Per­sonal Touch

Michel Navas, founder of La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuit­ton, shares new in­sight into his creations

DA MAN - Caliber - - CONTENTS -

His­tor­i­cally speak­ing, Louis Vuit­ton’s ven­ture into fine watch­mak­ing be­gan back in 2002 with the Tam­bour. Fol­low­ing this ini­tial suc­cess and in or­der to ex­press its know-how and quest for ex­cel­lence in the uni­verse of high-end crafts­man­ship in the art of watch­mak­ing, Louis Vuit­ton chose to bring to­gether the finest spe­cial­ists. While the heart of the house con­tin­ues to beat in Paris, the time­pieces see the light of day in Geneva, Switzer­land, in work­shops whose name alone epit­o­mizes its spirit: La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuit­ton.

Founded in 2007 by master watch­mak­ers En­rico Bar­basini and Michel Navas, La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuit­ton is a high watch­mak­ing work­shop that spe­cial­izes in the con­cep­tion and fab­ri­ca­tion of high stan­dard move­ments, such as the minute re­peater—a com­pli­cated chim­ing watch that has won re­spect from fans of horol­ogy for its tech­ni­cal qual­ity and ap­peal­ing aes­thet­ics—and also the tourbillon.

Since then, the rec­og­niz­able de­sign of Louis Vuit­ton’s watch­mak­ing has given rise to a whole col­lec­tion of time­keep­ers for men and women. From sim­ple Tam­bour mod­els and com­pli­cated ver­sions (from GMT, chrono­graph, tourbillon, Spin Time to minute re­peaters) which have all en­abled Louis Vuit­ton to re­main true to its de­mand­ing stan­dards, com­bin­ing a spirit of Swiss savoir­faire with an in­jec­tion of Louis Vuit­ton’s DNA.

Then came a new cre­ation this year, which is ar­guably the most com­pli­cated time­piece in Louis Vuit­ton’s horo­log­i­cal port­fo­lio: the Louis Vuit­ton Tam­bour Moon Mys­térieuse Fly­ing Tourbillon. A mes­mer­iz­ing feat of watch­mak­ing, the watch was “more mys­te­ri­ous than the pre­vi­ous ver­sion,” ac­cord­ing to Navas. I had the op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss this mys­tery—and more—with the Swiss watch­maker him­self ear­lier this year in Bangkok, Thai­land, dur­ing the open­ing of Louis Vuit­ton’s Re­gional High Watch event.

DA MAN: Two years ago you de­buted a watch with a Geneva Seal. Can you tell us why the Geneva Seal is so im­por­tant? Michel Navas: One of the rea­sons we are in Geneva is to get a Geneva Seal. And the Geneva Seal is the high­est mark of qual­ity in the watch­mak­ing world. That’s why we wanted to ob­tain the Geneva Seal, and we did it two years ago with the first fly­ing tourbillon in the Voy­ager case in platinum. We were so suc­cess­ful with this watch, so we de­cided to de­sign a new tourbillon that was launched a few months ago with the Tam­bour Moon

“I try to cre­ate the same feel in the move­ment, with the ut­most re­spect for high watch­mak­ing and the mod­ern touch of Louis Vuit­ton”

case and is com­pletely dif­fer­ent than the first. Go­ing for­ward, we are try­ing to have dif­fer­ent mod­els with the Geneva Seal. DA: By the way, con­grat­u­la­tions on the launch of the Louis Vuit­ton Tam­bour Moon Mys­térieuse Fly­ing Tourbillon. What’s the story and in­spi­ra­tion be­hind this new watch? MN: Pre­vi­ously, we had a mys­te­ri­ous watch and it was so suc­cess­ful. All 32 pieces were sold out. Af­ter that, my part­ner En­rico Bar­basini and I de­cided to de­velop a new mys­te­ri­ous watch. But, we want to do more than the pre­vi­ous one. We would like to have the move­ment float­ing in the air and com­plete it with a big power re­serve, since it’s a me­chan­i­cal watch. The re­sult? A watch with eight days power re­serve and a fly­ing tourbillon plus a mono­gram flower at the top of the tourbillon. We want the watch to be more mys­te­ri­ous than the first one. You can’t see any screws; it’s float­ing in the air and it is very, very in­ter­est­ing. DA: When you pre­pare a new com­pli­ca­tion, how do you make sure it’s truly Louis Vuit­ton? How do you in­cor­parate the brand’s DNA? MN: I’m not alone in Louis Vuit­ton. As a watch­maker, I worked with my team and with my de­sign­ers. So, when I de­cided to be dif­fer­ent than other brands and when I fin­ished my work, I work with my de­sign­ers and then the de­sign­ers bring the Louis Vuit­ton touch. And I try to cre­ate the same feel in the move­ment, with the ut­most re­spect for high watch­mak­ing and the mod­ern touch of Louis Vuit­ton. DA: In this case, were the case and the move­ment de­signed in par­al­lel? MN: For this watch, it’s a no. First, we de­sign the move­ment and af­ter that, we de­sign the case. We give the sketch of the move­ment to the de­sign­ers and af­ter that, they put it in the Tam­bour Moon case. DA: What was the hard­est part of the de­vel­op­ment of this par­tic­u­lar watch? MN: The hard­est? I think it’s how to be “mys­te­ri­ous” with­out any screws. We used six lay­ers of sap­phire glass. Two lay­ers to hold the move­ment, one layer to wind the move­ment, one layer to set the time and of course the rest of the two lay­ers will be the crys­tal front and the crys­tal back. In to­tal, there are six lay­ers. That’s why it’s very dif­fi­cult.

Also, for an­other chal­lenge, def­i­nitely the power re­serve. As we can see, we have the fly­ing tourbillon at six and two dou­ble-bar­rels at 12 o’clock. So, we de­cided to put the two bar­rels stacked on top of each other. The de­vel­op­ment was dif­fi­cult and also as­sem­bling the move­ment is very dif­fi­cult. It’s a night­mare for a watch­maker, but a plea­sure for the client.

DA : What are the dif­fer­ent be­spoke op­tions apart from the cus­tomiza­tion of the bridge of the tourbillon? Is there any­thing else that a cus­tomer can re­quest?

MN: So, in this kind of watch, if the client wants dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als or if they want an en­grav­ing of the back, we can cus­tom­ize it. In other mod­els, we can pro­vide more op­tions. We have dif­fer­ent projects with some clients and we built the watch with them. In high watch­mak­ing, we are a very small com­pany with only 65 peo­ple. We can make what we want and you can’t do this kind of watch­mak­ing in the big com­pa­nies. You have to be a small com­pany like we are. We can sur­round our­selves with engi­neers, dial mak­ers, watch­mak­ers, en­gravers, enamel ar­ti­sans and the clients—that’s very im­por­tant. Al­to­gether, we built the watches and the re­sults are very, very per­sonal, be­cause each is a unique watch. In other words, yes, we can make unique watches.

DA : So, the move­ment can be cus­tom­ized as well? Like, for in­stance, if a client wants a chrono­graph with a tourbillon?

MN: Well, we can start with a minute re­peater and we can have dif­fer­ent com­pli­ca­tions and dif­fer­ent func­tions. And in the end, it be­comes a very com­pli­cated watch, just for the clients. DA : For Louis Vuit­ton, you’ve al­ready con­ceived and man­u­fac­tured a 24-time-zone move­ment, tourbillon, fly­ing tourbillon and minute re­peater as well. Is there an­other com­pli­ca­tion that you’re re­ally look­ing for­ward to cre­ate? The holy grail of com­pli­ca­tions, if you will. MN: I think we have a lot of things to do. We are try­ing to bring some­thing that peo­ple need. Some­thing that peo­ple miss. We al­ways have new ideas. I don’t know why, but some­times at night, I wake up and have this idea and very quickly I tell it to my team. Some­times, it is a stupid idea; but from that stupid idea, some­thing is born. So, yeah, we have a lot of things to do.

DA : What about some­thing that you per­son­ally want to do? MN: I like com­pli­cated watches, but I also like very sim­ple watches that are very orig­i­nal. When we de­signed the World Time, it was very orig­i­nal. But, in the watch­mak­ing in­dus­try, we have to be pa­tient. It’s not like fash­ion shows for the brands with ready to wear col­lec­tions where that can be di­vided by year or sea­sons like win­ter or sum­mer. In the watch­mak­ing world, you have to wait two or three years.

DA : Last but not least, what is the most in­ter­est­ing com­pli­ca­tion that you have ever de­vel­oped for Louis Vuit­ton? MN: I think it’s the Spin Time. The Spin Time was so suc­cess­ful and we have dif­fer­ent ver­sions. We have it in the Tam­bour shape and also in the Es­cale shape for ladies and for men. It was very suc­cess­ful and I’m very proud of it.

“It’s a night­mare for a watch­maker, but a plea­sure for the client”

Michel Navas Op­po­site page The Louis Vuit­ton Tam­bour Moon Mys­térieuse Fly­ing Tourbillon

Sap­phire disc and the logo of the brand Op­po­site page The Louis Vuit­ton Tam­bour Moon Mys­térieuse Fly­ing Tourbillon

The sap­phire disc with the mono­gram, the logo and the fly­ing tourbillon Op­po­site page Break­ing down the parts in­side the watch

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