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Saturday, 03 November 2012 22:21

Rising Force

Louis Vuitton’s watches were once accessories to its fashion line. Not anymore.

Screen capture of the film

Screen capture of the film that introduces and explains the workings of Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Répétition Minutes.

At Louis Vuitton, it’s never a matter of testing the market. If anything, going for the jugular to achieve both critical and commercial success - by hook or by crook - suits the French label’s philosophy better. That most of such projects are often supported by Bernard Arnault’s - chairman and chief executive of luxury conglomerate and parent company LVMH - war chest helps, of course. And this modus operandi is clearly seen in the beefed-up horology arm, which ventured into the higher-end segment only few years back. (Vuitton always carried watches in its product lines but only started developing high complications recently.) It has been aggressive in creating impressive haute horlogerie pieces - think the Tambour Monogram Tourbillon, Tambour Mysterieuse and Tambour Spin Time.

It then participated in the last two BaselWorld fairs - albeit in a luxury boat away from the main halls. It clearly shows its desire to be among the best in the world. Also, Vuitton has been busy acquiring and buying into partners; it snapped up high-end movement maker La Fabrique du Temps and dial specialist Léman Cadran most recently, which is in line with Arnault’s business strategy of mergers and acquisitions - the very same manner he built his empire. Next year, Vuitton will open up its new watchmaking facility in Geneva, as well as launch its first watch with the prestigious Poinçon de Genève (Geneva Seal). 

Hamdi Chatti, vice-president of watches and jewellery at Louis Vuitton, downplayed the importance of securing the Seal, a set of rigorous tests and guidelines that major marques adhere to. He tells The Daily Telegraph: “I don’t think having the Geneva Seal is what primarily attracts our clients, and there is no point in doing what our competitors do to perfection.” Instead, he wants them to feel that the timepiece is fashionably cool. “That there is a high level of craftsmanship behind it adds to
the appeal.”

The Tambour Répétition Minutes best represents the culmination of its ascent of the horological ladder. Its top offering for the year is housed in a 44mm-wide Tambour case and powered by the automatic LV178 calibre. While its crisp chimes are what watch connoisseurs expect in a top-level minute repeater, it’s the unique concept of incorporating the element of travel into it that sets it apart from the competition. Louis Vuitton is after all built on the romantic notion of travel.

Its hour and minute hands display time of one time zone, and a window in the middle of the dial shows the time of the place of origin, known as the home time. Jet-setting watch buffs will find it interesting that the minute repeater chimes the home time instead of the time on the main dial display. According to the House, it aims to “give time a more sensitive and personal dimension” with this twist to the complication. 

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