Michel Navas Opens Up About Making Watches For Louis Vuitton
There are some watches that make you to stop in your tracks and stare. The Louis Vuitton Tambour Moon Mystérieuse Flying Tourbillon is one of them. A mesmerising feat of watchmaking, it seems to almost defy any logic with its sparse movement that seems to be floating in the middle of the dial. Actually, there’s not even a dial. So how did Louis Vuitton—conjurer of our fashion dreams—come to create such a tremendous feat of watchmaking?
Few may know it, but the French maison invested in a bona fide Swiss watch manufacture in 2011 called La Fabrique du Temps, headed by industry veterans Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini. This has enabled the maison to conceptualise timepieces that are made with the same punctilious spirit as you’d expect from a Swiss watchmaker, but with a heady injection of Louis Vuitton’s DNA.
The Tambour Moon Mystérieuse Flying Tourbillon is one such timepiece that is technically astute, but is also a class apart when it comes to its high aesthetic standards. We chat with Navas to find out more about the watch, and everything else Louis Vuitton.
How long did it take Louis Vuitton to come up with the Tambour Moon Mystérieuse Flying Tourbillon?
Michel Navas (MV) We previously had a Mystérieuse watch that was very successful. All 32 pieces were sold out. So Enrico, my partner, and I decided to develop a new Mystérieuse watch. And we wanted to have a movement floating in the air, but with a large power reserve, so you can wind it each Sunday. We managed to create an eight-day power reserve, with a flying tourbillon, and a monogrammed flower on top of the tourbillon. We wanted the watch to be more mysterious than the first, you cannot see any screws or attachments, it’s floating in the air. It took 2.5 years to create!
What was the most challenging part of producing it?
MV The power reserve. We have two double-barrels at 12 o'clock, and the flying tourbillon at six. We decided to put the two barrels stacked on each other.
Also, another challenge was to be mysterious without screws. We used six layers of sapphire glass, two layers to hold the movement in the air, one layer to wind the movement, one layer to set the time, and of course two layers on the crystal front and crystal back. The development was very difficult. Just a little bit of dust between two layers and you have to disassemble the whole movement to take out the dust then assemble it again. It’s a nightmare for the watchmaker but a pleasure for the client. We have to be very, very patient when we start to assemble the watch. We use a special room, and they blow the air so that dust does not come into the room. The pressure is a little more to keep out the dust. It’s like a clinic room.
Were the case and movement designed in parallel?
MV We designed first the movement, and then the case. We gave the sketch of the movement to the designer, then afterwards they designed the Tambour Moon case around it.
The bridge of the Flying Tourbillon can be customised. What else can be customised?
MV In the high-end watchmaking industry, we are a very small company, only 65 people, and we can make whatever we want. For this kind of watch, if the client wants different materials, or he wants his initials instead of the LV logo, we can do that. And in other models, we can do even more. We have different projects with some clients where we build the watch with them. You cannot make these kind of watches in big companies, you have to be a small company like we are. We surround ourselves with engineers, dialmakers, engravers, artisans, and the clients, and altogether, we build the watch. We can make unique watches.
Can the movement be customised as well?
MV We can have different complications and different functions, and it becomes a very complicated watch just for the client.
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