The Other Side Of Sweetness Louis Vuitton demonstrates its advanced mastery in horological automata with a new feminine timepiece.
Introducing the first in-house self-winding automaton movement, the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata is a distillation of high-watchmaking savoir-faire, enacted by Louis Vuitton’s specialist movement workshop La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton in Geneva. Under the candy-bright hues and alluring textures of an engraved grand feu enamel dial, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery
Heart Automata bears a movement of formidable ingenuity and pin-sharp precision. The aesthetic of Louis Vuitton’s latest creation hides a piercing intellect, reminding us that nulla rosa sine spini; there is no rose without its thorn.
A Mechanism In Full Bloom
High watchmaking at Louis Vuitton flowered at the beginning of the 21st century, leading up to the creation of a small handful of bespoke automaton timepieces for special clients. In 2021, the Maison communicated about this side of the brand’s in-house watchmaking expertise for the first time, entering the Tambour Carpe Diem Automata in competition at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG). The jumping-hours automaton watch came away with the Audacity prize, a discretionary category awarded only on years when the Jury recognises a worthy candidate.
Louis Vuitton’s next stride in the realm of automaton timepieces continues to explore the theme of blended passion and savoir-faire. After the exuberance of Carpe Diem, the duality of Tambour Fiery Heart Automata.
The motif of a rose and its entwined thorny vines has been taken further than the Maison initially broached in the enamel-dial Escale Spin Time Only Watch (2019). Motion and dynamism define the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata, but even more provocative is the revelation that lies beneath the lush petals and glossy heart of its dial, the first in-house enamel dial from Louis Vuitton. At the push of a button at the 8 o’clock position, the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata blooms under the touch of its wearer, in a lush profusion of dial animations.
Beware Of Thorns
Time can be dangerous, according to the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata, where the hours and minutes are told by thorn-armoured hands on a subdial encircled by inward-facing briars. Those who take time for granted, or let their attention wander, the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata seems to say, may soon find themselves in a prickly situation. The flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock provides the rhythmic pulse of the watch, marking out the seconds over the course of its oneminute rotation.
At 9 o’clock, a flaming heart, symbol of piety, is emblazoned with the word “SWEET” and crowned with a golden circlet of Louis Vuitton Monogram flowers. A hidden power throbs within the heart, revealed when the pusher at 8 o’clock, set with adamantine gems, is actuated.
Around the hours-and-minutes subdial, an external halo of thorns emerges and extends radially outwards. The enamel roses (one at 12 o’clock and another at 4 o’clock) are not the demure botanicals they first appeared to be; they have found new vitality, with spinning Monogram flowers at their centers, diamond pistils firing rays of refracted light. The blazing heart roars to life, its flames dancing as if fanned by an invisible gale. The heart cracks open, a jagged fissure revealing that the soothing legend engraved on the heart now comes with a bold caveat: “SWEET BUT FIERCE”.
A World Of Mechanical Expression
If knowledge is power, then knowledge (or know-how) that only you have becomes the most powerful thing of all. The unique savoir-faire of La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton in innovative horological automata is expressed in one of the most mechanically impressive creations of the Maison to date: the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata.
Five separate dial elements form the automaton array of Tambour Fiery Heart Automata, leaping simultaneously into action when the pusher at 8 o’clock is actuated. The radially extruding thorns
surrounding the outer circumference of the hours-andminutes subdial. The two Monogram flowers at the center of the enamel roses at 4 and 12 o'clock rotate simultaneously. One starts its course clockwise while the other moves in the opposite direction. After a short pause, the two flowers perform the opposite dance. The articulated heart that cracks open to reveal the full message “SWEET BUT FIERCE”. Lastly, the gold tongues of fire at the top of the heart that undulate in simulation of real flames.
This unprecedented display of horological virtuosity is the result of three years of research and development within Louis Vuitton’s high-watchmaking atelier. Subtle signs in the movement design and finish indicate that the calibre LFT 325 has been constructed expressly for the Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata — a dedicated movement being a time-honoured indication of horological prestige. The micro-blasted movement bridges are decorated with thorny rose stems in pink-gold, sinuously embracing the exposed wheels visible through openworked sections. The 18K pink-gold rotor is also engraved and openworked with Monogram Flowers, as is the automaton regulator bridge at 12 o’clock. The history of the dial continues, sculpting the shapes of the movement. The dance of colors and the seductive play of textures continue, requiring long hours of research and development to achieve the softness of the gray contrasting with the brilliance of the pink gold. The search for colors, the work on materials and the attention to detail testify to the precision and extreme meticulousness necessary to achieve such a level of finish.
The flying tourbillon frequently makes an appearance in the fine-watchmaking segment of Louis Vuitton timepieces, but the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata is the first time this mechanism has been combined with a self-winding movement with dial-side automata. As the automaton is driven by its own dedicated mainspring, the flying tourbillon is able to maintain high levels of chronometric performance throughout the 65 hours of movement power reserve.
The challenge of synchronising the dial animations of the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata has been answered by the cumulative expertise and experience of the movement development team at La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, led by master watchmakers Enrico Barbasini and Michel Navas. While the dial springs into action as if by magic, a glimpse behind the curtain is afforded by the open caseback. In the upper right quadrant of the movement, an openworked bridge allows a tantalising view of the automaton mainspring, driving wheels and regulator. This complex assembly feeds energy to the seven dial automata, coordinates their running times and also controls the speed at which they operate.
On the dial, each graceful motion of the automata, from the opening of the heart and revelation of the secret message, to the spinning Monogram Flowers, the dancing flames and the emerging thorns, is precisely calibrated to produce a 13-second symphony of mechanical excellence, seen nowhere else in the world except on the Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata.
Art, Glass, Fire
The grand feu enamel dial of the Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata represents an important step for the Maison in terms of in-house savoir-faire — the integration of a millennia-old artisanal craft.
The alchemy of grand feu enamel starts with the powdered silica, finely ground by hand and combined with various metal oxides that impart colour to the final result. After the enamel powder is applied to a prepared surface, it is fired in a kiln at temperatures between 700°C and 1,200°C, vitrifying the enamel. This brings out the intense and durable colours that have made grand feu enamel the decorative technique of choice for timepieces over the centuries.
On the dial of the Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata, a combination of champlevé and cloisonné enamel is used to illustrate the various aesthetic elements. The former involves removing material from the dial surface, creating a space where enamel powder can be deposited. The latter requires the use of thin gold wires, meticulously shaped by hand and fixed onto the dial surface, creating closed cells which can then be filled with enamel.
The art of grand feu enamel requires a delicate touch, years of experience and a highly disciplined — and, indeed, technical — approach. After working with some of the most revered enamel artists today, such as the legendary Anita Porchet, who created the dial of the Louis Vuitton Escale Spin Time Only Watch, the Maison now counts this rare craft as part of its inhouse savoir-faire, under the expert hand of its master enameller.
Beauty emerges, refined and transcendent, from the crucible of horological knowledge and combined expertise at Louis Vuitton. The Tambour Fiery Heart Automata is the multi-layered result of the Maison’s approach to fine watchmaking, now elevated to unprecedented levels in all 169 years of Louis Vuitton history.
Tambour Fiery Heart Automata
• LFT 325 Calibre: mechanical movement with automatic winding developed and assembled by La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton
• Automata mechanism featuring 7 animations, flying tourbillon, hours and minutes
• 325 components
• 65 hours of power reserve
• 28,800 oscillations per hour
• 67 jewels
• 18K pink gold case
• 18K pink gold crown, push-piece, and horns set with diamonds
• 42.0 mm diameter
• 13.0 mm thickness
• Domed anti-reflection sapphire crystal
• Water-resistant to 50 m
• Enamel and miniature painting, handmade by the in-house workshop of La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton (dial, heart & roses)
• Hand engravings by Dick Steenman (crown & roses)
• Dial set with white diamonds
• Green alligator strap
• 18K pink gold folding buckle 107 diamonds for ~ 0.53 carat