The older I get, the more I realize that one of the most important things in life is to enjoy moments when and while I can. As the single certainty for all of us is death, the only thing we can be sure of is the moment we live in.
As a youngster, I used to rush from experience to experience, never really taking time to appreciate what was in between, always focused on what was next. These days, I try to do things differently. When the sun is out, and I have a few minutes to spare, I make myself a nice espresso to enjoy in the garden watching the birds and insects in the trees and flowers. Or I make time to go wandering through an art museum, allowing myself to soak it all in with no rush and no plan.
I can even appreciate the small things when I am going through my daily routine, like a dog playing in the water, an elderly couple walking hand in hand, or the sun coming up bright red through the mist over the fields. As we are all heading for the same destination in what sometimes feels like warp speed, these things make life not only more enjoyable, but they are also very gratifying and even give peace of mind and stimulate creativity.
Bang the tambour
With this in mind, it may come as no surprise that one of my favorite watches introduced in 2021 was the Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem. I have been a fan of the Tambour collection since its introduction in 2002; tambour is French for “drum,” so named due to the case shape.
Louis Vuitton wasn’t originally a watch brand, so it is all the more impressive that it created a design both highly original and able to so deeply tap into the leather giant’s “DNA.” An advantage of the signature short lugs and smooth case back is that the case also wears very comfortably on the wrist regardless of size.
With an impressive case diameter of 46.8 mm, the Tambour Carpe Diem is one of the largest watches in this collection. Rest assured, you don’t want this watch any other way, though, as Louis Vuitton uses every millimeter for greatness.
Slave to the rhythm
Before we get into the details of the watch itself, let us first focus on its functionality, which goes beyond its complications. In Roman times, victorious generals and emperors were often granted a so-called triumph. This was like a parade in which the returning conqueror showed off his spoils and booty. He was welcomed back home with cheering and honored by the people of Rome, riding a chariot before his brave troops, followed by carriages filled with loot as well as captive enemies in chains, which were either ceremonially killed or sold as slaves after the event.
During all this, a slave stood behind the victor on the chariot who both held a laurel wreath above his head and constantly whispered “memento mori” in his ear: “remember that you must die.” This was meant to ensure that the greatness and triumph didn’t go to the general’s head, although it didn’t stop a few emperors from seeing themselves as divine beings.
While there are fortunately no longer any Roman triumphs these days, the “memento mori” message still resonates: the Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem reminds us of Roman poet Horace’s advice to “carpe diem” (“seize the day”) and make the most of the time we are given.
Quality before anything
Leave it to Louis Vuitton to bring such a message in the most creative and high-end way. What I like most about this watch is the synergy achieved between the different crafts.
The watchmakers of the brand’s manufacture, La Fabrique du Temps, created a whole new caliber for this watch with a jacquemart function. We recognize jacquemarts mainly from repeating wristwatches, but Louis Vuitton went a different route.
At rest, the time is not visible, allowing the observer to enjoy the moment freely and without constraints. However, when you want to know the time the entire dial comes to life as the rattlesnake begins to move and the skull begins to laugh at you.
This 16-second sequence is started by pressing the snake’s head on the side of the case. Having done this, the rattlesnake’s tail will begin to move, indicating the minutes, while its head lifts up, revealing the (jump) hour on the skull’s forehead.
One eye will then show dynamic versions of Louis Vuitton’s Monogram Flowers, while its jaws move to mock you with a laugh, revealing the words “carpe diem” behind them. The hourglass next to it not only reminds you that the clock is ticking, but also how long this one will continue to do so as it also serves as the watch’s power reserve indicator.
The devil is in the details
While Louis Vuitton developed the caliber, the brand teamed up with two extraordinary craftspeople to make the watch further come to life. While enamel artist Anita Porchet has grown to become a household name to many haute horlogerie aficionados, master engraver Dick Steenman is not quite as well known.
While you might not immediately recognize Steenman’s name, you have undoubtedly seen his work, which has included watches for Chaumet, Van Cleef & Arpels, and the stunning rose watches and others for Piaget. It is his hand that created the snake, skull, and snake head that activates the watch’s functions. He crafts in such a fluid style it is more like sculpting than engraving, giving each element a sense of life.
Steenman’s engraving is amplified by Anita Porchet’s masterful enameling. She dedicates more than 50 hours to enamel the snake. She also makes the teeth look so lifelike that you could be fooled into thinking they are real. The synergy between these craftspeople is superb and brings the Tambour Carpe Diem to heights few watches reach.
Louis Vuitton can sometimes be a touch overbearing in displaying its logo but shows superb finesse with the logo in this watch. The Louis Vuitton Monogram Flowers decorate the enamel dial in monochrome colors, while they are more pronounced in the left eye of the skull. But they are also on the skin of the snake and adorn the skull itself. What may sound like a lot in fact brings the entire theme together even more.
The back of the watch offers the admirer a view through a sapphire crystal window onto Caliber LV 525, where it is evident that Louis Vuitton’s watchmakers sure seized their days as the bridges resemble a skull. Even the layout of the rest of the movement supports this imagery, with the balance wheel visible between its teeth and parts of the gear train making up each eye.
Composed of 426 components, this manually wound movement has a power reserve of 100 hours, very generous for a watch with such energy-hungry complication. For those who can afford it, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem is the ultimate reminder that we should make the most of every moment and enjoy life – it is hard not to with such a stunning, highly artistic, and creative timepiece on the wrist.
For more information, please visit www.uk.ouisvuitton.com/eng-gb/magazine/articles/high-watchmaking.
Quick Facts Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem
Case: 46.8 x 14.42 mm, pink gold
Dial: sculpted snake head set with 2 rubies, black enamel with Monogram Flowers, sculpted skull and snake, curved hourglass, one brilliant-cut diamond
Movement: manually winding Caliber LV 525, 100-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: jumping hours, retrograde minutes; power reserve; jacquemart animations for skull and snake, all on demand
Price: $459,000 / 465,000 Swiss francs