A Class Above

The Louis Vuit­ton High Watch Pre­sen­ta­tion in Bangkok gives Kar­ishma Tul­si­das an in­sight into the rar­efied world of the French mai­son’s horo­log­i­cal en­deav­ours

Singapore Tatler - - STYLE -

he sight of five trunks, stacked one upon each other, greeted us within the green, lush foyer of The Siam Ho­tel, Bangkok. There was no doubt about it, Louis Vuit­ton had ef­fec­tively taken over the space. Upon the in­vi­ta­tion of the French mai­son, we had flown to Bangkok for a leisurely so­journ to dis­cover its ar­ray of horo­log­i­cal of­fer­ings for both men and women. The brand’s mes­sage to us was sim­ple: put our­selves in the shoes of its well-heeled clien­tele, let our hair loose, and have a good time. Well, mes­sage re­ceived loud and clear. The first day, we slipped into our cock­tail dresses, and headed to the Deco Bar & Bistro by the river for the open­ing party. With glasses of re­fresh­ing Thai-in­spired cock­tails in hand, we lan­guidly chat­ted on the jetty, en­joy­ing the cool breeze and the serene panorama of the Chao Phraya river. The start of the fash­ion show beck­oned us in­side, and the mod­els—all for­mer Miss Uni­verse con­tes­tants who rep­re­sented Thai­land—show­cased the spell­bind­ing watches and jew­ellery to their full ef­fect. A din­ner at the Chon Thai Restau­rant en­sued, within a pri­vate room dec­o­rated in homely Thai ac­cents hark­ing back to the days of yore. The food, too, didn’t dis­ap­point, duly sa­ti­at­ing our hunger with its au­then­tic flavours. The im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence spilled over to the fol­low­ing day as we were in­vited to par­take in a Muay Thai class. The mai­son had or­gan­ised a series of ac­tiv­i­ties for its cus­tomers, in­clud­ing pam­per­ing ses­sions at the ac­claimed Opium Spa within the ho­tel. It was as if time had stood still, as the mai­son beck­oned us to leave our stresses be­hind, and bask in its in­dul­gent hos­pi­tal­ity. For us jour­nal­ists, how­ever, it wasn’t all play and no work—although we have to ad­mit that ad­mir­ing beau­ti­ful watches and jew­ellery is no hard work. Louis Vuit­ton had brought in some 100 time­pieces and jew­els to be show­cased to its clients flown in from across Asia. Men in black guard­ing the rooms were aplenty; not sur­pris­ing, as most of the watches on dis­play were lav­ishly en­dowed with a de­li­cious smat­ter­ing of pre­cious stones. Un­like many other lux­ury maisons that are scared to colour out­side the lines, Louis Vuit­ton has an un­canny fin­ger on the pulse of the cur­rent zeit­geist and has suc­cess­fully man­aged to strad­dle that pre­car­i­ous bal­ance be­tween the Supreme-wear­ing hype beasts and its gen­teel, elite clien­tele. With horol­ogy, how­ever, win­ning over dis­cern­ing watch con­nois­seurs is a whole dif­fer­ent ball game, but a chal­lenge that it was ready to face head-on. In 2011, the mai­son fol­lowed in the foot­steps of its French lux­ury peers Chanel and Her­mès, and in­vested in a man­u­fac­ture in Geneva called La Fabrique du Temps. The rea­son was ev­i­dent: if a Louis Vuit­ton purist is wear­ing the brand from top to toe, the watch on his or her wrist should be mono­grammed as well. The in­vest­ment in La Fabrique du Temps, headed by in­dus­try veter­ans En­rico Bar­basini and Michel Navas, who both for­merly cut their teeth at Patek Philippe and Lau­rent Fer­rier, has paid off. Louis Vuit­ton wasn’t in­ter­ested in sim­ply stamp­ing on its logo on a tra­di­tional watch case hous­ing an ETA move­ment, it was adamant that it wanted to in­ject a healthy dose of its DNA into its time­pieces, mean­ing that even its Tam­bour cases are purely Louis Vuit­ton. Shaped like a drum, the case nar­rows to­wards the base and is in­scribed with the 12 let­ters form­ing the brand name. As ex­pected, the at­ten­tion to de­tail is peer­less, and the stan­dard of fin­ish­ing ex­cep­tion­ally high. And it is not just the dress­ing that has im­pressed the watch cognoscenti. La Fabrique du Temps has given Louis Vuit­ton an ad­van­tage in con­cep­tu­al­is­ing func­tions

and com­pli­ca­tions that are con­gru­ous to its iden­tity. The theme of travel fea­tures heav­ily in its prod­ucts, as can be seen from the 2014 re­lease of the Es­cale World­time, a play­ful time­piece that fea­tures a 24-hour world time com­pli­ca­tion with the coun­try em­blems hand-painted in an ar­ray of vi­brant, pri­mary colours. Even its minute re­peaters are made for to­day’s jet-set­ting elite, as un­like con­ven­tional minute re­peaters, they chime the home time in­stead of the cur­rent time. As Navas puts it, “We de­velop move­ments with the ut­most re­spect for fine watch­mak­ing with the mod­ern touch of Louis Vuit­ton.” This whim­si­cal­ity that dresses the time­pieces is of course un­der­lined by solid tech­ni­cal chops, which were high­lighted by the ex­hi­bi­tion’s mas­ter­piece, the Tam­bour Moon Mys­térieuse Fly­ing Tour­bil­lon. Priced at a cool half a mil­lion dol­lars there­abouts, this time­piece duly high­lights the em­pha­sis that Louis Vuit­ton places on mas­ter­ing tech­ni­cal know-how, and of­fer­ing its cus­tomers top of the line and in­no­va­tive com­pli­ca­tions that are both ex­quis­ite and ex­clu­sive.

THE GOLD STAN­DARD

Housed within the Tam­bour Moon case, the Mys­térieuse Fly­ing Tour­bil­lon is mes­meris­ing in its ar­chi­tec­ture—it seems to be sus­pended in mid-air with nary a screw or a bolt con­nect­ing the mech­a­nism to the case. Navas says, “The hard­est part of mak­ing this move­ment was to be mys­te­ri­ous with­out us­ing screws. We used six lay­ers of sap­phire glass, two lay­ers to hold the move­ment, one to wind the move­ment, one to set the time, and two on the crys­tal front and back. The de­vel­op­ment was very dif­fi­cult, be­cause if you have just a lit­tle bit of dust be­tween two lay­ers, you have to com­pletely dis­as­sem­ble the whole move­ment to re­move that speck and as­sem­ble it again. It took us two and a half years to de­velop this watch.” What is im­pres­sive, too, is that the time­piece of­fers eight days of power re­serve, achieved by the place­ment of two stacked bar­rels, that sur­pris­ingly don’t add any clut­ter to the dial. Two it­er­a­tions of the time­piece were dis­played at the ex­hi­bi­tion, one with baguette-cut blue sap­phires on the bezel, and the other baguette-cut di­a­monds.

The bridge of the tour­bil­lon is shaped as the LV logo, and the brand can cus­tomise this bridge ac­cord­ing to its clients’ needs. This as­pect of per­son­al­i­sa­tion is very im­por­tant to Louis Vuit­ton, and it is one of the few man­u­fac­tures in Switzer­land that can cus­tomise a watch from start to fin­ish—if money is no ob­ject, of course. Navas re­veals that the man­u­fac­ture has de­vel­oped en­tirely new com­pli­cated watches for its cus­tomers, a ser­vice that it is ca­pa­ble of of­fer­ing only be­cause it is housed in a rel­a­tively small work­shop. “In the high-end watch­mak­ing in­dus­try, we are a small com­pany, with only 65 peo­ple, and we can make what we want. For the Mys­térieuse Fly­ing Tour­bil­lon, if the client wants a dif­fer­ent ma­te­rial, or his ini­tials in­stead of the LV logo, we can do that. With other mod­els, we can do a lot more—we have projects with clients where we build the watch en­tirely in di­a­logue with them. We sur­round our­selves with en­gi­neers, dial mak­ers, en­gravers and ar­ti­sans, and to­gether we can build a unique watch.” With this level of per­son­al­i­sa­tion, it is easy to see why col­lec­tors fall for Louis Vuit­ton’s charms time and again. This is truly where fash­ion and horol­ogy col­lide in artis­tic har­mony, as the mai­son doesn’t just rely on the sparkle of pre­cious stones or its highly cov­eted logo to se­duce its clien­tele. The end re­sult is ef­fort­less and mod­ern, much like the event that we at­tended—be­hind the scenes, the wheels are con­stantly turn­ing in a re­lent­less mo­tion, but for the end client, the ex­pe­ri­ence is lux­ury at the high­est level.

CASE BY CASE The Louis Vuit­ton trunks can also be cus­tomised to hold your favourite watches

BLING RING From chrono­graphs to tour­bil­lons and Spin Time watches, there is some­thing for ev­ery woman at Louis Vuit­ton

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