Yes, that’s right. There’s a new Tambour in town, and it’s just called ‘Tambour’, which would normally seem odd given that the 21-year-old Tambour collection is represented by numerous models past and present. Here is our comprehensive review of the Louis Vuitton Tambour.
Louis Vuitton Tambour
The Louis Vuitton Tambour is available in the following versions versions:
- Steel with a grey dial as reviewed at SGD 27,100. A blue dial is also available.
- Steel and rose gold bi-metal version at SGD 39,000.
- Rose gold with brown dial, or yellow gold with white dial at SGD 75,500.
Well, this here is Louis Vuitton reinventing the Tambour, bringing with it an unprecedented level of finesse to every element of the watch. While it still bears the signature drum-shaped case design, the new Tambour is hardly akin to its predecessors.
That’s probably because the Tambour is now a sports watch with integrated bracelet – a totally different beast, and a first for Louis Vuitton. This marks a brand new era for the Tambour. While the sports watch market is fairly saturated, there can be no doubt that the Tambour is well-equipped to compete. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on Louis Vuitton’s new resident sports watch, the Tambour, in stainless steel.
The Case, Dial and Hands
The Tambour has long been described as having a drum-shaped case. While that remains true in this latest iteration, it is to a lesser extent. The new Tambour is still defined by its round case with curved sides, marked with 12 polished letters that spell ‘LOUIS VUITTON’. However, no longer does it possess the depth of its predecessors. Instead, the 40 mm stainless steel case is uncharacteristically slim at only 8.3 mm thick. To further increase wearability, the case back is arced towards the case middle to fit the natural curve of the forearm near the wrist, echoing the topography of the human arm. And if that wasn’t enough, the bracelet links, convex on the upper and underside surfaces, hug the wrist to ensure comfort and security.
The case and the bracelet are predominantly brushed except in a few instances where polished highlights are desirable such as bracelet chamfers and center links, as well as the crown. The bezel also features contrasting finishes where it is mainly sandblasted but with polished rims. Importantly, it frames the visage of the new Tambour.
Where the case and bracelet are all about soft lines and rounded curves, the dial goes hard on crisp lines and demarcations. The first segment of the dial is the central medallion, rendered in light grey, finely brushed, and printed with the brand name and its place of origin. The next segment, just outboard of the central medallion, is the hour track. This part here is rendered in a darker shade of gray with the hours indicated by polished white gold appliques. These appliques alternate between Roman numerals and faceted batons, with the former filled with Super-LumiNova to enable low- and no-light visibility. Moving further outward, we have the chapter ring that serves as the minute track. Much like the hour ring, it is rendered in a dark gray and micro-sandblasted. To minimise confusion when reading the time, the 5-minute markers are considerately recessed. This creates a stark difference in the height levels of the 5-minute markers and the hour markers, and subsequently in the way light interacts between them. The play at height differences doesn’t end there, as the chapter ring is raised relative to the rest of the dial, divided by a polished step. To further accentuate the three-dimensional quality of the dial, the seconds sub-dial is recessed relative to the main dial. Despite being just one millimetre thick in totality, the dial of the Tambour conveys delightful depth. To round off what has so far been a master class in dial design, two openworked hands indicate the time in hours and minutes centrally. These hands have gone from the broad batons of the Tambours of old to facetted and tapered in this new incarnation. The result is a dial that looks lighter and less encumbered.
Driving the rejuvenated Tambour is the new 31-jewel Calibre LFT023, made possible by Louis Vuitton’s watchmaking wing La Fabrique du Temps. The movement is the first proprietary automatic three-hand movement designed by Louis Vuitton in collaboration with movement specialists Le Cercle des Horlogers. It has a power reserve of 50 hours and operates at a 4 Hz frequency. The Calibre LFT023 is accurate to +6/-4 seconds per day and is chronometre-certified by the Geneva Chronometric Observatory.
The craftsmanship and finish of the movement is a good blend of old and new. While traditional techniques such as perlage (on the mainplate) and circular graining (on the wheels) are clearly utilised, plenty of non-traditional ones are applied too. Take for instance, the micro-sandblasted bridges with raised borders, and the openworked barrel cover that resembles the brand’s Monogram Flower. Speaking of “non-traditional”, the jewels used in the Calibre LFT023 are colourless transparent in place of the conventional magenta ones. As a result, the movement in general is rather monochromatic – that is, were it not for the micro-rotor. Executed in 22k gold, the micro-rotor is decorated with a stylised ‘LV’ repeating motif. While lacking in inward angles, there are plenty of sharp outward angles to be found – a sight for sore eyes.
The Competitive Landscape
Of all the market segments in the luxury watch scene, the sports watch segment has got to be the most competitive of them all. To stand a chance for success, brands need to distinguish their luxury sports watches from their competitors’. The new Louis Vuitton Tambour, in our opinion, certainly has enough to warrant attention. There are three key factors at play here: 1) the Louis Vuitton branding, 2) the serious watchmaking fronted by La Fabrique du Temps, and crucially, 3) masterful watch design. Also available with a blue dial, the Tambour in stainless steel – a regular production timepiece – is priced competitively, at EUR19,500.
We’ve seen many new sports watches make their mark earlier this year but none perhaps are as comparable to the Tambour as the new Chopard Alpine Eagle XPS. While the design languages of both timepieces are noticeably different (monochrome vs salmon dial, soft curves vs acute angles etc.), they share many similarities. For one, both watches are of similar material and size, with the Chopard crafted in steel and measuring in at 41 mm x 8 mm. For another, they both cost about the same with the Chopard coming in at USD22,500. They are both wound by a micro-rotor too. It is worth noting however that Chopard’s latest sports watch comes with a Geneva Seal-certified movement which is worth its weight in gold.
The H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Centre Seconds is yet another sports watch in the ~$20,000 price bracket that shares similarities with the Tambour. The key similarity here is in the design of the bracelet and the case. Both timepieces go heavy on the usage of soft lines and curves, as well as the no-lug look with the bracelet seemingly connected to the case with no intermediary. The Streamliner takes this concept further with rounded batons and hands on the dial. It bears mentioning that the Streamliner is fitted with central hands and a central winding rotor (as opposed to the Tambour’s and Alpine Eagle’s micro-rotors). This contributes to the thicker profile of the Streamliner, which comes in at 12.1 mm. The Smoked Salmon variant of the watch was priced at CHF19,900 earlier this year and meant to be a limited production model (one year only). According to the brand’s website, however, the watch appears to be sold out now.
The new Tambour marks the beginning of a new era of Louis Vuitton, one that involves serious high-end watchmaking. The fact that the brand has chosen to price the watch competitively is a sign that they are not taking anything for granted. If anything, the Tambour is likely just a herald of what’s to come. Complicated variations of the Tambour are a given, but also expect more fine watchmaking specimens that isn’t the Tambour in future releases.