March 18, 2023
by Ariel Adams
Despite being a highly exotic treat (in that this watch costs more than $350,000) the new Tambour Fiery Heart Automata is a very important product for Louis Vuitton. More watches with this movement family that feature these decorative techniques are coming from Louis Vuttion. Even though the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata is a bit overshadowed by the spectacle that is the even more expensive Tambour Opera Automata, it is the former that is likely to be far more commercially important for Louis Vuitton, in the long run. That’s because the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata introduces two significant elements from Louis Vuitton watchmaking. The first is the new in-house caliber LFT 325 automatic flying tourbillon automata movement. Second is the introduction of in-house dial enameling techniques. The Tambour Fiery Heart is the first Louis Vuitton watch to be produced with dials from its newly established in-house team for such enameling crafts. While Louis Vuitton always reserves the right to work with outside talent, until the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata watch, all of its enamel dials were produced by third parties. Finally, an enameling department has been established at La Fabrique du Temps, and what incredible work they are already up to!
Louis Vuitton more or less positions the Tambour Fiery Heart as a smaller, potentially more women-friendly version of its larger Automata watches. That might be true, but this definition is also extremely limiting. This to me is a rock ‘n’nroll watch that belongs on a serious Guns N Roses fan in the West (and in Japan, for example, would be considered pretty studly). The case size is 42mm-wide and 13mm-thick. The case material is polished 18k pink gold with diamonds set into the lugs and baguette-cut stones in the crown. Indeed, that is much smaller than the 46.8mm-thick by 14.4mm-thick Tambour Opera / Carpe Diem Automata, but it isn’t exactly petite, either. The there’s the round-cut diamond treatment set into the lugs — and that could probably be a mere option.
Forget for a moment whether or not you like the Fiery Heart theme; my point is that Louis Vuitton has developed a new foundation to do a lot more things like this. This watch uses rich red and green colors to tell a story about the dual-sided nature of love. The intense emotions that give us so much pleasure can also equally give us pain. This is a truism about the human experience, and the memorialization of it through luxury art has been something fashion beacons like Louis Vuitton have been commissioning since their inception.
Not only is the “thorny nature” of love displayed in vivid tones of emerald green and rich red through a combination of champleve and cloisonne enamel techniques (the enamel work is performed in-house, and the engraved elements are done by Dick Steenman), but on top of that, five points on the dial can be physically animated. Pressing the pusher at 5 o’clock on the case activates the automata complication that starts roses spinning, while the heart opens to reveal a romantic phrase, and thorns poke and flames burn. All of this is on top of a flying tourbillon movement with automatic winding that operates at 4Hz. Again, all of this is in a relatively small package that is the caliber LFT 325’s volume. Plus, the case goes up to 50 meters of water resistance, which I think is competent for watches like this.
The LFT 325 is easily the most practical movement of its type and is also designed to be produced in a range of variations with the same base features. While the tourbillon might not be practical, it does help with commercial prospects and is important given a lot of the existing consumer demand. What is more important is the off-centered dial (this allows for there to be automata elsewhere on the dial and the movement to not be too thick), 4Hz operational frequency, 65 hours of power reserve, and automatic winding in a package as relatively small as it is. I predict the LFT 325 to be an important base movement used by Louis Vuitton for a lot of watches, and I think consumers will like this movement because really nothing else like it currently exists on the market. Finally, it offers a very practical wearing size, so you can enjoy a more or less sensible watch size but have this rich level of art, mechanical complexity, luxury, and emotion on your wrist. The only thing I would try to improve in the future is to find a slightly more elegant way of designing the automata pusher. No doubt that Louis Vuitton will get there.
Whether or not you like the dial elements, most will readily admit how pretty the Fiery Heart watch face looks. The depth and translucence of the champleve enamel technique allow you to see the Louis Vuitton monogram pattern and also give the entire dial an incredible sense of depth. Detailing is truly excellent, which is something Louis Vuitton tends to consistently get right. I say this because there are a lot of brands that can create objects which are beautiful from afar, but it is the rarer brand that can create things that also look beautiful when examined very closely.
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Expect to see more watches with the caliber LFT (La Fabrique du Temps) 325 (because it has 325 components) movement in the near future. Louis Vuitton has developed a powerful foundation movement upon which to build a lot of emotional animated art compositions. This might not be what most people think of when they consider a “base movement,” but in true form, Louis Vuitton developed a platform to build on over time. This is good practical news because this is a very wearable movement, and it’s good artistic news because it means that Louis Vuitton will be able to consistently make wildly designed and animated watches more readily than the competition. In the ultra-high-end space, that can be one of many ways to give Louis Vuitton watches a lead. It is this type of creative-risk strategic thinking that helps a great luxury maison win big over the long term. Not limited in production but naturally limited by process, the reference Q1EBSY Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata watch has a retail price of $370,000 USD. Learn more at the Louis Vuitton website here.