Tambour… this unusual name for a watch collection nonetheless strikes both technical and historical chords among watchmaking specialists. Technically speaking, the tambour (drum) is the side wall of the movement barrel, while historically it is the shape and name of the first miniature watches created in Europe in the early 16th century.
A drum-roll start
This milestone launch corresponds to the horological ‘birth’ of Louis Vuitton, since Tambour was the first collection of watches from the venerable Maison. It was developed in 2002 within freshly installed workshops in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a town with a proud watchmaking history located not too far from the French village where Mr Louis Vuitton was born in 1821. Heritage, memory and savoir-faire are all notions deeply cherished by Louis Vuitton.
Equally dear to its heart is creative design, based on a resolutely future-oriented approach featuring a blend of fine craftsmanship and technology that is admirably showcased by the sheer wealth and diversity of the Tambour collection. From the first Tambour Chronograph LV277 in 2002 equipped with a COSC-certified automatic Zenith El Primero movement housed in the collection’s iconic elegant round case, through to the fully-fledged watch collection in 2015, the variety of men’s and ladies’ models as well as of the movements driving them is truly impressive.
The wind in its sails
Alongside its cooperation with Zenith, Louis Vuitton has also associated with the most prestigious movement manufacturers – La Joux-Perret and Dubois Dépraz – in designing its calibres bearing the famous LV initials, and of course with La Fabrique du Temps that Louis Vuitton acquired in 2011 and integrated in its new manufacturing facility inaugurated in Geneva in October 2014.
Since Louis Vuitton organises the preliminary sailing competition preceding the America’s Cup - of which it is also the title partner since 2015 - the Tambour collection naturally includes several models dedicated to the nautical world. The first of these was launched in 2004: the Tambour Louis Vuitton Cup Regatta, a split-seconds self-winding chronograph with a regatta countdown module developed by Dubois Dépraz, followed by several versions through to 2007. Then came the Tambour Regatta Navy in 2010, two Tambour Regatta America’s Cup models in 2013 dedicated to the competition held in Dubai; and for the 10th anniversary of the collection, the Louis Vuitton Automatic Countdown. The Tambour Spin Time series, featuring an exclusive movement displaying the hours on rotating cubes, was released in 2010 and subsequently interpreted in a Regatta version in 2012.
Personalisation and refinement
Some Tambour models can be customised at will. These include the ethereal Tambour Mystérieuse (2009) based on a system of sapphire discs giving the impression that there is no mechanism behind them. Future owners can choose the case material, the type of gems, the paving on the mechanism, as well as to have their initials appear on the oscillating weight.
Women also like to feel the beat of the Tambour and the models devoted to them display a degree of refinement in which aesthetic beauty is matched by mechanical sophistication, as exemplified in the Tambour Monogram Tourbillon. The slimmer Tambour case frames a mother-of-pearl dial and houses the self-winding LV 80 movement from La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton.
And in 2015?
The Tambour Graphite and Tambour éVolution are interpreted in chronograph and GMT versions. The “Graphite” variations feature a dual-time display by means of a rotating disc bearing the hours and juxtaposed with the hour-markers, swept over by a hand enabling immediate readings of the time in two time zones. The globe motif appearing in the dial centre, featuring subtle shades of grey, endows this Tambour Graphite GMT with a distinctive aura of elegance. This travel companion also exists in a self-winding steel chronograph version.
The three new Tambour éVolution models – GMT, Chronograph GMT and Spin Time GMT – are distinguished by a DLC-coated steel case as well as a black dial and strap that all serve to accentuate the sleek and ultra-masculine side of this line launched in 2013. They house dedicated self-winding movements with a 42-hour power reserve and beating at 28,800 vibrations per hour. The new leather strap creates an ultra-modern carbon effect, while the historical brand “V” is reinterpreted as a strikingly designed crown guard.
For women, the Tambour Monogram that already existed in 28, 33 and 35 mm variations is even daintier this year in a 21 mm version. Small is beautiful as well as precious here, since this extremely trendy miniaturisation lends an authentic jewellery touch to the watch – even in its non-gemset steel version – that is further enhanced by the white mother-of-pearl or black opaline guilloché dials. This Tambour Monogram Bijoux also comes in a full-set Rivière version driven by the same quartz movement.
Meanwhile, a revisited version of the famous LV80 self-winding calibre powers the Tambour Monogram “Sun” Tourbillon, available in pink or white gold and interpreted through sapphires and the strap as colourful fuchsia pink or blue versions. The snow-set dial is largely taken up by a large flower composed of three guilloché mother-of-pearl petals, while the fourth petal is composed of the tourbillon and its two bridges that are juxtaposed to form an equally unmistakable floral motif.
Click on the large image at the top of the page for a selection of Tambour models from 2002 to 2015.