Cover Michel Navas is in charge of La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, the brand’s watchmaking arm

With an icon like the Tambour Spin Time in its stable, Louis Vuitton is ready to climb the horological ladder

When the Louis Vuitton Tambour Spin Time was first presented to the local watch media in 2009, my initial thought was that it was a gimmick. The watch purist in me pooh-poohed the concept, thinking that such a design is too unconventional for haute horlogerie. Every 60min, as an hour comes to its end, a cube spins to reveal its neutral side, making way for its neighbouring cube, which will then rotate to show its distinctive face. 

But over the years, having witnessed how Louis Vuitton is evolving its watch business, I better understood its direction. The brand had never intended to be another Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin. Instead, it wants to offer premium but unusual timepieces to its clientele.

Stellar examples include the Tambour Mystérieuse watch, which boasts a movement floating in the middle of the dial without visible connection or mechanical components to the case, as well as the Escale Worldtime, a worldtimer that features an innovative time display and a hand-painted dial with motifs inspired by vintage trunk monograms. These watches are not run-of-the-mill and technically challenging to produce.
Together with fellow horologist Enrico Barbasini, master watchmaker, Michel Navas (pictured below) helms La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, the maison’s watchmaking arm. Navas also oversaw the development and progress of the Spin Time concept over the decade. He shares his thoughts on reaching the milestone and how the manufacture has grown since its acquisition by Louis Vuitton in 2011. 

Tell us about the new Spin Time watch.
Michel Navas (MV) We are a young brand—only 17 years old—so we have to be different. That’s why we display time with cubes as seen in Spin Time. We bring something else to the watchmaking world. Two years ago, we thought it might be nice to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the watch and decided to build a new variant that is more transparent. It will be an automatic movement in the middle of the watch; something totally different, especially with the cubes floating in the air. Previously, the movement occupied the entire case, but now it has shrunk considerably. So the challenge for us is to keep the power reserve and ensure that there is still sufficient energy to drive the watch and rotate two cubes each time five minutes elapse.

How has La Fabrique du Temps evolved since 2011?
MV We had 12 watchmakers previously, now we have 15. But it’s still small. I like it when La Fabrique du Temps is a small company with 80 people made up of 15 watchmakers, 10 dial makers, six engineers and some designers. Everyone recognises everyone, and we’d like to keep it that way.

Why has the manufacture always created unconventional watches?
MV Our team of watchmakers is very classical [in the watchmaking sense] but here, we have to be different—something more contemporary with a Louis Vuitton touch. Our watches are slightly different from what the other high-end brands have to offer. Our customers are used to classical, high‑end watches from the famous brands. But when they want something different and special, they come to Louis Vuitton.