Celebrating Louis Vuitton’s watchmaking anniversary is the Tambour Twenty, paving the way for future decades of fine watchmaking while staying true to the brand’s values of creativity, craftsmanship and excellence. Thanks to its brown sun brushed dial standing in contrast to its bright polished environs, the Twenty stands out with its deep, flared shape, which gives it a masculine, robust and reliable feel.
On its iconic 41.5 mm diameter case are the 12 letters that make up the name “Louis Vuitton” across the numbers and indexes, just like on the 2002 version. This collector’s edition also features yellow accents on three of the chronograph’s five indicator hands ‒ a nod to the thread historically used in leatherwork.
When Michel Navas last spoke with me in 2020, we defined collectors who give undue importance to provenance and “legitimacy” rather than pay attention to the actual calibre and finishing as “not real connoisseurs”.
Two years on, the limited supply situation has encouraged consumers to explore Louis Vuittonʼs singular and often-iconoclastic approach to watchmaking. “We are very new in the watch industry. We are 20 years young but becoming more and more credible since our last meeting together. We have developed so many in-house movements. We are real watchmakers but it takes time. In the fashion world, the growth is rapid and fast as we have several fashion shows in a year.
But in the high-watchmaking world, it takes a few years to create a timepiece,” Navas explains. Indeed, fledgling new manufactures often work themselves into a corner attempting to “reinvent” wheels by creating in-house movements of pre-existing complications for no good reason. While what results fits the definition of “manufacture movement” ‒ reliability often comes into question especially when robust workhorses for standard time-only and chronograph calibres exist.
Twenty For Twenty
It is perhaps to La Fabrique du Tempsʼ credit that in their growing confidence, they have not attempted their own manufacture chronograph yet. The Tambour Twenty keeps time with a LV277 high-frequency movement based on the vaunted Zenith El Primero. As you might surmise, it is a sensible approach to adopt a reliable calibre from a sister brand and if one were to extrapolate, it’s analogous to Navasʼ own humble approach to watchmaking even if he has been credited with novelties from some of the industry’s biggest brands.
Take the Tambour Twin Chrono, a world premiere chronograph with a complication which has the ability to simultaneously measure two distinct times and to display the difference between these two measured times ‒ all at once on the same dial. Its innovative character is based on the use of a movement composed of four different motors, three of which are exclusively dedicated to the bi-chronograph function.
The biggest challenge is to ensure perfect synchronisation between these movements which can simultaneously or consecutively start and stop. Or consider the Spin Time Regatta, an innovative watch whose countdown timer uses the brand’s unforgettable “spin time” executed as coloured blocks that rotate on their own axis for its display.
Test Of Time
For a long time, the countdown chosen for major challenges such as the America’s Cup was 10 minutes: five minutes before the start, the crews are alerted with a first signal; the countdown begins. Two minutes before the start, another signal means that they can enter the starting zone ‒ this is when they must manage their speed, ideally crossing the line at full speed, just after the starting “cannon fire”. Boats crossing the line too early are penalised.
A distinctly nautical example of pure watchmaking, a red push button activates the Regatta complication and the chronograph’s 30-minute counter will leap forward and move to the five-minute countdown displayed in red in the counter.
As if by magic, five cubes on the right of the dial will begin to spin from blue to red, each indicating the elapsing countdown. This way the minutes before departure are taken into account in the final measured time, this unprecedented and first-class complication developed by the Maison Louis Vuitton’s watchmakers and, icing on cake, this complex mechanism was developed on an ETA 7750 base. Incredible.
The Tambour Twenty, which is water resistant to 100 metres, keeps precision timekeeping down to the tenth of a second. A true collector’s item produced in only 200 models, as specified by its engraved caseback, the Tambour Twenty is also available with another iconic Louis Vuitton staple: a miniature trunk in Monogram canvas ‒ a fitting tribute to Louis Vuitton’s travel legacy, and of course, subtle analogy that the contents it keeps within, will stand the test of time.
PRICE + SPECS
Case 41.5 mm stainless steel with 100 metres water resistance
Movement Automatic LV 277 with 50 hours power reserve
Limited to 200 pieces
(Images: Louis Vuitton)