The Business Times
WATCHES & WONDERS 2021

More than just telling time

Louis Vuitton brings the jacquemart into the 21st century in its groundbreaking new watch collection.

Published Fri, Apr 16, 2021 · 05:50 AM
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HISTORICALLY, jacquemarts were associated with ancient clock towers, where intricate mechanised figures would click and whir into action to strike the hours of the day in a fascinating ritual to mark the passing of time.

Watchmakers would later miniaturise the jacquemart, not so much for its function but to showcase their exceptional skill of craftsmanship – to make a timepiece look good, and entertain the wearer at the same time.

Such skill and showmanship came to the fore with the recent unveiling of Louis Vuitton's Tambour Carpe Diem – which returns the automaton to its original role, but in spectacular fashion.

"We wanted to bring to the jacquemart our vision of the 21st century with all the energy and creativity characteristic of our brand since it began producing watches in 2002," says Louis Vuitton's master watchmaker Michel Navas.

Two years in the making, the Tambour Carpe Diem is aesthetically inspired by the Vanitas – a symbolic work of art that uses skulls to depict the transience of life and the certainty of death.

With a skull, snake and hourglass dominating the dial, the timepiece features a jumping hour, a retrograde minute and a power reserve display.

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The big challenge in making such a complication watch "was to create a mechanical movement that is quite powerful to integrate and smoothly operate all these functions that had never been brought together before," says Mr Navas.

The luxury fashion house has produced bespoke timepieces with automata for selected clients before, but the Tambour Carpe Diem is the first to be made public.

The hand-wound movement that powers the watch was entirely developed and assembled in-house. Top Swiss craftsmen were enlisted, such as Anita Porchet for the enamelling and Dick Steenman for the engraving.

To tell the time, simply push the reptile-shaped pushpiece on the right of the case. The central snake then lifts its head up to show the hour aperture on the skull's forehead, while the rattlesnake tail oscillates towards the minutes placed under the power reserve hourglass.

While Louis Vuitton's signature Monogram flower appears in lieu of the eye, the skull's jaw lets out a mocking laugh and the words "Carpe Diem" – "seize the day" in English, appear. The spectacle lasts for 16 seconds.

Another notable entrant is the Tambour Curve GMT Flying Tourbillon. The two time zone travel timepiece is combined with a flying tourbillon to give it a graphic signature which recalls the original Tambour launched in 2002. The earlier model featured curves inspired by the architecture of the most stunning international airport terminals.

Two push-pieces on the right side of the timepiece provide an easy setting of the GMT, allowing the dedicated indicator in the open counter at 3 o'clock to move forward or backward. The push-pieces are positioned in the same way as a chronograph, intentionally creating visual confusion with the watch. But they also reinforce the symmetry of the case to let the observer savour its perfect, soft proportions.

The Tambour Curve GMT Flying Tourbillon is available in full titanium; titanium with horns, pushpieces and winding crown in pink gold; and titanium with dial carved out of a meteorite and hour markers set with baguette-cut diamonds.

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