moment in the history of watchmaking for the brand as the young visionary took the opportunity to announce a new and exciting strategy for Louis Vuitton: to do away with 80% of its entry-level watches.
By eliminating all men’s fashion watches with quartz movements from its line-up, the upscaling move will reposition the brand in the high watchmaking sector with a price point starting from €19,000 (RM94,000). On top of the new Tambour models, the Street Diver and high-end complication watches are here to stay.
“Louis Vuitton has 21 years of history in watchmaking now. We’ve built our expertise with the Tambour that was launched in 2002 and it has remained one of our core pillars ever since. Its core elements, which are the big drum case, the very prominent lugs and the Louis Vuitton signature around the case, make it an icon,” says Arnault, giving us the 101 at the launch.
“And one thing which is quite clear for us is that Tambour is probably one of the only icons that were created in the 21st century. When you think about it, most of the creations that are considered icons today were created 50, 60, 70 years ago.” The scion of LVMH, who joined the conglomerate in August 2021, believes it is time to take the iconic timepiece up a notch.
“The Tambour is an existing watch model. Nothing new when you look at it — it is a Louis Vuitton watch. But everything has changed: from the price positioning to the level of attention to detail, the finishing and, obviously, the integrated bracelet.” It has always been a relatively thick watch at around 14mm and it only got bigger over time. “We decided to reverse that trend completely and go from 13mm all the way down to 8mm in thickness.”
The result: A beautifully pared-down timepiece that seamlessly complements the wrists of both genders. “Bringing the bracelet straight into the case allowed us to actually make the watch a lot more wearable, a lot more comfortable on the wrist,” he says.
Louis Vuitton achieves a significant milestone with its first-ever integrated bracelet design, which seamlessly blends sturdiness and fluidity for a comfortable fit. The slender, curved links gracefully blend with the case while the lug-free construction makes the new Tambour the only truly round watch with an integrated bracelet.
Both dial options have a very monochromatic finish but upon closer inspection, one would notice the different polished surfaces that give it a captivating visual finish, especially when it catches the light. The sandblasted bezel with polished rims features the 12-letter name of the maison, each sculpted letter in line with an hour marker.
The Tambour is powered by the Calibre LFT023, the first proprietary automatic three-hand movement designed by La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton and it has all the makings of the brand’s visual codes — barrel cover with openworking that harks back to a monogram flower and micro-rotor decorated with repeating LV motif. This is a 50-hour power reserve calibre and the first chronometer-certified movement from the Geneva Observatory.
“This is our first manufacture movement that we built in collaboration with Le Cercle des Horlogers, which is a specialist movement workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland. The finishing is actually the same as the one we used in the Fiery Heart Automata launched a few months ago, and this will become the new standard of finishing for LV across all collections,” he expresses.
“We believe this new product actually reflects a lot more the ethos at the watchmaking atelier and what we’ve built over the last 10 years of our high watchmaking segment. We are going to evolve completely and make sure that all of our collections are on the same plane, on the same level, and have the same level of attention to detail and craftsmanship.”
The new watches will go on sale in September and are currently available for pre-order. You will love the new case it comes in.
The Tambour timepieces have an intriguing history. From its introduction, it marked the luxury brand’s entry into the world of horology, reflecting the fusion of the brand’s iconic design with the craftsmanship of Swiss watchmaking. While many doubted the fashion brand’s ability to produce “real” watches, it sure found a way to rise to the top.
The watch’s name is derived from the French word for “drum”, representing the distinctive shape of the watch case, but the design embodies the brand’s core values of innovation, creativity and craftsmanship. It was envisioned to be an elegant and versatile timepiece that would complement Louis Vuitton’s luxury product range.
Over the years, the maison has expanded its Tambour collection with various iterations, including complications like chronographs, tourbillons and GMT functions. The brand also introduced limited-edition watches featuring collaborations with artists and designers, further enhancing their exclusivity.
The Tambour has become a symbol of luxury and sophistication, attracting a global clientele. Its success has solidified Louis Vuitton’s position as a prominent player in the luxury watch industry, more so with the two awards — Audacity Prize and the Diver’s Watch Prize — received from the reputable Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève for its models Carpe Diem and Street Diver respectively.
As time went on, Louis Vuitton continued to innovate with the Tambour collection, incorporating new materials, designs and technological advancements to keep the watches contemporary and desirable to discerning customers.
That same evening, night at the museum took on a new meaning as Arnault hosted a cocktail party at the Impressionist Gallery on level five of the famous museum by the Seine river followed by a lavish gala dinner at an area typically occupied by Café Campana. Under the gaze of a giant clock that is the focal point of attention here, we tucked into dinner curated by Alain Ducasse and raised a toast to a new chapter of Louis Vuitton watches.
The occasion was graced by the presence of Bernard Arnault (CEO of LVMH), Francesca Amfitheatrof (artistic director for watches and jewellery at Louis Vuitton), American architect Peter Marino and Taiwanese singer, musician and actress Ouyang Nana as well as Louis Vuitton’s first dedicated watch ambassador Bradley Cooper and the face of the brand, Alicia Vikander.
This article first appeared on Aug 7, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.