Louis Vuitton’s status as the world’s pre-eminent luxury label is undisputed. The French fashion house has consistently ranked as the most valuable luxury brand over the past several decades. And with the establishment of Louis Vuitton High Watchmaking and the acquisition of La Fabrique du Temps, the company has been trying in earnest to carry over this feat of industry dominance to the field of haute horlogerie. The latest release from the house, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Opera Automata, is a stunning timepiece that combines luxury, craftsmanship, and technology and is worthy of high horology creds. This new watch is a marvel of horological engineering, bringing together the craft of watchmaking with the artistry of complex mechanical movements and enamel miniature painting.
The timepiece is inspired by the ancient Chinese art of “Bian Lian”, or “changing faces” seen at the Sichuan Opera, where performers put on up to 20 different masks in a fraction of a second, making painted silk figures appear and disappear with a quick movement of the hand or an elegant fanning motion. This enigmatic interchange of expressions has been miniaturised and engraved onto a watch case by master enameller Anita Porchet, and master engraver Dick Steenman, respectively. Meanwhile, master watchmakers Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini of La Fabrique du Temps worked on the extraordinary movement, calibre LV 525, made up of 426 components and offering a power reserve of 100 hours.
The watch displays the time only when the automaton is activated, with the carved pink gold dragon’s head rising to expose the jumping hours etched on the forehead of the cloisonné enamel Bian Lian, and its tail indicating the retrograde minutes. The five animations in the automaton produce a unique and unforgettable 16-second performance, the mask’s expression changing markedly, with frowning eyebrows, the left eyelid closing, and the pupil of its right eye retracting to show the brand’s signature pointed Monogram flower. With the movement of its chin, the miniature Bian Lian mask conveys a broad range of ‘emotions’.
The Louis Vuitton Tambour Opera Automata Black comes paired with a black alligator strap and an 18K pink gold double folding buckle.