Photos by Ariel Adams

For 2024, Louis Vuitton is adding a twist to its Tambour Moon collection, with a new sapphire model made in collaboration with one of the world’s most renowned architects. After numerous collaborations on LVMH-connected buildings, the brand finally let legendary Canadian architect Frank Gehry take a stab at creating a watch. The canvas he chose was the Tambour Moon Saphir from 2022, and if you are even passingly familiar with Gehry’s work, then the result likely won’t surprise you all that much. But even with Gehry’s signature deconstructivist flair, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Moon Poinçon de Genève Sapphire Frank Gehry has plenty of impressive attributes that bear examination.

It’s important to keep in mind that with collaborations like this, within Louis Vuitton’s High Watchmaking collection, form will always dominate function. That’s certainly true of Gehry’s work, which is highly expressive and notable for its sweeping, swooping facades and use of metal (e.g., the Guggenheim, the Dancing House, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall). While this may be his first watch design, Gehry has worked with the brand before, designing the building for the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris and the Louis Vuitton Seoul boutique in South Korea, in addition to designing a collection of bags. When brands let outsiders in to tamper with their designs, it’s always a roll of the dice. How much freedom do you give the collaborator? Will they ruin an icon? Can they translate their design ethos to the medium of watches? It appears that in Gehry’s case, he was able to do just that, though I’m sure the good people at La Fabrique du Temps, where the watch was made, helped out a bit.

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The watch is sapphire upon sapphire upon sapphire. The entire case and its components (the lug bars notwithstanding) are made from a single block of sapphire and measure 43.8mm wide and 11.27mm thick. While it looks prominent on the wrist and is certainly weighty, it wore quite well, though you certainly feel every millimeter thanks to how reflective the sapphire is. Even the crown is made from that block of sapphire, and the case offers a predictably limited 30m of water resistance. The mid-case features a concave profile with the brand name etched around the perimeter just under the top edge. This branding is somewhat of a signature for the brand and appears in the same place on previous iterations of the sapphire Tambour Moon. Mounted to the watch is a white leather strap with matching stitching and a rose gold folding buckle that coordinates nicely with the movement’s base plate.

The dial is quite impressive, not just to look at but to consider as a piece of artisanship. This is an exceptionally expensive watch, coming in just under $1 million, and it’s reasonable to ask why. For some, a price like that can never be justified — and that’s perfectly reasonable. But for those in the uppermost echelons of watch collecting, where having the money isn’t a problem, here’s what you get: solid sapphire case, Geneva Seal, La Fabrique du Temps flying tourbillon movement. All of those fancy things drive a price up and so, too, does limiting the watch to five pieces (owning something rare is expensive). But the dial is certainly a more subtle driver of the price here. Each dial is handmade, carefully etched, and finished in hand and by hand (the watchmaker literally has to hold each one, as it’s so thin, it will crack in a mount), and takes about 250 hours to complete. The result is undeniably intriguing: a captivating representation of Gehry’s architectural style. As I mentioned, form is prioritized over function here. While the dial is undoubtedly beautiful, it’s also not incredibly legible all the time. The hands are also made of sapphire; the only thing that helps them stand out is the thin trace of lume along their edges. Much like Gehry’s artful building designs, the fact that the watch is intended to serve a function (displaying the time) is so obviously secondary as to almost be irrelevant.

For the movement, LV has employed the LFTMM05.01. This manual-winding movement gets 80 hours of power at 21,600 vph. The one-minute flying tourbillon is notable for its carriage resembling the Louis Vuitton Monogram Flower, while the skeletonized mainspring barrel features the brand name. The entire mechanism is finished beautifully, with the polished chamfers of the rose-gold base plate standing out in particular. The finishing is impressive enough to help the watch garner the Poinçon de Genève, which is seen on the bridge just right to the left of center. (Those who have seen some of the other Tambour Moon tourbillon models will note that this features identical architecture to those movements but a different name; due to some small variations between each model’s movement, each is given a different movement designation).

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This is first a piece of art and second — a very distant second — a watch. Letting Frank Gehry imbue a Louis Vuitton seems like a natural progression of the longstanding partnership between the two, but also a natural pairing. Neither Gehry nor LV is known for subtlety, the former’s buildings standing out dramatically in any city and the latter’s luxury goods boldly stamped with one form or another of its logo. Blending the two just seems to make sense. The Louis Vuitton Tambour Moon Poinçon de Genève Sapphire Frank Gehry is priced at $935,000 USD and is limited to just five pieces. For more information, please visit the Louis Vuitton website



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