Louis Vuitton Tambour Einstein Automata Only Watch 2023 Louis Vuitton Tambour Einstein Automata Only Watch 2023

Louis Vuitton Tambour Einstein Automata Only Watch 2023

Borna Bošnjak

I’m sure people are already tired of reading the same thing about Louis Vuitton. “Look at how this leading fashion brand is pushing the high watchmaking envelope”, or something along those lines, anyway. Yes, it’s true – Louis Vuitton are not a traditional watchmaking maison, and with the ever-present plague of the $300 fashion watch, it’s easy to get distracted from their true achievements. The brand’s distinct design language, based around the Tambour shape, is what I suspect to be the sticking point for many, which has only recently been remedied in a way with the brand new, sleek Tambour. In any case, ever since LV’s purchase of La Fabrique du Temps some 10 years ago, the brand has been keen to partner with and/or purchase high-end suppliers and develop manufacturing facilities – including bringing in Léman Cadran and setting up Louis Vuitton High Watchmaking in Meyrin. The results speak for themselves. Just think back to the Tambour Carpe Diem or the Opera Automata, and it’s quickly clear that Louis Vuitton’s watchmaking chops are not to be scoffed at. Are those pieces priced in the upper six-figure ranges, and completely unattainable but for the 0.01%? Absolutely – and that’s the point. That’s why the brand’s latest creation, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Einstein Automata is the perfect fit for the 2023 edition of Only Watch. Combining retrograde, time-on-demand, and automaton complications with micro-engraving and long-lost-then-revived enamelling techniques, it’s no wonder that the Einstein Automata’s estimate is among the highest at the auction.

Time on demand

louis vuitton tambour einstein automata workshop 1

So, what are all these complications? All incorporated into the GPHG-winning calibre 525 (shared with the Carpe Diem), the pusher resembling a particularly naughty lock of Einsten’s hair triggers the genius’ forehead aperture to display the hours, numbered from 1 to 12. The minutes are displayed next, with a rotation of the atom model to the left of Einstein’s envy-inducing stache, with one of the traces outlined by orbiting electrons incorporating a pusher that indicates the current minute in a retrograde display. Admittedly, it’s not the most accurate display, as it’s graduated to the nearest tenth. Somewhat mockingly, perhaps to those expecting legible time-reading (go buy a diver or something), Einstein gives the observer a wink with his LV Monogram Flower right eye, and pokes out his tongue – the latter finished in many exquisite layers of enamel, naturally – more on that shortly.

louis vuitton tambour einstein automata movement close up

More impressive but perhaps a little less charming, the dial-side mechanics of the 525 movement reveal some of the inner workings of the movement. There’s the pretty standard stuff like the keyless works from the 4(ish) o’clock crown, but also the not-so-standard-at-all stuff like the sliding OW/LV indicator and the blades of the eye aperture mechanism. The former is a special nod to the occasion that led to the creation of this watch, and also the final hidden secret of the Tambour Einstein Automata. When the 100-hour power reserve is satisfactorily topped-up, the LV lettering is displayed via the aperture, completing Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence, and what many claim to be the most famous formula in the world – E=LV². If you ask me, I’m more familiar with the ol’ 2+2=5.

Once the power reserve dips low enough, the slider activates and replaces the LV text with OW, indicating it’s time to give the crown a wind.

louis vuitton tambour einstein automata movement caseback 1

Turned over, the caseback reveals yet another melange of LV’s Monogram Flower and the diagram of an atom, this time decoratively covering most of the rose gold surfaces of the calibre 525. The motif is repeated one final time in the crown, hand-engraved in steel by Dick Steenman. For a watch that is so ridiculously complicated, there’s little on show from the caseback, even less with the large atom diagram covering it up. Nevertheless, the attention to detail is absolutely second to none here, with a complete suite of decorative finishes from anglage to striping. If anyone knows of a finishing technique starting with Z, please let me know – it would make that line much more impactful.

Enamelling techniques of old

louis vuitton tambour einstein automata workshop 4

Remember that long-lost-but-then-found-again dial enamelling technique I mentioned earlier? That would be grisaille, a method developed in 16th Limoges, France and revived as recently as a decade ago. Hailing from La Fabrique du Temps, Einstein’s face was fully enamelled (grisailled?) by Nicolas Doublel who painstakingly painted each layer of blanc des Limoges, firing after each application. Starting with a base coat of deep black, the grisaille technique requires the artisan to build up the image layer by layer by applying thin coats of translucent white enamel (blanc de Limoges), meaning all of the transitions between light and dark portions of Einstein’s face are the differences in the number of enamel layers. Standing out from the monochromatic backdrop is Einstein’s tongue, also rendered in varying shades of pink enamel to achieve its shiny surface. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it almost looks… moist. And that’s a compliment.

louis vuitton tambour einstein automata workshop 2

The backdrop to Einstein’s head and sporting white enamel chalk scribbles is Louis Vuitton’s classic Monogram pattern, executed in translucent black enamel, no less. All together, the enamelling took 130 hours, with 50 going just to Einstein’s cheeky mug.

Familiar Tambour case (and trunk)

louis vuitton tambour einstein automata flatlay

Even though this is as crazy complicated as it gets in the Louis Vuitton line-up, the Einstein Automata’s case will be instantly recognisable to anyone who’s seen the LV Tambour case before. The inspiration for its shape and name (in French) is a drum, turned upside-down to give it the taper and round bottom it’s well-known for. The distinct H-shape lugs jut out on either side, though the most distinct feature of the sizeable 46.8mm steel case is the pusher that’s used to actuate the time-on-demand complication -extending from the dial and taking the shape of Einstein’s famous mop. Alongside shaping the pusher and crown, LFT’s Dick Steenman also engraved the 18k white gold surfaces of Einstein’s face and atom minute hand.

louis vuitton tambour einstein automata trunk 1

It wouldn’t be a Louis Vuitton watch without a Louis Vuitton watch box, and what better way for a brand that made its name in trunk-making to house a watch than in a mini trunk? This special version of the box that accompanies all of their haute horlogerie pieces features hand-painted Monogram canvas, hiding nods to Louis Vuitton and Only Watch 2023 into mathematical equations.

Louis Vuitton Tambour Einstein Automata Only Watch 2023 pricing and availability

The Louis Vuitton Einstein Automata is a piece unique for Only Watch 2023. Estimate: CHF 340,000 – 440,000

Brand Louis Vuitton
Model Tambour Einsten Automata Only Watch 2023
Case Dimensions 46.8mm (D) x 14.4mm (T)
Case Material Stainless steel
Water Resistance 30 metres
Crystal(s) Domed, AR-coated sapphire front, sapphire back
Dial Grisaille enamel over 18k white gold, hand-engraved
Strap Black alligator leather
Movement LV 525, developed by La Fabrique du Temps, manual winding
Power Reserve 100 hours
Functions Four-animation automaton, jumping hours, retrograde minutes, power reserve, time on demand
Availability Piece unique
Price CHF 340,000 – 440,000 estimate