“This is probably the most important launch for Louis Vuitton since the launch of the Tambour 21 years ago,” Jean Arnault, watch director at Louis Vuitton, mentioned just a few hours earlier than mates of the model, collectors, influencers and media representatives from all over the world joined Bradley Cooper, Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender within the Musée d’Orsay close to the large clocks overlooking the Seine.
However the starry gathering on July 5 wasn’t simply to current the model’s redesigned Tambour case, for the primary time as a sports activities watch with an built-in metallic bracelet, in 5 iterations. Consistent with the latest development in Swiss watches — and far of the remainder of the posh universe — Louis Vuitton introduced that its watch line was going upscale.
Whereas the model will proceed to provide Tambour related watches, it primarily plans to showcase extra valuable supplies, elevate its artisanal work, cut back output, refocus distribution and lift costs. “Starting today, we will remove 80 percent of our existing collection in the entry level to make way for the new product,” mentioned Mr. Arnault, 24, including that the model will take away all fashion-oriented males’s watches with quartz actions from its providing. “We are repositioning Louis Vuitton as a general super-high-end brand in the watch sector overall.”
The brand new Tambour line is bodily proof of the model’s strategic shift. Filled with haute horlogerie finishes and complex design particulars, the timepieces vary from $18,000 to $52,000.
And as of Sept. 1, when the watches are scheduled to reach in shops, they are going to be accessible in solely a few quarter of the roughly 500 Louis Vuitton boutiques all over the world. (Vuitton doesn’t disclose what number of watches it makes every year, and Mr. Arnault would say solely that the brand new Tambours can be made in “hundreds, not thousands,” yearly.)
So gone are the times when you may stroll into any Louis Vuitton boutique and purchase a fashion-oriented males’s quartz look ahead to $4,000 to $5,000.
Concerning the Bracelet
Made in stainless-steel, yellow gold, rose gold and a two-metal model, the brand new Tambour is a whole redesign — though nonetheless recognizable — of the drum-shape case that Louis Vuitton has used because it started watchmaking in 2002. (The French phrase tambour means drum.)
Based on Mr. Arnault, the unique Tambour case had a “defect: its thickness. It has always been a thick watch visible from across the room. Now we have gone from around 13 millimeters to 8.3 millimeters.
“And the 40-millimeter diameter feels like 40,” he added, “because the bracelet goes straight into the case.”
The mannequin is Vuitton’s first sports activities watch with an built-in metallic bracelet. Pascal Ravessoud, vice chairman of the trade group Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, mentioned such watches are among the many most profitable of all time. “This is due to their ubiquity, in that they can be both sporty and elegant, and therefore appropriate on most — if not all — occasions,” he wrote in an e mail.
Mr. Arnault acknowledged that an integral metal sports activities watch “is not a revolution for the industry, but it is a revolution for us. There were many in the past and we are probably the last one to enter.
“But we stayed true to our DNA,” he added. “It looks like the Tambour, and by removing the lugs it looks more modern, more 2023.”
The curved bracelet is glossy and seems to be seamless. A discreetly engraved brand is the one trace of the place the bracelet may be pulled open. “For us, the number one aspect of an integrated sports steel watch was to make sure the bracelet was second to none when it comes to haute horlogerie finishes and comfort,” Mr. Arnault mentioned.
The multi-layer and meticulously completed grey, blue, white or brown dials with gold indexes additionally present that Louis Vuitton takes delight in being a French model: Together with the phrases Louis Vuitton Paris on the dial is the extra delicate “Fab. en Suisse” (Fab. is an abbreviation for fabriqué, the French phrase for made).
The method has its roots, in accordance with the watch web site onthedash.com, in French client safety legal guidelines courting to 1892, which required a product imported to France to point its origins — in French. “This gives a vintage feel, which resonated with the brand in general. And it has a meaning for a French brand — and we are French at the end of the day,” mentioned Mr. Arnault, who famous that he likes so as to add little items of historical past by way of small design particulars. “It is like the L.V. pattern on the 22-karat-gold miniature rotor. If you know, you know.”
A collaboration between La Fabrique du Temps, the watch motion specialist owned by Vuitton, and a specialist motion workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, referred to as Le Cercle des Horlogers, produced the Tambour’s new motion, the LFT023. “We never made a three-hand movement at L.V., so it would be presumptuous of us to say that we could develop such a movement in-house with no issues,” Mr. Arnault mentioned.
He famous that the motion’s conventional handmade finishes are on par with that in Vuitton timepieces promoting for $400,000 to $500,000. “We want to value the savoir-faire of all our artisans throughout our collections,” he mentioned. “It is not only about high watchmaking anymore; it is about all of our watches.”
The motion’s reliability and effectivity prompted Vuitton to incorporate a five-year guarantee, reasonably than the 2 years it beforehand supplied — one other trade development that started in 2015 when Rolex began providing 5 years. “It is very good to see the industry investing significant sums to get the quality up,” Mr. Arnault mentioned.
The strategic shift and the redesigned Tambour are Mr. Arnault’s most vital bulletins since being appointed to his place in late 2022, after which founding the Louis Vuitton Watch Prize for Unbiased Creatives, an award for younger watchmakers that’s to debut in January. He got here to LVMH Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, the world’s largest luxurious conglomerate, after incomes grasp’s levels from Imperial School London and the Massachusetts Institute of Expertise. He’s the youngest youngster of Bernard Arnault, the LVMH founder and chairman.
The development of Swiss watch exports over the previous 5 years definitely assist Louis Vuitton’s determination to focus on the highest finish of horology.
By 2022, the worth of exported Swiss timepieces rose to a document 23.7 billion Swiss francs ($27.32 billion), a 26 % enhance over the worth in 2017 — whereas the variety of watches that had been shipped declined to fifteen.8 million in 2022, a 35 % lower in the identical five-year span, in accordance with the Federation of the Swiss Watch Trade.
And the development of accelerating worth reveals little change: Judging by figures for 2023 by way of Could, the document could also be damaged once more this yr.
“Some watches are perceived as investment-grade assets,” Mr. Ravessoud of the watch basis wrote, “and therefore value perception shot up almost across all watchmaking, in a sort of spillover effect.”
The $18,000 price ticket of the gray- and blue-dial Tambours is “just right,” in accordance with Jack Forster, international editorial director at WatchBox, a platform for promoting and shopping for luxurious watches.
“I think it is on par with what the market expects,” he mentioned. “With the quality of the construction, the quality of design, it feels appropriate. I think they have done a fantastic job with turning the Tambour, which is a very inter-actable design to work with, into a ‘daily driver’ watch” (trade slang for a watch thought of good for each day put on).
Mr. Arnault agreed that the costs will not be insignificant however famous that every one the fashions include a trunk-style storage field measuring 24 centimeters by 17 centimeters (roughly 9.5 inches by 6.5 inches), coated in brown canvas printed with the LV Monogram sample and edged in black leather-based.
If the field had been available in shops, he mentioned, it will have a worth of 4,000 to five,000 euros ($4,448 to $5,561). And it’s an applicable accent for the Tambour, he mentioned: “It would be a shame for us not to use our close-to 170-year history of trunk making.”
As for the last word industrial potential of the brand new Tambour, that’s “a bit of a guessing game,” Mr. Arnault mentioned. “But we know this is the right thing to do.”
And he’s certain that the watch follows what he described as crucial trade lesson he has realized to date: “It is not only about the movement, not only about the finishing, not only about the dial, not only about the bracelet. Everything must be good and all come together as a whole.”