7 October 2023


By In Hype Market, Louis Vuitton

What do you think of if I say Louis Vuitton? You immediately think about French luxury handbags, don’t you? Then, other products and accessories such as wallets and shoes come to your mind, right? It makes sense, Louis Vuitton is one of the most recognized brands in the world. But what if I tell you we better start taking it seriously in terms of watchmaking as well? Product diversification is nothing new as high-end fashion houses are increasingly entering into the world of watchmaking over time. Some examples are Chanel and Hermès, just to name a few. Bulgari itself – whose primary business has always been jewellery – is now on everyone’s lips with the Octo Finissimo. Well, Louis Vuitton does not sit back and watch but makes its voice heard by launching the latest Tambour collection. Before having a look at it, let’s briefly go through its entire watch journey.

Louis Vuitton Escale Worldtime. Photo taken from the front side of the watch
Louis Vuitton Escale worldtime – Photo courtesy of Louis Vuitton
2002-2023: Louis Vuitton Journey into watches

Louis Vuitton made his debut in the world of watchmaking back in 2002 with a watch named after its particular case shape: the Tambour (which means “drum” in French). The first models were pretty large and thick timepieces on a leather strap. Nevertheless, the great horological aspirations were in the air from the beginning. For instance, the chronograph Tambour LV277 was not powered by any supplied movement but by Zenith’s El Primero calibre. This was of course possible thanks to the fact that both brands belong to the same group: LVMH. The brand’s serious idea of watchmaking could also be understood by its desire for independence, which pushed the French company to acquire in 2011 La Fabrique du Temps, a Swiss high watchmaking workshop founded by two talented watchmakers: Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini. Few months later, in 2012, Louis Vuitton bought Léman Cadran, a renowned dial maker. Finally, in 2014, the maison inaugurated its manufacture in Meyrin, Geneva. During this period LV gained experience in haute horlogerie and released remarkable pieces such as the hand-painted Escale Worldtime, the Tambour Répétition Minutes and the Tambour Moon Flying Tourbillon Poinçon de Genève.

Louis Vuitton Tambour Minute Repeater with sapphire case. Photo taken from the side of the watch
Louis Vuitton Tambour Minute Repeater – Photo courtesy of Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton Tambour Moon Flying Tourbillon Poinçon de Geneve. Photot aken from the front side of the watch
Louis Vuitton Tambour Moon Flying Tourbillon Poinçon de Geneve – Photo courtesy of Louis Vuitton

The entry of Jean Arnault into the LVMH group in 2021 was a real turning point. As Director of Marketing and Watch Development at Louis Vuitton, he quickly laid the foundation for the future by understanding the team had to focus and put the same amount of effort on entry level watches the same way they have been doing with the super high-end range. His main goal was in fact to reposition the brand and this is how the new Tambour was conceived.

A new era has started

On July 5th, Louis Vuitton finally unveiled the new Tambour collection made up of 5 versions: two in steel, one in two-tone and two in gold (yellow and rose). In today’s article we will focus on the steel version only as it has been the most talked-about. 

Louis Vuitton Tambour with silver and blue dial. Picture showing bot the configurations
Louis Vuitton Tambour made by steel – Photo courtesy of Hodinkee

The brushed lugless case has been reduced to 40 mm and it has a thickness of 8.3 mm, thanks to the chronometer certified micro-rotor movement which only measures 4.2 mm (LFT023). La Fabrique du Temps, together with Le Cercle des Horlogers, lie behind this first three-hand in-house calibre we can admire via an exhibition caseback. For those who remember the LV signature engraved around the bezel, that is still there. However, it is now more elegant and discrete, upon request of the new director. 

LFT023 calibre, the first three-hand in house movement created bv Louis Vuitton
LFT023 calibre – LV first three-hand in house calibre – Photo courtesy of Revolution

The stepped dial (available in grey or blue) has applied Arabic numerals and a sub-seconds register at 6 o’clock. At the bottom, we read “Fab. en Suisse” instead of “Swiss Made”, which reminds of both La Fabrique du Temps and old “Fab. Suisse” dials, a small detail that surely does not go unnoticed to vintage lovers. 

Let’s get now to the real novelty: the new Tambour features an integrated bracelet combining brushed (surfaces) and polished (edges and central links) finishes. To the delight of all watch enthusiasts, it tapers from 23mm to 18mm and, according to those who have already seen it in the flesh, it is extremely ergonomic and comfortable. When compared to the old model, there is no doubt the brand managed to make a great improvement both from an aesthetic and technical perspective. As usual, the market has the last word though and this new watch can be sold by September 2023 for EUR 19,500.

Louis Vuitton Tambour. Photo taken on the wrist
Louis Vuitton Tambour on the wrist – Photo courtesy of Fratello watches
A niche piece

Integrated bracelet watches often risk to be very similar and brands, whether they like it or not, are inevitably inspired by iconic Patek Philippe Nautilus, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak or IWC Ingenieur. With this new Tambour, Louis Vuitton has overcome the most difficult challenge, that is introducing its own integrated bracelet watch without resembling Gérald Genta’s most famous designs. All in all, this is original and does not scream Genta in any way. The French company has stuck to the first Tambour and simply improved what could be improved by working on proportions, adding a stepped dial and a metal bracelet, and powering it with a new in-house good looking movement. This is not exactly what you usually expect from a fashion luxury brand, isn’t it? 

Louis Vuitton Tambour. Picture taken from the side to show the side profile
Profile of the Louis Vuitton Tambour – Photo courtesy of Monochrome

The LVMH maison is definitely going in the right direction, also considering the main negative comments I have glimpsed are all about “fashion brands shouldn’t make watches” or “price is crazy”. For the record, LV has been collaborating with masters who have a longstanding expertise in the watch industry for years, so it has all the necessary resources to achieve good results. Actually, it has not started producing watches today; it has simply been focusing on haute horlogerie so far. To everyone complaining about the price tag, of course this is an exclusive price point and you can easily get something else from a more established brand. However, this is a niche piece which is not meant for everybody nor for the average collector. The brand is completely aware of it and does not expect to compete with historical brands, as Jean Arnault says “Our goal is not to put a watch on the wrist of everybody but it is to put the watch on the wrist of the certain collector that understands the amount of effort and the amount of work that we’ve put into our movements, our cases, our bracelets […]”. As a consequence, Louis Vuitton just aims at being part of this game and having its slice of the cake, even if a small one. And as the main flaw of this new release is apparently the price, I think it has already nailed it. In conclusion, let’s take the new Tambour for what it is and if you are not interested in it just move on and sleep tight, hoping your partner will not ask you for one next Christmas!

Written by Renato Spada

Super curious since 1990. One of his first questions was "And why?" He is now a localization project manager 8 hours per day and watch enthusiast for much more. Before being attracted by watches, he is charmed by their stories and what they mean for their owners.