A New Beat

Louis Vuitton has drummed-up and reimagined its iconic Tambour as a super-luxe, sporty streamliner

Tambour, Automatic, 40mm, Yellow Gold

It says a lot about a watch launch that the conversation topic is not “how did you get Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender and Bradley Cooper in the same room?” But that was the case in July 2023 on the top floor of the Musee d’Orsay on a warm Parisian evening. The three A-listers were playing second fiddle to CEO Jean Arnault’s announcement that, after 22 years, it was time for a new Tambour.

“It has lived through many different life stages and was the only icon created in the 21st century,” he told press earlier that day, “but it is essential for us to make a change.” And what a change it was. Gone were the crazy complications – double compasses, spinning hour markers, and kaleidoscopic world timers. In its place was a sleek sports watch with integrated bracelet, slimmed down 40mm case, brand new movement by La Fabrique du Temps (Louis Vuitton’s hive of watchmaking talent) and a seriously elevated price tag. It wasn’t just the watch Arnault was overhauling, 80 per cent of the entry-level watches were to go, leaving just
the Street Diver, the new Tambour and complications, he said, “to make way for the first step in positioning Louis Vuitton as a super high-end brand”.

Tambour, Automatic, 40mm, Steel

Despite being ostensibly a sports watch with an integrated bracelet, there is so much to the new Tambour than first glances would discern. In fact, it is the epitome of quiet luxury – unless, of course, you opt for the rose or yellow-gold versions rather than the steel. There’s nothing quiet about those. Of all the components of this reimagined Tambour, it is the bracelet of which Arnault is most proud. And with good cause – so many integrated bracelet designs fall at this hurdle, creating something that doubles as a wrist-hair plucker. Not so here.

“We wanted to make sure it was second to none in terms of finishing and comfort,” he said. “There are no lugs, so it has a tight fit regardless of gender.” To achieve this, it is necessary to decrease the length of the links. This left two options: decrease in a small straight line or with a curve for the last five links. The latter option was more expensive but provided a better fit, so that was the only choice. It is decisions like that that define this new Tambour. Decisions
that may cost more but provide a better watch.

Tambour, Automatic, 40mm, Rose Gold

Take the dial. It looks simple enough. Everything is beautifully proportioned, it’s elegant but then you look closer and realise every detail has been considered to give a depth and dimensionality to it. There are three different types of finishing on it – sandblasting for the minute and hour rings, vertical brushing on the dial centre and snailing on the seconds sub dial – each distinct finish creating a reflective dial that behaves differently depending on the
light. The Super-LumiNova-filled numerals are applied and given added depth and there is also virtually no bezel to speak of, giving a feeling of expansiveness, while the curved caseback ensures that 40mm doesn’t wear large on the wrist.

Flip it over and the attention to detail is even more evident. With La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton has unveiled more than one incredibly complex movement, but this is the first time it has had a proprietary three-hand movement. Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini, the two men who through La Fabrique du Temps and previously BNB Concepts are responsible for some of the watch world’s most creative complications, worked on it with Le Cercle des Horlogers, renowned movement specialists known for creating such complicated watches as Jacob & Co’s Astronomia Maestro Minute Repeater and CODE41’s Mecascape – a skeletonised travel clock thin enough to fit into a suit jacket’s inside pocket.

It is a thing of beauty. First there is the finishing – micro-sandblasting, perlage, polissage and the beautifully polished edges – that will now be the new standard on all future watches regardless of whether they are entry level or haute horlogerie. The micro-rotor is in 22-carat
gold on which is engraved a repeating LV motif, while the openworked barrel cover references the brand’s monogram flower. And it’s not just a pretty face. It has a 50-hour power reserve and has a chronometer certified by the Geneva Chronometric Observatory, which insists
on an accuracy of between -4s and +6s per day.

It could be argued that the horological world doesn’t need another integrated-bracelet watch, but the new Tambour does add something new to the conversation. It has a panache, and, like its ambassador Bradley Cooper, doesn’t take itself too seriously. I should know: after grumbling about celebrities at watch launches, my friend knowingly approached him at the Musée d’Orsay gala to request he took our photo. To which he graciously obliged.

Like the Tambour he was wearing, Cooper’s portrait of us both was perfectly framed, beautifully executed, and certainly not something many people can boast about owning.