The new iteration of the Louis Vuitton Tambour positions the 21-year-old model as an integrated steel sports watch.

By Debbie Hathway

Love it or hate it, 24-year-old Jean Arnault, watch director at Louis Vuitton, is reportedly prepared for a mixed reaction to the new Tambour launched in Paris recently but is adamant that his move to take the watches category and its flagship timepiece into the higher priced collector’s realm is the right one.

It underpins the decision to position Louis Vuitton as a boutique horology brand. It means retiring around 130 existing men’s product lines now, with similar changes pending in the women’s collection by 2025, at which time almost everything required to produce a watch will be made in-house at La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton’s watch factory in Geneva. Prices will increase accordingly. Today, the Tambour price point is five times more than the average mechanical watch the brand sells.

So, what else has changed? This coming-of-age version of the Tambour, the name inspired by its drum-shaped case, is about 5mm slimmer than the original at 8.3mm thick and a neutral 40mm wide, shaped for supreme comfort on the wrist and fastened with an integrated bracelet – a first for Louis Vuitton.

There are two steel versions – a tone-on-tone model with silver-grey dial or a striking deep blue dial. A sandblasted bezel with polished rims features the 12-letter name of the Maison, a Tambour hallmark, but this time the letters are raised and polished, each minutely sculpted letter in line with an hour marker.

Another first is the new calibre LFT023, chronometer-certified by the Geneva Chronometric Observatory with the support of the TIMELAB Foundation. It is the first proprietary automatic three-hand movement designed by Louis Vuitton in conjunction with movement specialists Le Cercle des Horlogers to fully embody the Maison’s visual codes, from the barrel cover with open working reminiscent of a Monogram Flower to the micro-rotor decorated with a stylised LV in a repeating motif.

“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 identifiably Louis Vuitton in style,” says Arnault, the youngest of LVMH founder Bernard Arnault’s children.

If his instincts are right, watches could become one of the most desirable categories for the brand. Time will tell.

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