The world’s biggest luxury brand, Louis Vuitton has in recent years revealed steadily growing ambitions in haute horlogerie, especially after its acquisition of Geneva complications specialist La Fabrique de Temps (LFDT). To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of its namesake founder, the brand created the Tambour Jacquemart Minute Repeater “200 Years”.
Conceived by LFDT, the Tambour “200 Years” is a one-of-a-kind timepiece that demonstrates its watchmaking division’s mastery of fine watchmaking as well as its appreciation of artisanal craftsmanship: the movement combines both a minute repeater and automaton, while the dial is enamel miniature painting by none other than Anita Porchet.
Some two years in the making, the Tambour “200 Years ” exemplifies Louis Vuitton’s development as a maker of haute horlogerie. The movement is impressively complicated, while the dial is nuanced and artisanal. Granted, the watch is huge at almost 48 mm, so it’s far from subtle, but that reflects the house style of Louis Vuitton.
The dial in particular reveals the thought that went into its conception and execution, with the cosmos represented by shaded, translucent blue enamel that is nearly ethereal and complemented by automaton elements sculpted in white gold. The impressionistic depiction of the night sky and planets brings to mind Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Tambour “200 Years” is actually the second impressive (and very big) automaton wristwatch by Louis Vuitton, with the first being the gothic Tambour Carpe Diem rolled out last year that was a limited edition rather than a one-off as the “200 Years” is. As a result, Louis Vuitton seems to be carving out a niche for itself in high-end automaton wristwatches, a rarefied realm with only one consistently serious player, Jaquet Droz.
But its appeal is a moot point as the Tambour “200 Years” is already sold, according to both Louis Vuitton and collectors who enquired after it.
The roots of the Tambour “200 Years” originate in the 13th century, when the first jacquemart (French for quarter-jack) were invented. An automaton was composed of a mechanical figure, jacquemart were historically found within tower clocks that struck the time in passing in order to broadcast the time to the public. Traditional jacquemart were typically figures that performed the motion of striking a bell with a hammer, but not literally as it was the clock itself that chimed.
Louis Vuitton first realised an automaton in a wristwatch with the Carpe Diem in 2021. When the repeater was activated, the dial of the Carpe Diem comes to life, with the snake’s head pivoting from side to side and its tail indicating the minutes on a retrograde scale. It was executed by the all-star team of LFDT, headed by founders Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini, along with artisans Dick Steenman, an engraver specialising in miniatures, and Anita Porchet, whose workshop is regarded as the best in watchmaking.
The Tambour “200 Years” was created by the same team. While the Carpe Diem was over-the-top gothic glamour, the Tambour “200 Years” is more gentle in its aesthetic, which is defined by blues and greys. Ms Porchet was responsible for the galactic backdrop for the automaton’s dance. The fired enamel dial depicts celestial bodies with delicate layers of translucent enamel all painted by Ms Porchet’s own hand.
Mr Steenman, on the other hand, created nine miniatures in white gold – the planets, monogram flowers, and a spaceship – that come to life as the automaton engages when the minute repeater is triggered.
A traditional side on the left of the case activates the minute repeater that both starts the chiming process as well as the automaton. The mechanical performance unfolds the spaceship swivelling from side to side, while a hatch on its fuselage slides open to showcase two diamonds inside. At the same time the planets and stars rotate on their respective axes.
According to the brand, the drum-like Tambour case was redesigned for the “200 Years” in order to echo the design of space capsule. The redesigned case also incorporates a discreet bit of bling: a line of graduated blue, baguette-cut gemstones on the minute repeater slide matched by delta-shaped gem setting on the bezel at six o’clock.
Notably, the case is two-tone with its middle and back in titanium, a lightweight alloy that resonates better than denser precious metals, while the bezel, lugs, and repeater slide are in 18k white gold.
The LV 200 movement inside is based on the minute repeating calibre developed by LFDT that equips most of Louis Vuitton’s striking watches. It is manual wind and has a lengthy power reserve of 100 hours.
This particular version of the movement utilises cathedral goings that are longer than usual for louder and deeper chimes. While traditional gongs that generally circle the movement once, cathedral gongs are twice the length. Another feature unique to this movement is the bright, metallic blue coating on the bridges to match the dial.
Key facts and price
Louis Vuitton Jacquemart Minute Repeater “200 Years”
Diameter: 46.8 mm
Height: 15.2 mm
Material: White gold and titanium
Water resistance: 30 m
Movement: LV 200
Functions: Hours, minutes, minute repeater with cathedral gongs, and automaton
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 100 hours
Strap: Rubber strap with 18k gold folding clasp
Limited edition: Piece unique
Availability: Already sold
Price: Approximately US$1 million
For more, visit Louisvuitton.com.
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