Earlier today in Paris, Jean Arnault, the head of the watchmaking division at Louis Vuitton, made significant announcements. The first announcement is the introduction of the newly re-imagined Tambour watch collection, while the second news is about the brand's decision to gradually phase out its entry-level watch line in favor of smaller production, higher-end models. Louis Vuitton aims to focus on creating prestigious watches, including the personalized million-dollar-plus timepieces for elite clients, produced at their Swiss La Fabrique du Temps watchmaking manufacture.
The new Tambour watch collection represents Jean Arnault's vision of creating a highly competent and well-respected integrated bracelet watch within Louis Vuitton. In recent years, it has become trendy for serious watchmakers to offer men's jewelry bracelet watches reminiscent of Gerald Genta's iconic designs from the 1970s. Brands like Audemars Piguet with their Royal Oak and Patek Philippe with their Nautilus have achieved great success in this space.
Recognizing the significance of this trend, Louis Vuitton, which also owns the Gerald Genta name, is producing a watch that appeals to serious watch enthusiasts. While Louis Vuitton has been known for its top-level haute horology, it seeks to expand its reach and capture the attention of a wider audience who appreciates fine timepieces. The Tambour aims to be an enthusiast's choice, aligning with the modern landscape of watch appreciation that has evolved significantly since the collection's initial launch in 2002.
The 2023 Tambour, named after the French word for "drum" due to its case shape, debuts without a special name, simply known as the "Louis Vuitton Tambour." The collection includes five versions, featuring two steel models, a two-tone steel and gold model, as well as all-solid 18k yellow or 18k rose gold variations. Every aspect of these watches has been meticulously crafted and redesigned, from the dial and case to the bracelet and movement. Viewing these watches in person is crucial to fully appreciate their beauty, as images alone can be deceiving.
For instance, the "Louis Vuitton" name on the bezel appears prominent in marketing images but is actually subtle and barely visible without close inspection. The Tambour's dial is particularly impressive, playing with light and offering a familiar, legible, and luxurious design. Louis Vuitton draws inspiration from famous three-hand watches, incorporating vintage elements while infusing the collection with its own history, Parisian culture, and watchmaking legacy.
Despite his relative youth, Jean Arnault has demonstrated exceptional taste and popularity within the elite timepiece space. His understanding of market trends and personal interests is evident in the Tambour collection, which blends Louis Vuitton's DNA with contemporary fine watchmaking trends. While the Tambour case shape remains, it has been reimagined in a unique form that sets it apart from its predecessors.
With a width of 40mm, the case wears smaller due to its lugless structure and thin 8.3mm thickness. Louis Vuitton emphasizes that the watch wears even smaller, akin to a 5 or 6mm timepiece. While primarily a men's watch, the Tambour's design also appeals to women seeking a more moderately sized yet still masculine timepiece.
The bracelet is a focal point of the new Tambour, elegantly merging with the case design. Louis Vuitton has successfully created a novel bracelet design that stands out from the competition. The brand's decision to use curved tapering links, as opposed to straight lines, reflects their commitment to avoiding shortcuts and pursuing more complex production and finishing techniques. The Tambour's bracelet is thin and comfortable, complementing the overall wearability of the watch. However, there is room for further research and development in the deployment clasp, an area where Louis Vuitton can differentiate itself and showcase its commitment to innovation.
Powering the new Tambour watches is the caliber LTF023, Louis Vuitton's first in-house designed three-hand automatic movement. Developed in collaboration between La Fabrique du Temps in Geneva and Les Cercle des Horlogers in La Chaux-de-Fonds, this 4.3mm thick movement incorporates special systems intended for highly complicated watches.
It boasts unique features such as a distinctive escapement and a smooth manual winding experience through the crown. Operating at 4Hz with a 50-hour power reserve, the movement's aesthetics are remarkable, featuring frosted bridge surfaces and a guilloche-engraved micro-rotor made of solid gold. The movement indicates only the time, accompanied by a subsidiary second indicator.
Notably, the movement in the Tambour is certified as a Chronometer by the Geneva Observatory (TIMELAB Foundation), with a similar performance and rate result test to the ISO 3159 standard. Although it does not strictly meet the requirements for the Poincon de Geneve due to certain parts being produced outside the canton of Geneva, the Tambour's movement represents exceptional accuracy and reliability. The movement can be admired through the sapphire crystal caseback, and the watch itself is water-resistant to 50 meters.