December 2, 2023

“That is in all probability an important launch for Louis Vuitton for the reason that launch of the Tambour 21 years in the past,” Jean Arnault, watch director at Louis Vuitton, mentioned a number of 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 huge 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. In step with the current pattern in Swiss watches — and far of the rest of the luxury universe — Louis Vuitton introduced that its watch line was going upscale.

Whereas the model will proceed to supply Tambour linked watches, it primarily plans to showcase extra treasured supplies, elevate its artisanal work, scale back output, refocus distribution and lift costs. “Beginning at the moment, we’ll take away 80 % of our current assortment within the entry degree to make approach for the brand 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’re repositioning Louis Vuitton as a common super-high-end model within the watch sector total.”

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 out there in solely a couple of 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 could be made in “tons of, not hundreds,” yearly.)

So gone are the times when you could possibly stroll into any Louis Vuitton boutique and purchase a fashion-oriented males’s quartz look ahead to $4,000 to $5,000.

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.)

In line with Mr. Arnault, the unique Tambour case had a “defect: its thickness. It has at all times been a thick watch seen from throughout the room. Now we’ve gone from round 13 millimeters to eight.3 millimeters.

“And the 40-millimeter diameter appears like 40,” he added, “as a result of 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 because of their ubiquity, in that they are often each sporty and stylish, and due to this fact applicable on most — if not all — events,” he wrote in an e mail.

Mr. Arnault acknowledged that an integral metal sports activities watch “shouldn’t be a revolution for the trade, however it’s a revolution for us. There have been many prior to now and we’re in all probability the final one to enter.

“However we stayed true to our DNA,” he added. “It seems just like the Tambour, and by eradicating the lugs it seems extra fashionable, extra 2023.”

The curved bracelet is glossy and seems to be seamless. A discreetly engraved brand is the one trace of the place the bracelet might be pulled open. “For us, the primary side of an built-in sports activities metal watch was to ensure the bracelet was second to none in relation to haute horlogerie finishes and luxury,” 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 strategy has its roots, in keeping with the watch web site, in French shopper safety legal guidelines courting to 1892, which required a product imported to France to point its origins — in French. “This offers a classic really feel, which resonated with the model normally. And it has a that means for a French model — and we’re French on the finish of the day,” mentioned Mr. Arnault, who famous that he likes so as to add little items of historical past by means of small design particulars. “It’s just like the L.V. sample on the 22-karat-gold miniature rotor. If you already know, you already 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 by no means made a three-hand motion at L.V., so it could be presumptuous of us to say that we may develop such a motion in-house with no points,” 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 wish to worth the savoir-faire of all our artisans all through our collections,” he mentioned. “It’s not solely about excessive watchmaking anymore; it’s about all of our watches.”

The motion’s reliability and effectivity prompted Vuitton to incorporate a five-year guarantee, moderately than the 2 years it beforehand supplied — another industry trend that started in 2015 when Rolex began providing 5 years. “It is rather good to see the trade investing important sums to get the standard up,” Mr. Arnault mentioned.

The strategic shift and the redesigned Tambour are Mr. Arnault’s most important bulletins since being appointed to his place in late 2022, after which founding the Louis Vuitton Watch Prize for Independent 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 pattern of Swiss watch exports over the previous 5 years actually help Louis Vuitton’s choice to focus on the highest finish of horology.

By 2022, the worth of exported Swiss timepieces rose to a record 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 keeping with the Federation of the Swiss Watch Business.

And the pattern of accelerating worth reveals little change: Judging by figures for 2023 through May, the file could also be damaged once more this 12 months.

“Some watches are perceived as investment-grade property,” Mr. Ravessoud of the watch basis wrote, “and due to this fact worth notion shot up nearly throughout all watchmaking, in a form of spillover impact.”

The $18,000 price ticket of the gray- and blue-dial Tambours is “good,” in keeping with Jack Forster, world editorial director at WatchBox, a platform for promoting and shopping for luxurious watches.

“I feel it’s on par with what the market expects,” he mentioned. “With the standard of the development, the standard of design, it feels applicable. I feel they’ve achieved a improbable job with turning the Tambour, which is a really inter-actable design to work with, right into a ‘every day driver’ watch” (trade slang for a watch thought of good for every day put on).

Mr. Arnault agreed that the costs usually are not 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 could 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 might be a disgrace for us to not use our close-to 170-year historical past of trunk making.”

As for the final word business potential of the brand new Tambour, that’s “a little bit of a guessing recreation,” Mr. Arnault mentioned. “However we all know that is the fitting factor to do.”

And he’s positive that the watch follows what he described as an important trade lesson he has discovered up to now: “It’s not solely in regards to the motion, not solely in regards to the ending, not solely in regards to the dial, not solely in regards to the bracelet. Every thing have to be good and all come collectively as an entire.”

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