Beware of falling in love with the Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata

Beware of falling in love with the Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata

Fergus Nash

You may have seen that Louis Vuitton recently scrapped almost their entire watch catalogue, making way for the new generation of Tambour to represent their brand. Well, the watches which escaped the firing line were the absolute cream of the crop. Existing in the extremely limited space of high-art animated watches, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata was first announced back in March, but now we can see all of its majesty in the metal.

The dial

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There’s no doubt that the flaming heart is primarily a Christian symbol, however Louis Vuitton definitely aren’t trying to send a religious message through their Tambour Fiery Heart Automata. Instead, they emphasise the strength of love while balancing its rewards and perils. Both the flames and the roses which adorn the dial are symbolic of beautiful things, but they can hurt you if you get too close. Activating the pusher brings all of these elements to life, as hidden thorns extend from the rose stems, the flames flicker, and the heart breaks open to reveal the words “BUT FIERCE” below the ‘Sweet’ banner. The centres of the roses also spin, shaped like some of Louis Vuitton’s monogram flower motifs.

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The dial’s animation is gorgeous and novel, but the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata would still be a graceful delight even without it. The base is a grass-green with radiant guilloché and monogram flower silhouettes, providing an earthy backdrop for the florals. Made entirely in-house by Louis Vuitton’s artisanal workshop, the enamel and metal engraving work is the result of painstaking effort from individual craftspeople. If you were wondering how to actually read the time, two thorny hands are emboldened in red and a subdial is formed by the golden briars, each thorn forming an hour marker.

The case

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You may think that a watch like this has to be huge to fit such a complicated movement, let alone displaying all of its wonderful artworks. But, the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata is surprisingly wearable. At 42mm, the 18k pink-gold case conforms neatly to the wrist thanks to its drum-shaped profile. The diamond-set lugs are quite a statement, but they don’t stick out too far and nor can they distract from the majesty of the dial. It’s only 13mm thick as well, which is impressive considering it’s got an automatic movement with a full-sized rotor. The 50-metre water resistance is a happy surprise as well, considering most watches of this level are scarcely able to be sealed at all.

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Looking at the case from side-on, you’ll see the Louis Vuitton letters spread evenly across the side of the bezel. Most of Louis Vuitton’s haters are quick to point out how much they dislike their over-branding on watches, but a piece like this is hardly going to be purchased by anyone who isn’t in love with it. The all-polished finish is exactly what you’d expect, as there’s no point pretending the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata is a sports watch in any context. For proof, you just need to look at the signed crown, each facet set with its own diamond.

The movement

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Louis Vuitton’s calibre LV 525 which powered the Einstein Automata, Opera Automata and the Carpe Diem won the Audacity Prize at GPHG in 2021, and the LFT 325 is kind of like its little sister. Reducing the components from 426 to 325, La Fabrique du Temps have managed to make an automaton movement which is slightly more accessible, versatile, and promises further experimentation in imaginative releases. In total, it supports seven animations which could be adapted to anything.

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With everything else going on in the dial, you’d be forgiven for acknowledging that the flying tourbillon is not the star of the show for once. Even still, it rotates within a window at 6 o’clock. From the exhibition caseback, the monogram flowers and vine motifs continue with sandblasted plates and a golden winding rotor. The power reserve is 65 hours, and it beats at 4Hz.

The strap

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The Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart is a complicated watch, but we do have a bit of respite with the strap. Keeping the focus on the case and dial, we’re provided with a dark green strap in alligator leather with a traditional scale pattern. The underside reveals that it was made in France, as you’d expect from a Louis Vuitton high-end leather product, and the stitching in a contrasting yellow colour. The clasp is a deployant one made from 18k pink gold, matching the case and ensuring a sleek fit.

The verdict

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It’s almost impossible to critique a watch like this, when so much soul has been poured into its design and execution. Yes, paying US$370,000 for any watch is absurd, but wouldn’t you want it to be a handcrafted treasure if you were going to? The Tambour Fiery Heart Automata not only exists in the highest tier of watchmaking, but it does so with all the elegance of a renaissance painting and all the simple charm of an American traditional tattoo. If you’re one of the lucky few who can afford and attain one, you’d better be wearing it as much as possible.

Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata pricing and availability

With so many handcrafted elements, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata is only limited by the difficulty of producing the pieces, and not in number. Price: US$370,000

Brand Louis Vuitton
Model Tambour Fiery Heart Automata
Reference Number Q1EBSY
Case Dimensions 42mm (D) x 13mm (T)
Case Material 18k pink gold, diamonds
Water Resistance 50 metres
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial Enamel and miniature painting, hand-engraved
Strap Green alligator leather, 18k pink gold folding buckle
Movement LFT 325, La Fabrique du Temps, automatic
Power Reserve 65 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seven-animation automaton, flying tourbillon
Availability Available now, but likely a long lead time
Price US$370,000