Louis Vuitton’s new Tambour is a show of the brand’s watchmaking know-how Louis Vuitton’s new Tambour is a show of the brand’s watchmaking know-how

Louis Vuitton’s new Tambour is a show of the brand’s watchmaking know-how

Fergus Nash

The arguments about fashion watches will most likely last until the end of time, no matter how many of those brands validate their efforts with award-winning designs and intensive traditional crafts. For Louis Vuitton, some of their higher-end models were dismissed purely based on the name, and they’ve finally decided to take some drastic action. Self-admittedly weighed down by some bulky watches in their lower end, the Parisian fashion house has scrapped almost all of their watch catalogue to start fresh. Redefining ‘entry-level’ to dismiss anyone who can’t put their money where their mouth is, the Louis Vuitton Tambour firmly plants them into a category of luxury watchmaking.

The case

Now heading up Louis Vuitton’s watch division, even Jean Arnault can admit that the old ETA-powered Tambour watches were thick and unrefined. Evidently, the first move in creating a luxury baseline for the Tambour was to tackle the case. Retaining the sloping sides reminiscent of an African drum, the thickness has been massively cut down to just 8.3mm. Now the quirky character of the Tambour can be enjoyed in subtle flashes whenever you check the time, rather than hanging off your wrist.

The diameter is nicely balanced at 40mm, and has no visible lugs to extend its length beyond a petite wrist. That makes it not only comfortable, but infused with a slight vintage, gender-neutral flavour. The finishing is subtle, but expertly executed. The majority of the stainless steel case is horizontally brushed, but the bezel’s polished edges glimmer when viewed front-on. From the side, you can see letters forming Louis Vuitton around its sandblasted perimeter.

The dial

Creating a dial which will form the basis of a new collection must be a difficult task, but Louis Vuitton have succeeded in coming up with something that’s unique without being jarring. It could easily be worn as a day-to-day watch, in the office, or in casual contexts. The original brief was to go for a gradient dial, however not wanting to contribute to a trend that could become overplayed they changed tactics. Offering a similar dynamic effect, the sector design with contrasting textures makes the available colours shift depending on the lighting and angle. The silver reference goes for a slightly more refined and versatile look, while the denim-blue offers more in the sporty realm.

The sector design is quite good for legibility too, as the hours and minutes have been divided into easily read partitions. The hour ring has a mix of applied Arabic numerals and baton indices, while the minute track lies around the outside of the dial. Their respective hands point neatly to the edge of each circle, and are semi-skeletonised to create more space in the centre. Finally, a small seconds sub-dial runs at the 6 o’clock position, imbuing an extra sense of sophistication.

The bracelet

It’s probably fair to say that the integrated bracelet is even more of a trend of the 2020s than the 1970s now, as nostalgia and technology have intersected to create vintage styles with far better quality. Vintage watch bracelets don’t age well often, but you can tell that the Tambour’s bracelet will outlive most of us. Connected inside a shoulder on the back of the case for fluid integration, flexibility has been prioritised to get the most comfortable fit possible. The brushed finish keeps the overall appearance fairly humble, while pins of polished steel between the main links remind us of its glamour.

The movement

Powering the Louis Vuitton Tambour is yet another incredible effort from new LV subsidiary La Fabrique Du Temps, who have manufactured some of Louis Vuitton’s most impressive calibres, and Le Cercle des Horlogers, based on the CH200.CHSA that also features in the Speake-Marin Ripples. The LFT023 is visible through the sapphire display caseback, revealing an industrial landscape with a technological flavour, with grained finishes moving away from the traditionalism one might expect. The solid gold micro-rotor is deeply engraved with the LV logo, and keeps the 50-hour power reserve topped up automatically as the watch beats at 4Hz.

Louis Vuitton Tambour pricing and availability

The new Louis Vuitton Tambour is now available from Louis Vuitton boutiques Australia-wide. Price: A$31,000

Brand Louis Vuitton
Model Tambour
Reference Number W1ST20
Case Dimensions 40mm (D) x 8.3mm (T)
Case Material Stainless steel
Water Resistance 50 metres
Crystal(s) Sapphire with AR coating
Dial Two-tone blue or silver
Lug Width Integrated
Strap Steel bracelet with three-blade folding clasp
Movement LFT023, by La Fabrique du Temps and Le Cercle des Horlogers, CH200.CHSA base, micro-rotor
Power Reserve 50 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, small seconds
Availability Available now from Louis Vuitton Australia
Price A$31,000