Over the last three decades, the watch industry has seen momentous changes in aesthetics, trends and directions. Mechanical watches have grown in size, become more outlandish in terms of mechanical complications, or attempted different colours and unusual case shapes.
We even saw tourbillons enter a sort of horological arms race, twirling in one, twos, threes and even fours like some weird commentary on the shaving industry (I’m looking at you Gillette). There was also a touch of madness and equally mad prices, anything could be made, and every whim catered to for the right price. Then things changed.
The industry entered a period of self-reflection, watches stopped becoming exemplars of aesthetic pompousness. Stylistic arrogance became passé. Collectors started to embrace vintage and neo-vintage references, giving rise to independent micro-brands and kickstarter watchmakers to cater to the trend that caught most of the established watch industry flat footed. Minimalism came back in vogue, case sizes are shrinking once again, dials are reverting to the classical codes, and some watches are providing tremendous bang for buck.
In that time since, one smartwatch has come of age. The Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon Light Up is the French Maison’s third generation connected watch. Yes, time will tell if smartwatches will follow in a similar evolutionary path of iterative changes like their mechanical brethren, but enough time has passed since its first generation Tambour Horizon that proves Louis Vuitton’s voyage into the innovative world of creative connected watches continues to evolve in refinement and sophistication.
As a Maison, Louis Vuitton does not miss a beat when it comes to attracting a new generation of globetrotting consumers who value practicality and style. Early naysayers who made the obsolescence argument of pricey smartwatches were missing the point. The truth is – just as timepieces evolved beyond their utilitarian functions, becoming objects of expression, so too have smartwatches – becoming an extension of that pocket companion we can no longer live without while still remaining an essential accessory we wear on our bodies.
To wit, it is as much a functional item as it is a piece of jewellery that expresses an aspect of your personality. At the time, the Tambour Horizon watch was the brand’s first timepiece endowed with smartwatch technology, embracing all the current market trends summed up by the three Cs ‒ connected, customisable and cool ‒ while remaining a smart travel companion for people who appreciate instant access to information, but who refuse to forego style.
Beyond Connected: Spirit of Travel Embodied
Boldly innovative in its embrace of technology, the Tambour Horizon was a pioneering endeavour that nonetheless remained faithful to the spirit of the Maison’s founder, Louis Vuitton. Vuitton of course invented a genuine Art of Travel through luggage, bags and accessories that were as creative and pleasing to the eye as they were practical, and the Maison has gone on to publish of some of the world’s most luxurious and well-curated city guides.
Since 1998, Louis Vuitton City Guides established themselves as the ultimate travel companions, bringing to life the world’s most fascinating cities for business and leisure travellers alike. What made the Tambour Horizon different from its competition was that it featured an exclusive “City Guide”, extending to the smartwatch the services of the guides edited by Louis Vuitton and their apps.
Then, the very best addresses and unmissable sights of seven of the most visited cities in the world are easily accessible on the Tambour Horizon’s touch screen. This raised the smartwatch beyond a simple tool to access Google but rather served as an able digital concierge. To understand why this functionality is so vital, it is necessary to understand why the Guides are considered the world’s fi nest.
To capture the spirit of each city, Louis Vuitton reaches out to journalists, writers, and major figures in the world of art and letters, whose contributions ‒ together with those of artists, businesspeople, and creative talents from many fields ‒ make each City Guide a publication like no other.
For over 20 years, Louis Vuitton instilled its signature Spirit of Travel via its growing series of Guides to propose fresh and personal perspectives on a variety of destinations across the globe. Featuring independent writers and guests with wide and varied backgrounds, each guide spots trends and reveals unique insights: from grand luxury hotels to charming boutique inns, top-tier restaurants to neighbourhood bistros, antique shops to fashion boutiques, along with iconic must-sees and little-known places.
Special guest contributors, secret places, walking tours, cultural events, recommendations from savvy journalists, photographic portfolios‒ the spirit of the Louis Vuitton City Guide is constantly evolving, taking its unique approach in new directions. In essence, its compatibility with the Tambour Horizon reveals the pleasures each city has to offer. Imagine, all that information at your fingertips without the hard work of mining the various, often unverified information that is the global web.
Furthermore, even in first generation iterations, the Tambour Horizon had an intelligent geolocation function indicated nearby restaurants, hotels, historical landmarks, and tourist attractions in real time. For the first time in history, the smartwatch wasn’t some connected device with the status associated with this Maison’s products, it became a true companion with the curated wisdom and joie dʼvivre of the many tastemakers that contributed to each one of Vuittonʼs beloved guides.
Further setting it apart from the luxury smartwatch money grab was “My Flight” – also a feature found on no other smartwatch, keeping departing travellers informed of their flight times, terminal and gate information, reports of delays, the number of hours remaining before landing, etc. With this specific function, Louis Vuitton provided travellers with all the necessary information, at the right time, to make their journey smoother and more enjoyable.
The original Tambour Horizon also revolutionised the “GMT function” by beating to the rhythm of travel thanks to its 24-hour display on the rim of the dial. With a simple manoeuvre, one could display the name of a major world city and make the corresponding time appear in the time zone of their choice, in a reference to the Escale watch with its 24 time zones with the added style and refinement that simply did not exist on other smartwatches of the era.
State-of-the-art sapphire screen as well as precious metal watch case, the Tambour Horizon embodied the codes of fine watchmaking even if its innards were digital instead of mechanical. Subsequent models improved upon that initial philosophy with evolutionary steps. The 2nd generation Tambour Horizon watch further enriched the “My Travel” experience by grouping all of your travel information together in one place; using a dedicated watch face to sync with your hotel, flight or train bookings, as well as your departure and arrival times.
Before, during and at the end of your journey, all of your essential travel information is displayed so that you have it constantly on hand. Add to that, the City Guide function now featured 30 international destinations. With its own watch face, the “Agenda” function of the Tambour Horizon also separated meeting times from free time with distinctive coloured segments in a more user friendly way than even an iPhone calendar app, which does not distinguish between your appointments – strange considering the tech company has been in the productivity business longer than the French luxury Maison.
Again, embodying the spirit of travel, essential functionality for any globetrotter like the “Pollution” function displays the air quality index on the watch face in real time with air quality projections displayed in coloured segments, while weather and temperature forecasts round up the Tambour Horizon’s functions.
All-Day, All-Time Companion: Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon Light Up
In creating a new paradigm in connected watches, and offering unprecedented levels of customisation and personalisation, Louis Vuitton has reimagined every element of the world’s most functional and exclusive smartwatch, then redesigned and reengineered it to deliver a magical and memorable user experience.
Indeed, the new Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon Light Up heralds a new age of travel. New yet entirely in keeping with Louis Vuitton’s design codes, the familiar silhouette and convex case profile of the original Tambour watch has been adapted for the connected Horizon, applying the same exquisite level of hand- finishing to the new watch as to any of its mechanical pieces. The result is smooth, rounded, “pebble”.
In short, calming in its appearance especially amid the tempestuous vagaries of global travel during a pandemic. Beautifully designed and engineered curved sapphire glass acts as the watch’s screen appearing to pour over the mid-case much like an infinity pool merging into a distant horizon; This effect creates has the added advantage of making the watch’s 44mm case wear much smaller on the wrist.
Over that smooth edge, 24 LED lights behind the signature Louis Vuitton Monogram ring, activated whenever it receives a notification, lighting up in a dancing kaleidoscope of colours. If the sweeping seconds hand or “breath” of the balance spring endowed the mechanical watch with a heartbeat, this play of light is the digital equivalent of the soul.
An Exclusive Operating System
Swiss watchmakers have always collaborated with Google, simply because an in-house “operating system” – the heart of a digital watch is daunting to anyone but a full-fledged tech company. Hence, it is telling that the French luxury maison has made this evolutionary leap because it believes that the Tambour Horizon Light Up is very much a part of the house’s future as well.
At the heart of this artful, energising watch is a custom-designed new operating system, developed to deliver a highly intuitive experience, and integrate seamlessly into the wearer’s universe.
Its functions appear on screen through a simple system of swipes. In fact, the Tambour Horizon Light Up’s operating system is so sophisticated that it has become the first outside Apple’s own ecosystem to be accredited as “MFI”, or “made for iPhone”.
Leaning into the “swipe” methodology of smart navigation, swiping right brings up ‘My Day’, with agenda, weather, step count, heart rate and even air quality displays; down brings notifications; up reveals a control panel, covering all manner of functions, from timers and alarms, to music and Alipay; while swiping left takes the wearer into ‘My Travel’, where the wearer can access travel plans and boarding passes, and 30 of Louis Vuitton’s expertly curated city guides.
The Most Customisable Connected Watch In The World
Louis Vuitton’s promise to offer its customers bespoke creations has been honed and perfected throughout its long history, which began in Paris when the maison was founded in 1854. Customisation starts with the watch face, which in this third- generation model now has an always-on display that can be easily tailored to suit a mood, look or occasion.
The Tambour Horizon Light Up has eight built-in dial configurations to choose from, including one in a captivating striped animation – a nod to the maison’s iconic early trunks – and another one featuring Vivienne, the maison’s enchanting mascot.
Each echoes Louis Vuitton’s timeless design codes and spirit of travel and can be configured in a rainbow of colours, including 11 bold new gradients. The wearer can even add their own initials, again with a choice of colour and typeface. No matter the configuration, when activated, the watch face sparkles into life with matching LED animations that are as unique as the watch’s wearer.
In fact, throughout the year ahead, Louis Vuitton will introduce additional watch face designs to reflect collaborations, seasons, fashion shows and significant dates in the calendar, such as Christmas, Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day, which is virtually unheard of in other smartwatch makers.
Water-resistant to 30 metres and equipped with an all-day battery, the always on screen of the Tambour Horizon Light Up lives up to its name. Four modes developed to suit different needs and usage are made possible by the lightning quick Snapdragon Wear 4100 processor. In a sliding scale, Blossom, Explorer, Submarine and Saver reduce or expand the watch’s animations allowing the user to adapt the timepiece to their own mood and rhythm.
The Tambour Horizon Light Up is also the first Louis Vuitton connected watch with push buttons either side of the crown, introduced to increase the watch’s functionality. Rotating the crown changes the watch dial; the top pusher activates the watch face shuffle mode and configuration settings, while the bottom pusher is a shortcut button that can be set to activate an application of the wearer’s choice.
At launch, there will be three versions of the Tambour Horizon Light Up: the Polished Steel, the Matte Black and the Matte Brown, the latter a reflection of one of the Maisonʼs historic codes. Both black and brown models have high-end PVD fi nishes. The black variant with its contrasting titanium crown and lugs creates a particularly sleek look.
In addition to iOS, the watch is also compatible with Android and HarmonyOS smartphones. Ultimately, the 10-thousand-dollar question is this: if you’re buying it because you enjoy the experience of it, how the case feels on your wrist, the fi t and fi nish of it, and the brand affiliation it brings, this luxury smartwatch does everything a regular luxury timepiece does and then some. The Tambour Horizon Light Up is a landmark design in the luxury connected watch space, while remaining true to the brand’s travel ethos.
Photos Shawn Paul Tan; Styling Daryll Alexius Yeo; Hair Christvian Wu; Makeup Grego Oh; Photography Assistance Melvin Leong; Fashion Assistance Ivan Tan; Model JJ/Mannequin