Like Hermes, Louis Vuitton had a relatively late start in luxury watchmaking – it launched the Tambour, its first “serious” mechanical watch, in 2003. However, the company has been building horological credibility by strategically acquiring watch-manufacturing companies.
“We want to be the master of our destiny,” says Hamdi Chatti, vice-president of Louis Vuitton’s watches and jewellery division. “That way, if we have an idea for a new watch, we can execute it quickly.”
To do so, Louis Vuitton bought over movementmanufacturing company La Fabrique du Temps in 2009. This was followed by the integration of Leman Cadran, a high-end dial-making factory, into its production set-up in 2011. Chatti says that the company is currently building a new watchmaking factory in Meyrin in Geneva, which will be ready in 2014, to house its core watchmaking divisions.
Even as Louis Vuitton marches towards creative and production autonomy, it has wasted no time in rolling out top-dollar timepieces. The first Tambour watch was priced at approximately 10,000 euros, and was a chronograph powered by the LV277 automatic movement, derived from Zenith’s iconic high-frequency El Primero movement. (Watchmaking giant Zenith is part of the LVMH conglomerate that owns Louis Vuitton.) Shortly after, the company started a Special Orders service in 2005 to offer personalisation options for its complication models.
Today, Louis Vuitton’s top-of-the-line creations include intriguing complications such as the Spin Time, in which rotating cubes (or diamonds for the women’s versions) display the hours; the Minute Repeater from two years ago; and this year’s Tambour Twin Chrono, a world chronograph that can simultaneously time two racing competitors and determine the time difference between the two – all via a single pusher.
For women collectors, there is the Monogram Tourbillon, a rose gold watch with a mother-of-pearl dial, powered by an automatic tourbillon movement developed in-house by La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton.
“We don’t want to take shortcuts by making mostly ladies’ quartz timepieces that are easier to produce. The difficult way, which is to establish the company’s foundations in watchmaking properly, takes time and effort. We want watches not only to appeal to our customers, but also to watch collectors who are not necessarily into the brand,” says Chatti.
Louis Vuitton’s Fall/Winter 2013 show
The new Tambour Monogram
Louis Vuitton Tambour Twin Chrono features a patented bi-chronograph with differential display controlled by a single pusher
The best leather craftsmen work at Louis Vuitton’s leather workshop, and equally high standards are expected of its watchmakers
Hamdi Chatti, vice-president of Louis Vuitton’s watches
and jewellery division