Hands On: Louis Vuitton Tambour Einstein Automata “Only Watch 2024”

Both weird and accomplished.

The surprising, and to some shocking, Louis Vuitton Tambour Einstein Automata created for Only Watch 2024 is over the top in both aesthetics and complexity. Based on the brand’s automata wristwatch that’s available either as a Chinese mask or vanitas skull, the Einstein Automata has the air of a mad scientist’s creation.

Depressing the pusher at two o’clock starts the automata, which also serve to tell the time with a jumping hours display in Einstein’s forehead and the minutes indicated by the atom symbol pointer at eight o’clock. Made in-house at its Geneva manufacture of La Fabrique du Temps (LFT), the watch illustrates Louis Vuitton’s impressive matchmaking capabilities, while also bringing to mind the extravagant, casual style of its streetwear.

Initial thoughts

When I first saw images of the Einstein Automata, I knew I had to see it in person. And in the metal the watch certainly lives up to expectations, it is bizarre, impressive, and wearable, all at the same time.

It is bizarre because Einstein is accurately portrayed – the likeness is done well – yet rendered in alien colours of pale blue and silver. It’s impressive because the dial is enamelled and engraved in-house while the movement is exceptionally complex. And it’s wearable despite being a very large watch because the case is in stainless steel, unlike its regular production counterparts that are in gold.

Do I like it? I do. But I can imagine a lot of people won’t and I can understand why.

It’s a near-47 mm watch with an extraterrestrial version of Einstein on the dial and a low estimate of CHF340,000, so it’s definitely not for everyone. But Louis Vuitton has to be applauded for expending resources and effort in creating something genuinely different for Only Watch.

A scientific dial

The Einstein Automata brings new meaning to “scientific” dial. It simulates a chalkboard covered with scientific formulas that are actually subtle references to Louis Vuitton and Only Watch, like “2023=LV+OW²” for example.

On the right of the formulas is Einstein’s visage that replicates the famous 1951 photo of the scientist sticking his tongue out – original, signed examples of which have sold for over US$100,000.

The chalkboard dial is executed in miniature enamel painting – the “chalk” writing is actually enamel painted by hand. It’s perfectly rendered and the resemblance to actual chalk marks is uncanny.

Einstein’s head, on the other hand, is grisaille enamel, a technique that artfully removes layers of fired enamel to reveal the darker surface below. This results in the monochromatic grey-blue appearance of the face.

Like the recent Voyager Flying Tourbillon with its stained glass-like plique-à-jour enamel dial, both the dial and face of the Einstein Automata are the work of Nicolas Doublel, the lead artisan at Louis Vuitton’s enamel workshop inside LFT.

Einstein’s hair and moustache are 18k white gold and engraved by Dick Steenman, another of the key artisans at LFT. Notably, Mr Steenman’s work extends outside the dial, with the hair forming the pusher for the automata and insert beside the upper lug, both of which are steel to match the case.

The crown bears a relief representation of an atom

Mechanically, the Einstein Automata is nearly identical to the standard version of the Tambour Automata. Pushing the button at two o’clock activates the four automata on the dial.

The first pair indicate the time: the round aperture in Einstein’s forehead goes from showing “T=?” to the current hour, while the minutes are indicated by the atom symbol that is actually a retrograde hand. The white-painted tip of the atom symbol swivels to indicate the current minutes before returning to zero.

Another automaton indicator is the power reserve indicator, which is inside the window that’s part of “E=LV²” at 10 o’clock.

And the last two automata are decorative. Einstein’s tongue goes up and down, while his left eye changes to show the various shapes of the Louis Vuitton monogram.

The atom minute hand has a diamond set on its axis


The LV 525 movement inside is largely identical to that in the regular production automata watches. But instead of a mask or skull bridge, it has an open worked bridge forming an atom that is also set with three brilliant cut diamonds. The diamonds, as well as the screws securing the bridge, represent electrons, while the nucleus is represented by the pivot jewel of the centre wheel.

The back is engraved “Only Watch 2023” as the auction was originally scheduled for November of last year

The movement otherwise has the same pink gilt finish on its bridges as found in the standard model. Made up of over 400 components, the LV 525 has a 100 hour power reserve thanks to a very large barrel, which is also required to keep the automata going, since they are driven by the same mainspring.

Key facts and price

Louis Vuitton Tambour Einstein Automata – Only Watch 2024
Ref. Q1EN4Y

Diameter: 46.8 mm
Height: 14.4 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: LV 525
Functions: Jaquemart with four automatons – jumping hour, retrograde minute hand, power reserve indicator, as well as eye and tongue of Einstein
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3.5 Hz)
Winding: Hand wind
Power reserve: 100 hours

Strap: Leather with steel folding clasp

Limited edition: Unique piece
To be sold at Only Watch 2024 on May 10, 2024
Price: CHF340,000-440,000

For more, visit Christies.com.


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