With roots dating back more than 160 years, Louis Vuitton has become practically a household name amongst lovers of luxury. Respected globally for its excellence and innovation, Louis Vuitton creates sumptuous leather goods, handbags, accessories and more.
Owned by the LVMH Group, Louis Vuitton’s watchmaking experience is relatively young, but exceptionally advanced. Here, we take a look at the brand’s rich history and its evolution into the world of timepieces.
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Images: Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton’s 19th Century Roots
Designer Louis Vuitton was born in 1821 in the French mountain village of Anchay to a farmer father and a milliner mother. After the death of his mother (when Vuitton was just 10), his father remarried.
After a few rocky years, Vuitton left home at the age of 13. He trekked across nearly 300 miles as he made his way to Paris. The journey took a couple of years, as he stopped along the way and worked in odd jobs.
In 1837 in Paris, the then 16-year-old Louis Vuitton became an apprentice to a successful box maker and packer, Monsieur Mare’chal. The mode of transportation then consisted of trains, boats and horse-drawn carriages.
The most sophisticated travelers would turn to experts to box their best gowns and protect them in strong cases. When Louis Vuitton witnessed his boss’s work, he vowed he would become a master at trunk making.
He stayed on for 17 years, learning the trade with eagerness. He built such a strong reputation for himself as a master trunk maker, that Napoleon III’s wife, Eugenie, Empress of France, hired him as her personal dress packer.
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Louis Vuitton Goes Independent
With an eye for design as well as perfection, Vuitton opened his own box-making and packing workshop in 1854. Within a few years, he unveiled an all-new packing trunk.
Whereas other trunks of the time were domed on the top, the new Louis Vuitton trunk was not. It was rectangular and flat on top – easy for stacking. It was also made of a lighter weight material and had a sense of style.
Vuitton’s new travel trunks were a hit. To fulfill requests he expanded his workshops, and family residence, outside of Paris in Asnieres in 1859.
The business grew rapidly, and Vuitton’s son Georges came on board. In 1886, Georges designed and patented a single lock system for the trunks that was said to be “un-pickable.”That lock system is still used today.
Louis Vuitton in the 20th Century
Throughout the 19th century, the Louis Vuitton brand grew and expanded. Georges Vuitton had developed the LV monogram that appeared on all of its trunks. The company had begun emerging in new markets around the world.
In the first couple of decades of the 20th century, Louis Vuitton travel goods stores were beginning to open. New types of bags were making their debut on the world, as were handbags and wallets. The company also began unveiling jewelry, accessories and fragrances.
In the last quarter of the 20th century, Louis Vuitton joined with America’s Cup to create the Louis Vuitton Cup that is the preliminary competition leading up the America’s Cup races.
In 1987, Louis Vuitton, Moët & Chandon and Hennessy merged with Louis Vuitton to form the LVMH luxury Group. A decade later, the brand unveiled its first line of ready-to-wear clothing for men and women.
Louis Vuitton Watches Unveiled
When Louis Vuitton management made the decision to begin creating watches, it had the financial backing of the LVMH Group to do it right. Rather than license its name, Louis Vuitton opted to make its own timepieces.
The watch industry in Switzerland had always been a carriage trade, with specialty suppliers selling to big companies. This made it easy for Louis Vuitton to source top-quality movements and parts in the beginning of its journey.
The first Louis Vuitton watch collection made its debut after two years of research and development. The Tambour was unveiled to the world in 2002.
The round Tambour had a large dial opening to mime a drum. It was an immediate hit with Louis Vuitton lovers and remains an iconic line for the brand even today.
In 2005, Louis Vuitton released the cushion-cornered square Speedy, which has also become a pillar collection. Other important lines included the America’s Cup Regatta watches, the Louis Vuitton Cup watches and a host of others.
The brand wowed the world in 2010 with its creative Tambour Spin Time watch. A jump-hour timepiece, the Spin Time offered wearers a different way to read the time and was colorful and singular looking all at once.
In 2011, Louis Vuitton took an important step toward becoming vertically integrated in its production capabilities. It purchased La Fabrique du Temps, a top Swiss manufacturer of fine movements.
In 2012, Louis Vuitton acquired Le’man Cadran, famed dial maker. In 2013, the brand unveiled its own watchmaking factory in Meyrin (Geneva).
It was in 2016 that Louis Vuitton unveiled its Voyager collection of watches. It is in this line, as well as in the Tambour, that the brand predominantly houses its high complications. Those complications include tourbillons, mystery watches and minute repeaters.
In addition to offering bold style and mechanical prowess, Louis Vuitton recognizes today’s consumers also want smart watches. It has complied nicely since 2017 with its collection of connected watches with a range of software upgrades.
Louis Vuitton Watches Today
Today, Louis Vuitton is a fully integrated, vertical watch Manufacture. It builds its own movements, cases, dials and other components within its different workshops.
In typical Louis Vuitton style, the watches make a cohesive presentation amongst the other signature products. They have become much coveted by both status-conscious Louis Vuitton followers and by watch collectors.
The brand beautifully straddles the worlds of technical innovation and high-style fashion.
Among the standout watches unveiled this year: a new evolution of Tambour Smart Watches “smartly” juxtaposed with haute horology and innovation.
The second generation of Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon smart watches blend bold logo-mania looks with top-of-the-line software that runs on Google’s Wear OS operating system. It goes a step further, though, by implement a 300mAh battery for longer times between recharging.
On the flip side, this year, too, Louis Vuitton releases a watch that could represent the epitome of its watchmaking prowess: Voyager Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon. It is one of the thinnest of its kind on the market (measuring just 9.7mm thin).
The 42mm watch boasts a skeletonized mechanical manual-wind caliber that takes one watchmaker more the 300 hours to assemble by hand. It offers minute repeater that chimes the hours, quarter hours and minutes past the quarters on two cathedral gongs using two hammers.
In short, Louis Vuitton never disappoints. The brand participates in the charitable “Only Watch “ timepiece auction, operates the Louis Vuitton Foundation and works to preserve the codes of ethics and excellence set forth by its founder in 1854, and upheld by the LVMH luxury group.
Keep Learning About Louis Vuitton
Take a closer look at some of Louis Vuitton’s innovations and to learn more, peruse check our their official website. You can also discover other brands and explore some of our recommended watchmaking guides:
- All Watch Brand Guides
- Guide To Watch Movements
- YouTube Watch Videos & Reviews
- Bespoke Unit Watch Homepage
"Louis Vuitton likes to stand out in a crowd. It deftly blends bright bold colors with high complications for looks that are mysteriously sophisticated and deliciously alluring."Rating: 5.0★★★★★