Louis Vuitton's Spin Time Watch Gets A 10th Anniversary Makeover
Off-piste skiing, Michelin-starred gastronomy and soothing spas dominate Courchevel’s snow-smothered landscape. It’s where modernity meets tradition, and so it’s poetic that we meet master watchmaker Michel Navas in the French resort to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Louis Vuitton’s iconic Spin Time watch.
The French maison has taken momentous steps to turn itself into a significant player in the watchmaking world by strengthening its technical capabilities. “We know Louis Vuitton for handbags, we know Louis Vuitton for ready-to-wear,” agrees Navas. “We know Louis Vuitton for so many things, but least of all: watches.”
The brand’s 2012 acquisition of La Fabrique du Temps—founded in 2007 by Navas and fellow horologist Enrico Barbasini—was key to its qualifying for the Geneva Seal. Also known as Poinçon de Genève, the certification was established in 1886 as a prized hallmark for high-end timepieces and was awarded to Louis Vuitton for the first time in 2016, for its Voyager Flying Tourbillon.
“We are very proud,” says Navas of the accreditation. Only five brands—including Louis Vuitton—have obtained the seal: Cartier, Chopard, Roger Dubuis and Vacheron Constantin. To qualify, watchmakers must operate out of Geneva and ensure that all components are finalised in-house by its artisans.
“Even the screws must be polished by hand,” reveals Navas, adding that he employs a small team of 80 craftsmen and women. “Each part must be brushed and set, which takes about two months.” Models without the Geneva Seal, by comparison, take just one week to finish. “We strive to be very responsible. Our first priority is the quality of our movements. It’s all about accuracy. The movement must be perfect.”
(Related: These Japanese Watches Have A Hidden Superpower)
Louis Vuitton’s first forays into watchmaking date back to 2002, and it’s important to La Fabrique du Temps that the brand’s house codes are featured in each timepiece’s aesthetic. Merging fashion and horology, however, isn’t always easy. “As watchmakers, we are artisans,” explains Navas. “Louis Vuitton is about style. It’s interesting, because when we develop a watch it’s very classical, but afterwards when the designer takes it to ensure the style is in keeping with the brand, it becomes very Louis Vuitton. It’s nice, because the movement remains timeless but it looks very fashionable.”
One of the reasons this collaboration has worked so well is La Fabrique du Temps’ eagerness to experiment. “We’re different because of our boldness,” says Navas about his company, adding that previous partnerships had become creatively suffocating. “With Louis Vuitton, we’ve been able to create all these different movements like the Spin Time,” whose 10th anniversary this year is being celebrated with the launch of the Tambour Spin Time Air, an eye-catching collection limited to seven designs—three for men and four for women.
“I love complicated watches,” says a smiling Navas of the Escale Spin Time Tourbillon Central Blue on his wrist. At the dial’s centre, a flying tourbillon with a V-shaped carriage is surrounded by 12 rotating cubes which turn to display the hours—a movement made possible thanks to an exclusive calibre manufactured by La Fabrique du Temps called LV88. It allows the cubes to appear as though they’re floating in mid-air. Boasting a 35-hr power reserve, each of the seven new watches is housed in a 42.5mm white-gold case that’s water-resistant to 50m.
(Related: Which Louis Vuitton Heirloom Piece Is Angela Ng Gifting Her Daughter Adeline Teo?)
Born in Spain to a family of watchmakers, Navas is fascinated by three-dimensional watchmaking, and fondly says of the Spin Time, “It’s very complicated.” He gestures to his own watch, which he reveals took two years to develop. “You sometimes have to work on a piece for a very long time.”
For a fashion house like Louis Vuitton, which has a restricted history in watchmaking, achieving such fantastic pieces is already an incredible feat. Alongside La Fabrique du Temps, the brand is spearheading courageous advancements and there’s no doubt that the Geneva-based specialists will continue to develop high-end mechanical movements for years to come.
This article first appeared on hk.asiatatler.com.