The Louis Vuitton watchmaking moment everyone missed at Paris Fashion Week The Louis Vuitton watchmaking moment everyone missed at Paris Fashion Week

The Louis Vuitton watchmaking moment everyone missed at Paris Fashion Week

Jamie Weiss

Despite its naturally glamorous nature, high-end watchmaking has long been absent, or at least an afterthought, when it comes to fashion shows. The world’s famous luxury maisons, regardless of how horologically competent their watches are, generally don’t slap their pieces on catwalk models’ wrists. Haute couture and haute horlogerie are bizarrely somewhat separated.

It’s a particularly unusual state of affairs for Louis Vuitton, which has long been a pretty serious watchmaker, or at least more serious than many of its competitors such as Prada or Versace. Despite the fact that LV has really stepped up their watchmaking game since the purchase of La Fabrique du Temps in 2011, we haven’t seen too many LV watches make appearances at big fashion shows. Even under the late Virgil Abloh’s creative directorship, we didn’t see any LV watches on runways, even though Abloh himself was quite a watch lover.

lv tambour pfw23 runway 5

However, Paris Fashion Week 2023 has changed all that. During the Spring-Summer 2024 women’s show, and for the first time since the launch of Louis Vuitton watchmaking, women’s creative director Nicolas Ghesquière had his models wear the new Louis Vuitton Tambour on the runway. Ghesquière opted for opulence, with models wearing precious metal Tambours, specifically the two yellow gold variants with silver and blue dials, which perfectly accompanied the autumn-hued outfits of the collection.

lv tambour pfw23 runway 1

Okay, models wearing the new Tambour might seem pretty unexceptional, but it represents a big moment for Louis Vuitton as a brand. What they’re saying is that their watches are now good enough to accompany their haute couture rather than just appear as an afterthought. No, it’s more than that: their watches are good enough to be the star of the show. It’s a subtle detail that the world’s fashion press (and watch press, frankly) missed in their Paris Fashion Week coverage.

lv tambour pfw23 runway 2

The new Tambour itself represents a changing of the guard. Jean Arnault, director of watch development and marketing at LV, made the bold move to discontinue approximately 80% of their existing catalogue in favour of the new Tambour earlier this year (which also bumped the entry-level price point for an LV watch up from €3,000 to €19,500). No more ‘fashion watches’ for this fashion house! The Tambour is a serious watch, and you need to pay serious coin to get one.

lv tambour pfw23 runway 4

It’s also significant that LV chose to introduce the Tambour as part of its women’s show, too. In the same way that LV’s watchmaking is ‘growing up’, so too is the brand’s approach to women’s watches. Dedicated watchmakers and fashion houses alike have long been guilty of ‘shrinking and pinking’ when it comes to making women’s watches; they’ll invest in higher-end mechanical watchmaking for their men’s pieces, but not their women’s pieces. The new Tambour, however, is positioned as a unisex piece – LV’s doing something different.

lv tambour pfw23 runway 3

Watchmaking hasn’t been completely divorced from the fashion world, as far as the big fashion brands are concerned. Back in 2015 at Baselworld, Louis Vuitton (as well as Burberry, Dior and Fendi) released watches that were directly linked to its ready-to-wear and handbag collections for the year – for example, LV released a Tambour Damier Graphite Rope which had a strap and dial that mirrored that of a jacket from their autumn men’s runway collection, WWD illustrates. But that’s very different from actually seeing watches on people’s wrists for the runway itself. That model who wore that jacket didn’t wear the watch at the same time, for example.

Louis Vuitton Tambour W 7 e1689144271861

LV’s perennial rival Gucci has, over the last few years, been more comfortable outfitting their models with watches for the world’s fashion weeks – but it’s been their fashion watches and not their high watchmaking pieces that have made runway appearances, even for their men’s shows. The new Tambour’s appearance at Paris Fashion Week is a different situation.

pharrell williams louis vuitton

It’ll be interesting going forward to see if LV’s even more technical watches will also make appearances at fashion shows alongside their other wares going forward. Pharrell Williams, who was announced as Abloh’s successor as men’s creative director for the French brand earlier this year, is famously a watch lover, with the multihyphenate even wearing a Richard Mille RM UP-01 – the world’s thinnest watch – for his maiden runway show for LV. Perhaps his influence will see even more cool watches grace the wrists of LV’s beautiful people.