Up Close: Louis Vuitton Tambour

Slim, sleek, and simple.

Louis Vuitton has redesigned its trademark wristwatch some two decades after it was introduced. In contrast to its predecessors, the Louis Vuitton Tambour has been refined and condensed into a thin, streamlined wristwatch that’s just 8.3 mm high.

Sporting a touch of 1970s style, the new Tambour is equipped with the LFT023, an automatic movement featuring a micro-rotor. Representing the first of a new generation of Louis Vuitton movements, the LFT023 was developed by movement maker Le Cercle des Horlogers and features novel details like frosted bridges with relief borders and clear jewels.

The new Tambour replaces all existing Tambour models, save for the high-end complications, like the automatons and minute repeaters, as well as the entry-level Street Diver. As a result, the once diverse and occasionally confusing offer of watches is rationalised to essentially three lines – Street Diver, the new Tambour, and complications.

Initial thoughts

Now 20 years old, the Tambour has been around long enough to become easily recognisable as Louis Vuitton’s trademark watch case. The original Tambour was an appealing design, particularly when paired with complications – I am personally a big fan of some complicated Tambour models – but it felt chunky even on a smaller scale.

So the new Tambour is everything that the original was not – svelte and restrained. On its face it is not as recognisable as the original, but in profile it is clearly evolved from the original. The sloping sides of the case still read “LOUIS VUITTON”, but in a font that’s small enough to be concealed at a distance.

Because of its thinness, it feels entirely different from the original on the wrist. The bracelet integrates well into the case, which when combined with the brushed finish, also gives it a smooth, seamless feel.

In terms of details, the new Tambour is well done. The stepped dial, for instance, is attractive and sharply executed, while the case that forgoes a movement ring shows attention to detail.

One detail, however, should have been improved. The movement has an Etachron regulator for the balance, perfectly serviceable but generally associated with less pricey watches. This isn’t uncommon in high-end watches – it can be found in Cartier skeleton movements as well – but a custom-designed regulator would complete the movement.

The new Tambour costs about US$20,000 in steel, which is a fair proposition. While Louis Vuitton watches often carry premium pricing simply because Louis Vuitton is the world’s biggest luxury brand, the new Tambour is fairly priced relative to the competition.

It costs the same as the H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner Centre Seconds and slightly more than the Bulgari Octo Finissimo. More notably, its priced similar to the Speake-Marin Ripples, which shares the same base calibre but is hindered by a less refined execution overall and a decidedly unappealing design.

Thinning the Tambour

While the new model is clearly descended from the Tambour of old, its streamlined design is vaguely 1970s and brings to mind the Porsche Design watches of that era that had similar integrated bracelets.

In the hand, the first impression is thinness. The watch is thin at 8.3 mm, but even knowing that it still feels thin. Needless to say, the slim proportions result in an elegant profile on the wrist.

Despite sharing the same name as its predecessor, the 2023 Tambour is entirely different. It feels compact and refined, primarily due to the flat case but also because of the thin, tapered bracelet.

Its refined proportions and streamlined form are most obvious when compared against the Tambour Street Diver, which retains the chunky dimensions of the original design.

The 44 mm Street Diver (left) and the 40 mm Tambour

And the size is more obvious in profile, with the Street Diver at 12.8 mm compared to the 8.3 mm of the Tambour

One element that contributes to the impression of thinness is the separate bezel. In contrast, the earlier generation Tambour was thicker but had no bezel.

This flat and narrow bezel featuring the brand name in relief with raised, polished letters against a frosted surface. The font size is small, however, so the branding is not apparent when the watch is on the wrist.

Another key detail that adds to the perceived slimness is the domed back that helps conceal some of the height.

The case is almost entirely brushed, save for polished accents on the bracelet and bezel that are just enough to be slightly reflective while maintaining the overall low-key look. As it is with the movement, the case finishing is comparable to another similarly-priced sports watch, the Moser Streamliner.

The bracelet flows into the case and tapers towards the bracelet, which gives the watch its sleek appearance. Notably, the taper is achieved by arching each link inwards towards the clasp, creating an elegant line from watch to clasp.

Like the case, the bracelet is mostly brushed but complemented by polished accents, namely the chamfers on the edges and centre links. The design is simple but effective and pairs perfectly with the watch.

The bracelet is secured to the case middle with screws and cannot be replaced with a leather strap, making this a true integrated bracelet. This probably contributes to the coherence of the design, because constructing the case to easily accommodate both a strap and bracelet would probably have taken away from the streamlined look.

A final detail worth mentioning is the lack of the movement ring inside the case. Granted, this is invisible and doesn’t offer any functional advantage, but it certainly looks better when the case back is removed.

A modern sector

The Tambour dial is modelled on the dials found in the first-generation Tambour models, but tweaked for depth and detail. The result is a dial that doesn’t look fancy at a distance, but offers interesting details up close.

I like the design of the dial, though I would have preferred a seconds register without numerals. And I am undecided on the polished borders around each section of the dial; it might look cleaner without them and echo the silhouette of the case better.

The dial is essentially three levels – an outer minute track, central portion, and recessed seconds – each finished differently. The centre, for instance, is vertically brushed, while the chapter rings for the hours and minutes are frosted.

The varied surface finishing means each section catches the light differently, creating visual interest despite the monochromatic palette.

The minute ring is probably the most prominent element of the dial thanks to its unusual execution. It is raised above the rest of the dial and mirrors the hour markers with wide cutouts every five minutes.

Both the chamfered inner edge of the minute ring as well as its cutout markers are done by CNC milling

As is increasingly the norm for high-end dials, the hands and applied markers are solid 18k white gold. But perhaps more interesting for collectors is the phrase at six o’clock. Instead of the conventional “Swiss made”, the dial reads “Fab. en Suisse”, both a reference to vintage watches (particularly those exported to France) as well as to La Fabrique du Temps.

The watch comes with two dial options, the tone-on-tone grey or a more dramatic, but expected in this sector, blue. Both show the same finishes, with similar levels of contract between the separate levels that make it easy to read.

Micro-rotor mechanics

Like the open-worked calibre in the recent Voyager Skeleton, the LFT023 was developed in collaboration with Le Cercle des Horlogers, a movement specialist that shares the same owner as Speake-Marin. Unsurprisingly, the LFT023 has the same basic architecture as many of Speak-Marin’s movements, though it is executed entirely differently in terms of finishing and design.

The LFT023 is both distinctive and appealing in terms of aesthetics. According to a Louis Vuitton representative, the LFT023 indicates where the brand is heading in terms of movement design.

The movement is almost monochromatic – even the jewels are clear and colourless – save for a handful of rose gold elements. It’s a low-key style that reflects the restrained design of the watch, and one that diverts from the usual monogram-heavy look of the brand.

The bridges are uniformly finished with a granular texture enclosed by raised borders and accented with rose gold-plated relief lettering. The relief borders on the bridges are reminiscent of some Romain Gauthier movements, which is not a bad thing.

The rotor is solid 22k rose gold and finished with an engraved “V” motif

As is the case for majority of sports watches in this price range, the movement decoration is neat and mostly industrially applied. It’s comparable to the finishing in Cartier or Moser movements, but has the advantage of being different and recognisable – without resorting to applying “LVLVLV” all over.

But the technical-minded enthusiast will spot the Etachron regulator that feels out of place. This is the only element I would change and certainly one that will complete the movement in terms of visual appeal.

The final notable feature of the movement is its chronometer certification. Instead of the more common COSC certification, the LFT023 is tested to certified by Timelab, the same body that oversees the Poinçon de Genève seal of quality. The Timelab testing process is known as Observatoire Chronometrique+, though it operates on the same ISO chronometer standards, making it equivalent to COSC in terms of chronometry.

Concluding thoughts

The new Tambour is done well. In tactile terms the design succeeds because it wears well and feels good. At the same time, the movement is attractive and executed correctly (except for the regulator). Importantly, it’s priced right. The new chapter for Louis Vuitton watchmaker is going in the right direction.

Key facts and price

Louis Vuitton Tambour
Ref. W1ST10 (steel with silver dial)
Ref. W1ST20 (steel with blue dial)

Diameter: 40 mm
Height: 8.3 mm
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: LFT023
Features: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 50 hours

Strap: Steel bracelet

Limited edition: No
At Louis Vuitton boutiques
Price: €19,500 including 20% VAT

For more, visit Louisvuitton.com.


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Highlights: Sotheby’s Hong Kong Fine Watches Online

An eclectic mix led by a special-order Sky Moon Tourbillon.

The summer tends to be a quiet period in the watch world since most of Switzerland goes on holiday. However, Sotheby’s Hong Kong is staging one major event before the summer lull with an online sale running for just over a week.

Fine Watches opens on July 5th and runs until the 14th featuring 272 lots ranging from Patek Philippe complications to simple time-only Cartier. We cover highlights from the sale below – the catalogue can be seen here – but before that we look at something special.

Happening alongside the online auction is a sealed auction for an Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon ref. 5002P-013 with a custom-order black dial that runs online from July 13-21. The ref. 5002P once held the title of most complicated wristwatch Patek Philippe ever produced and remains a landmark in Patek Philippe watchmaking.

Not only is this ref. 5002P possibly unique thanks to the striking black dial, it is also double sealed – in other words brand new. Since 2017 Patek Philippe has banned its retailers from selling sealed watches and so an double-sealed example of a special-order grand complication on the secondary market is rare.

This double-dial complication offers an incredible opportunity to collectors, since the last time we saw this a sealed example of this reference at auction was back in 2018 at Antiquorum where it sold for just under US$1.2 million, and that was just single sealed.

Prices have naturally climbed since then. In fact, this example mirrors the one that recently sold at Christie’s for almost US$4.1 million, which had a rose gold case and black dial with red accents, with the case metal being one of the major differentiating factors.

Notably, this ref. 5002P is being sold in a sealed auction – no pun intended – where the estimate, current bid, reserve, and the final selling price will not be made public. Instead, only the bidders will know where their current bid places them. There will also be no buyer’s premium on this watch, so the winning bidder will pay the price they bid. For more information, visit the auction page

Lot 701: Patek Philippe ref. 3970E with diamond markers

The appreciation for Patek Philippe complications from the 1990s has been steadily growing over the last few years and this watch is an excellent example of this period of watchmaking. The ref. 3970 is the quintessential complication combination from Patek Philippe, the perpetual calendar-chronograph.

Though the brand is possibly more famous for references such as the refs. 2499 and 1518, this more recent model offers a lot of what collectors are looking at a more affordable price.

Packing all of the double complication into a comfortably sized 36 mm case, this reference can be distinguished across four definitive series; this one falls into the third series but with a less common dial in black with diamond indices that gives it an almost formal, tuxedo-ready appearance.

It is “full set”, which not only includes the standard wooden box and certificate, but a stylus and a solid, screw- on case back that the owner can swap with the sapphire back that is currently on the watch. 

For many years the ref. 3970 was seen as the bargain version of the ref. 2499, now thanks to the research that is being carried out, appreciation has blossomed which is causing these models to creep up in value. This watch is estimated at HKD1.0-2.0 million (about US$125,000-250,000), which seems about right for this configuration and completeness. For more, visit the catalogue entry

Lot 706: Vacheron Constantin Mercator ref. 43050 Hong Kong Handover

Possibly one of the more idiosyncratic watches that still sticks to traditional methodologies, the Mercator offers a wonderful combination of a unique way of telling the time with brilliant dial work. Originally developed by the Belgian couple, Jean and Lucie Genbrugge, and named after their countryman, the famous cartographer Geradous Mercator, the dials will often depict sections of his groundbreaking map projections. 

This example shows China’s coastline in cloisonné enamel, with Hong Kong pinpointed as it was created to celebrate the handover of Hong Kong from the British to China in 1996. Limited to just 30 pieces for the occasion, this is number two, making this is an extremely uncommon piece that does not appear at auction often. The Mercator in general is rare: only 638 across all variants were produced over the model’s 10 year production period.

This watch runs on the cal. 1120, an ultra-thin automatic calibre that has been at the heart of Vacheron Constantin production for decades now, with a double retrograde module developed by Mr. Genbrugge on top of it. It is believed that the Genbrugges developed this watch independently and then presented it to the chief executive of Vacheron Constantin at the time, Claude-Daniel Proellchs, who was so impressed with it, he allowed them to keep their name on every dail, and if you look closely at four o’clock on this model, you will see the inscription “J.& L. Genbrugge”.

The estimate on this watch is between HKD240,000-320,000 (about US$30,000-40,000) which seems a little low when compared to sales of regular production models that have happened earlier this year which have come close to eclipsing HKD400,000. For more, visit the catalogue entry.

Lot 712: Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 second Incliné

Greubel Forsey has built a name for itself as one of the boundary-pushing independent watchmakers who are unafraid to try something new. This Tourbillon 24 Second Incliné points to the heart of this, taking one of the most classical complications in horology, the tourbillon, and seeing what can be done to advance it. Pitching the tourbillon cage at a 25° angle helps the regulating organ survive the stresses of completing a full rotation in just 24 seconds. 

With only 144 pieces produced between 2007 and 2017 in a mixture of white and red gold, and platinum, this piece is not one you will come across very often, with this one being the 32nd ever produced. The unique case shape that has become synonymous with Greubel Forsey is a key factor of this watch, with the small sapphire window that wraps around the side of the tourbillon, allowing more light in so it can be fully enjoyed. This added light is particularly necessary given the great depth of this one component. 

While many will often concentrate on the complexity of the construction and development of this watch, it feels like the finishing that Greubel Forsey are capable of can be overlooked. Here they have deployed a classical style with graining across most of the visible surfaces of the movement, with rounded anglage and classical golden chatons atop each ruby. 

This cornerstone of the Greubel Forsey brand took on a new form last year, in the shape of the Tourbillon 24 Seconds Architecture. Placing this rapidly rotating escapement in a new look could bring more attention to these original designs, increasing the appreciation of them.

This movement of this watch shows minor oxidisation of the German silver bridges, but fortunately it is accompanied by a servicing offered by Greubel Forsey to the new owner at no cost. With an estimate between HKD900,000-1.5 million (about US$115,000-190,000) this watch seems to be fairly placed, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it beat its high estimate. For more, visit the catalogue entry.

Lot 714: A. Lange & Söhne Triple Split ref. 424.038F

The first of two A. Lange & Söhne’s we are going to look at from this auction, the Triple Split occupies a unique position in the Lange market. When it first launched in 2018, we described it as “preposterously unnecessary yet incredibly impressive” and that still seems to hold up today. It continued a long tradition that Lange held of producing complex, and architecturally beautiful chronographs that dates back to the Datograph. 

This is the first watch with the ability to record two sets of elapsed times simultaneously for over an hour, thanks to rattrapante hands for the seconds, minutes and hours. Lange had released the Double Split back in 2004, however this not only surpasses that with its functionality but also power reserve, as it can run on a full charge for 55 hours, compared to the Double Splits 38. 

Equipped with the L132.1, which is comprised of 567 parts, it is a massively intricate and delicate movement to construct. Initially, this model was only available in white gold as seen here, but it was later released in pink. This white gold example is number 33 out of the 100 produced. 

The estimate for this lot is between HKD800,000-1.6 million (about US$100,000-200,000) which would seem about right, given that this model is now reportedly sold out from the brand, it is expected for its value to steadily increase on the secondary market. For more, visit the catalogue entry

Lot 717: A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Referenzuhr ref. 250.032

Perhaps one of the lesser known references from Lange, the Richard Lange Referenzuhr integrates a subtle, but incredibly useful complication into its typically Lange design. Moreover, it is one of the few Lange limited editions with a unique calibre that was created expressly for the watch.

The zero-reset function integrated into the cal. L033.1 allows the wearer to accurately set a reference time for something, or just set the watch with far greater accuracy. By pressing down on the pusher at two, the seconds hand is disconnected from the third wheel, snapping it to zero, all while the rest of the movement continues to tick. 

Only 125 of these pieces were produced, with just 75 of those being in pink gold like this one. As can be expected with Lange, and especially from the Richard Lange collection, the movement finishing is outstanding here. With the emblematic hand-engraved balance cock, and the Glashütte stripping covering the large three quarter plate, it is hard to find a fault with this calibre, although it does only carry a 38 hour power reserve. 

Not many of these pieces come up for auction thanks to their limited number, and with this one being numbered the lucky “8”, a desirable number in Chinese culture, it presents an excellent opportunity for a dedicated Lange collector. With an estimate between HKD200,000-400,000 (about US$25,000-50,000) it could be a great value buy. For more, visit the catalogue entry

Lot 724: Hermès Arceau L’ Heure de la Lune Etoile 

An incredibly stylish watch, the Hermès Arceau L’ Heure de la Lune Etoile is a wonderfully unique take on the very old moon phase complication. With two disconnected, rotating dials, one for the minutes and hours, and the other showing the date in the stylised Hermès typeface, the watch makes the most out of the empty dial space.

These two dials are constantly moving above a granite disc with two mother-of-pearl moons, showing the moon phase from the northern and southern hemispheres simultaneously. 

Initially introduced in 2019, this elegant, and deceptively complex watch instantly won over a lot of people, so much so that it took home the Calendar and Astronomy Watch Prize at that year’s GPHG. 

The watch runs on the H1837 movement with a complex module sat on top of it that was originally developed by Chronode, the complications specialist set up by Jean-Francois Mojon. Originally available with a meteorite or aventurine dial, this granite option gives a far more muted look, and allows the semi-precious moons to take centre stage. 

This lot has been given a rather low estimate of just HKD150,000-300,000 (about US$19,000-38,000) and it should easily eclipse those numbers, but it should still offer great value for the brilliant design and clever engineering that has gone into it. For more, visit the catalogue entry

 Lot 736: Cartier Santos 100 Skeleton in palladium

Possibly one of the most popular reissues that Cartier has produced, the Santos has become an incredibly widespread timepiece thanks to its accessible price point and recognisable design. However, this is not a standard Santos, this Santos 100 Skeleton has a case made from palladium, a tough metal that has very similar properties to platinum.

Cartier does its skeletonised dials incredibly well, the highly stylised Roman numerals that also take the place of part of the movement bridges, show a clear link to the classical dials that the brand have become known for. 

This calibre was developed by Carole Fostier-Kasapi, then the brand’s Technical Director and contains twin barrels to give it an impressive 72 hours power reserve. This is not the only time that Cartier has used this movement in a palladium watch either, it can also be found in the Tank MC Skeleton from 2013.

There is nothing too ostentatious about this watch or its movement, everything is done in a restrained style that befits this model and the case metal it comes in. From the straight line finishing on the bridges to simple contrast of polished and brushed surfaces found between the case and bezel. 

The estimate here seems to be fairly accurate given the brilliant design of this watch and its condition, at HKD120,000-180,000 (about US$15,000-23,000). And so it could offer decent value, and as it’s placed in the lower end of this auction’s pricing, it is unlikely to be subject to a large bidding war. For more, visit the catalogue entry

Lot 748: Vianney Halter Goldpfeil ref. GPVH

Next, we have a creation typical of the creative independent watchmaker, Vianney Halter. This piece was made with the German luxury label Goldpfeil, who asked seven members of the AHCI to create limited runs of watches for the start of the new Millennium. Here Mr. Halter drew his inspiration from vintage rangefinder cameras that can be found wrapped in Goldpfeil leather cases. 

Mr. Halter is known for his unique ways of displaying the time, whether it be his Antiqua or the Harry Winston Opus V, using disconnected sub-dials and jump hours can be seen as somewhat of a signature of his and they appear here as well. Taking cues from the Goldpfeil branding with the minute hand a copy of their arrow logo, and then placing a red running seconds inside that same dial, with a jump hour and moon phase above it. 

As this is a piece created by Mr. Halter, you can expect fine finishing to also be involved in these unique designs. While the movement is sparsely done, the front of the white gold case is covered in hand hammered dimples, creating a unique texture for each watch that contrasts the polished bezel. 

Given the sharp increase the independent market has seen recently, the estimate for this piece being placed between HKD80,000-120,000 (about US$10,000-15,000) seems a little low, especially when we consider another of these was sold just last year for HKD277,000. So if these estimates are accurate to the final price, this could represent excellent value for money. For more, visit the catalogue entry

Lot 836: Patek Philippe Chronometro Gondolo pocket watch

Those who have studied the history of Patek Philippe will be aware of the importance of Gondolo & Labouriau, the Brazilian retailer which, at one point, was responsible for one third of Patek Philippe’s sales worldwide. Owning a pocket watch that at one point passed through this store is owning a part of Patek Philippe’s history. 

At their peak, Gondolo & Labouriau were so important it was able to request specific modifications to the watches that Patek Philippe sent to them. This led to a specific, accentuated aesthetic that came to be associated with the retailer, most notably with oversized pocket watches with a 24-hour scale, and led to the modern Gondolo collection we see today. 

This particular watch is a unique piece, albeit subtly special. The Patek Philippe brand name has been removed from its traditional position under 12 o’clock and instead replaced by the original owner’s signature. The gentleman’s signature is also engraved on the outer case back, while the inner back features the conventional Patek Philippe and Gondolo branding. It is exceptionally rare to have an owner’s name on the dial of a Patek Philippe wrist or pocket watch, making this uniquely special.

It includes an extract from archives that dates its production to 1908, placing it pretty much in the middle of the partnership between the store and the watch brand, which lasted from 1891 to 1935. 

Pocket watches are always going to be at the lower end of the valuation bracket, and this one still represents great value, and as more interest appears to be coming into this specific market from younger buyers looking for something different, with strong historical ties, it could have great value with an estimate between HKD70,000-90,000 (about US$9,000-11,500). For more, visit the catalogue entry

Lot 925: Ikepod Isopode ref. ISD01

A bit of a left field addition to our list, the Ikepod Isopode is a great entry level to unique watch design. Co-founder and designer, Marc Newson, is famous around the world for his industrial design work and this was his first foray into applying his concepts to the wrist. Of course he would later go on to aid in the design of the first Apple Watch. 

While the brand went under for a period of time they are now back and have a surging popularity, especially after high profile appearances such as Kanye West wearing a gold Ikepod on the cover of GQ magazine. 

The Isopode shows that thoughtful, and original design can be put into a watch and have it end up looking like nothing else that has come before it. The stainless steel, monocoque case takes an organic, pebble-like, form that quickly became the brand’s trademark. 

The focus for this watch is the design, with the movement being an ETA 2892-A2 modified, with a second time zone displayed in a sub-dial at 12 and a date in the sub-dial at 6, balancing the face of the watch. It is certainly a value proposition and with an estimate between HKD40,000-60,000 (about US$5,000-7,500) it is extremely accessible. For more, visit the catalogue entry

Preview and auction details 

The watches can be viewed from July 6-11, 2023 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong: 

5/F One Pacific Place,
88 Queensway Central
Hong Kong

With bidding opening online from July 5 and closing July 14. The full catalogue can be seen here

This was brought to you in collaboration with Sotheby’s.  


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