Louis Vuitton Enters the Sports-Luxe World with -new Timepiece Tambour. The house’s first watch, the Tambour, was introduced in 2002. Highly recognisable thanks to its drum-shaped case (Tambour being French for drum), the Tambour has gone on to become one of the most successful watch designs of the 21st century. Style Cartel was there for the launch during Haute Couture for the launch at Musée d’Orsay.
Louis Vuitton Musée d’Orsay
For the past 20 years, the maison has developed its mechanical watchmaking at every level, with the core Tambour models sitting alongside haute horlogerie pieces like the innovative Spin Time and spellbinding automatons. But things are taking a different direction with a fresh generation of Tambour timepieces spearheading a new business strategy.
Louis Vuitton, Jean Arnault, and Big Watchmaking Ambitions
Can luxury fashion’s most prominent brand become a fine watchmaking powerhouse? Jean Arnault is betting on the relaunched Tambour model to lead a push upmarket. Not only is the new Tambour Louis Vuitton’s biggest watch launch in two decades, but it also signifies a redefined philosophy for the brand’s watchmaking business. In the past, LV’s watch schedule was expected to match the rest of the brand with launches and updates every six months.
LV’s watchmaking came of age in 2023 with a complete reinvention of the Tambour under the direction of Louis Vuitton’s 23-year-old watch director Jean Arnault and its Le Fabrique du Temps manufacturer.
PARIS – Jean Arnault admitted he was rolling the dice. “It’s a kind of a gamble,” the 24-year-old watch director of Louis Vuitton told the Business of Fashion in an exclusive interview. “This shift could either make our business drop quickly or revive it completely.”
The shift Arnault was referring to was the relaunch of Louis Vuitton’s flagship Tambour watch with a collection of five ultra-high-end variations on the style. Ahead of the new watches’ introduction at Paris’ Musée d’Orsay Wednesday, Arnault said the new line of mechanical sports timepieces was “made by watch collectors for watch collectors.”
The Tambour was launched two decades ago and is Louis Vuitton’s signature watch design. Under Arnault’s direction, the drum-shaped watch has been upgraded with an integrated metal bracelet, thinner case, new automatic mechanical movement — and much higher price points.
The new models are set to replace as much of 80 per cent of the company’s regular watch collection, Arnault said, as the brand transitions to a top-end positioning in the category.
The launch also marked the first time Arnault — the youngest member of luxury’s wealthiest clan — had stepped into the spotlight after quietly joining Louis Vuitton in 2021.
Even if the stakes were high — Louis Vuitton is luxury’s biggest brand and the profit driver of family-controlled parent company LVMH — Arnault said he was confident that a push upmarket was the right move. “It would be stupid for us not to enter that side of the business [and make] an integrated sports watch,” he said.
The responsibility of redesigning the Tambour was huge – emblematic of the brand; it has remained more or less untouched since 2002. But once the decision was made to enter the luxury sports watch field, Mr Arnault knew that the watch had to be different to anything that came before. But simultaneously, it needed to carry on the Tambour legacy.
Emphasising the unique nature of the watch, its box is a miniature Louis Vuitton trunk. The watch is priced at €19,500. The first two models are available to pre-order, and the first deliveries are expected in September 2023.
Hot or not?
Follow us on TikTok & stay updated on everything in Fashion & Culture. Check out the best collaborations to add to your rotation this week, follow @stylecartel on Instagram, and sign up for our newsletter for early access to the best drops sent to your inbox.