If you still think Louis Vuitton is a fashion brand trying to play watchmaker it might be time to think again. In January this year the luxury behemoth officially unveiled its new Tourbillon Volant timepiece, complete with the highly coveted Poinçon de Genève (that’s the Seal of Geneva for us English-speakers) stamped proudly on the dial side of the highly skeletonized movement. For the non-watch people reading this the Geneva Seal is arguably considered the highest mark of quality and reliability in watchmaking.
The Tourbillon Volant
Interestingly enough the requirements for earning the Geneva Seal don’t really take into consideration the complexity of the watch movement – although looking at the Tourbillon Volant I am sure it would pass muster – but instead focus on its construction and reliability. It is a mark of quality after all, not cleverness. And of course the movement needs to be actually made in the Canton of Geneva – that one’s kind of a biggie.
What this means in reality therefore is that in order for a movement to be stamped with the distinctive Poinçon de Genève a serious investment of time and money must be made. Not surprisingly only a privileged few watchmakers and “manufactures” based in Geneva have been awarded this certification. And now Louis Vuitton (and it’s soon to be established La Fabrique du Temps) can count itself as one of them.
Now the cynical among you are probably reading this and thinking of course they were able to get the Seal, they have an almost endless supply of money and resources, all they needed was time and to a degree I agree with you. By the same token however I think that anything that encourages brands to invest in making the best products they can is a good thing. Just because Louis Vuitton has more money doesn’t mean the quality is any less and I think the Tourbillon Volant demonstrates this.
Whether you would actually buy and wear one on the other hand is a matter of personal taste. I can’t quite put my finger on why but for me the Tourbillon Volant is a little bit too over the top, despite its relatively refined, streamlined appearance. On the plus side the new-shaped case is a very sensible 41mm x 9.1mm and better still it’s hewn from platinum – pretty hard to fault that.
Powering the new Tourbillon Volant is the manual winding Calibre LV104 offers a standard time-only display with seconds shown on the impressive looking tourbillon at 6 o’clock. The movement offers an 80 hour power reserve when fully wound although disappointingly I couldn’t spot a power-reserve indicator. What I could spot however was a lot of ‘V’ shapes, both in the movement and the sub-dial at 12 o’clock, an aesthetic choice I’m not quite sure how to feel about.
Branding wise I would say the Tourbillon Volant it’s pretty understated by Louis Vuitton standards but even still something about feeling the need to display the Geneva Seal on the front of the watch just doesn’t sit right with me. Personally I would have preferred to see this on the back of the movement, perhaps in place of the LV logo engraved into the baseplate. It is a timepiece after all and not a handbag.
Pricing is set at US$196,000 and although numbers aren’t limited, production constraints mean that annual output probably won’t exceed 24 pieces.
Visit Louis Vuitton’s website to find out more about its watch collection.