According to the Vogue Business Index (summer 2022) and Forbes, French fashion house Louis Vuitton is the world’s most valuable luxury brand. As the undisputed king of luxury, Louis Vuitton is associated in every corner of the globe with high-quality leather goods and accessories emblazoned with the iconic LV monogram. Somewhat surprisingly, given its presence on the market since 1854, Louis Vuitton only started making ‘serious’ watches twenty years ago. In a departure from some luxury emporiums that prize design over substance, Louis Vuitton took the bull by the horns and decided that its watches had to be as good on the inside as out. Louis Vuitton’s first watch, the Louis Vuitton Tambour, and its incursion into big-league watchmaking consolidated with the acquisition of La Fabrique du Temps have resulted in a unique, potent design that is impossible to confuse with anything else on the market. The Tambour, which means drum in French, marched out with its distinctive drum-shaped case and a GMT complication in 2002. Coming up for its 20th anniversary this year, the Tambour returns with iconic LV livery and a high-frequency chronograph movement based on Zenith’s El Primero calibre: meet the new 200-piece Tambour Twenty Limited Edition.
For 2021, Louis Vuitton Tambour introduces a third generation to its line of Tambour Diver watches with the Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver collection. Today, I go hands-on with the black and yellow Tambour Street Diver Neon Black reference QA122 (debuted on aBlogtoWatch here). It’s a pretty great-looking watch that continues a legacy of some of the most lovely and quirky dive watches, from one of the world’s most popular luxury brands.
Even though LVMH (which Louis Vuitton is part of) owns a variety of watchmakers, including Hublot, BVLGARI, Zenith, and TAG Heuer, Louis Vuitton also makes watches and has been since 2002. Many of these watches are in the under-$10,000 range, but once in a while, Louis Vuitton creates some really spectacular stuff that can be priced into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Closer to earth is the new Tambour Street Diver collection, which isn’t cheap but comes with a lot of style and refinement (you know, a lot like other Louis Vuitton gear).
Would you think of Louis Vuitton Tambour as a maker of high-tech diving watches? No? Well, I can’t say I’m surprised, their history of watches has been a lot more dramatic than a simple diving watch, but it’s true. It was in mid-2021 when we saw the Tambour Street Diver, a watch with a strange name and a design inspired by Super Compressor divers of old. Now, to follow the watches from 2021, Louis Vuitton releases two new watches as a part of the Tambour Street Diver collection, and these ones have chronographs.
I quite like the look of these watches; they have some diving elements to them but aren’t afraid of mixing up other design cues. I guess you could say the design is progressively modern thanks to the writing on the rubber strap and the contrast between the dial colour and the neon-like accents.
These watches definitely won’t go unnoticed. They’re 46mm x 14mm, so not quite Seamaster Planet Ocean Chronograph chunky but closer than you think. Both watches are made of stainless steel with colouration coming from a PVD treatment. It’s interesting that Louis Vuitton chose to make the blue model silver and blue, while nearly all parts of the black version are PVD black except for the lugs, pushers and crown. One thing to note is that the water resistance is 100m, that’s plenty for swimming mind you. Perhaps Louis Vuitton realised that its clients probably wouldn’t go scuba diving ever and so left it to the minimum 100m required by ISO to call a watch a Louis Vuitton Tambour diving watch. Inside the new Tambour Streed Diver Chronograph watches is a self-winding ETA 2894-2 movement. If this is the first time you’ve heard of Louis Vuitton being a watchmaker, you might be surprised by this movement choice, especially given the price. It should be noted that while Louis Vuitton is a watchmaker and has been for a while, it’s not necessarily a movement maker, I seem to recall quite a few of their watches having off-the-shelf movements. While it might lose some horological prestige in your mind, it will make servicing the watch easier down the line, especially if Louis Vuitton decides it doesn’t want to make watches anymore. This chronograph movement has a 4Hz beat rate and a 42-hour power reserve.