Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem
Although on the surface it appears to be a watch exploring the theme of mortality and the transience of life, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem is actually the epitome of an aphorism about how to get the most out of every instant.
It is a mystery to which science has no answer. So ingrained in our culture, it becomes a subject that we endlessly explore in the arts, science and philosophy, all in a futile attempt to prove its very existence. A subject so close to us that its certainty is inescapable, as are the logic and physics that govern our lives, but the struggle to accept when the current chapter ends when the bell rings, does it go eternal black or is there a hopeful continuation in another form, on another plane that we cannot yet explain?
Death and the afterlife spawned images animated by tropes and illustrations. Apparently a taboo, but it is so often visited that the art revolving around the brevity of life and, by that extension, the inevitability of death has carved its own branch. Vanitas, he is named after the word for emptiness in the Latin lexicon.
“Our goal was to think outside the box,” explains Michel Navas, master watchmaker at La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton. And off the beaten track, he commits himself, while Louis Vuitton plunges into philosophy, religion, euphemism to create the Tambour Carpe Diem, a masterpiece of automaton whose goal is to transmit the ” vision of the 21st century with all the energy and creativity that characterize Louis Vuitton in the modern reinterpretation of jacquemart.
As automatons, the jacquemarts were originally housed in churches dating as far back as medieval times where they fulfilled the essential role of ringing every hour to alert occupants of the passage of time as the sound the bell was ringing in the city. Closely associated with the church, the jacquemart would take on a religious connotation on the aesthetic level, often attenuated in the manner of the memento mori, therefore. Although in the case of Benfeld’s town hall, the jacquemart plays a rather grim reminder in an unvarnished execution of these ideals, featuring three representative statues of prudence, justice and death.
Over time, as timepieces were miniaturized, the jacquemart was refined to become practically decorative, purged of its original function and mechanism, and only the motif remained. allusion to its provenance – the skull, the hourglass, the flower and other transitory symbols. Having already produced automata for a select clientele for several years, Louis Vuitton has endeavored to restore the original meaning of jacquemart. Two years of preparation, in this striking Tambour Carpe Diem, the jacquemart is awakened in a triumphant awakening.
Fueled by complications, the watch has a jumping hour, a retrograde minute, a power reserve indicator and an automaton among its functions. “The feat was to create a mechanical movement powerful enough to integrate and operate smoothly all these functions that had never been combined before,” says Navas.
To realize this vision, the watch is built on the automaton which offers more than flowering and animation because it is really functional. The automaton is built as such to tell the time on demand without the deployment of traditional hour and minute hands. Instead, the jumping hour and retrograde minute are creatively integrated into the automaton.
Light pressure on the right reptile-shaped pusher at 2 o’clock brings the miniature decoration of the dial to life. The serpent’s head pulls back to reveal the opening of the hours that lies beneath all this time, while its tail slips towards the minute. The sands of time are perfectly embodied by the hourglass power reserve indicator positioned above the retrograde minute. The impermanence of life is represented by a flower – and I might add very aptly in the motif of the house – together with the jawbone displaying the expression “carpe diem”. In a visual spectacle of barely 16 seconds, Louis Vuitton seizes the moment to make the most of this astonishing orchestra.
The watch is a fascinating work even if it remains static. The liveliness of the dial is a laborious work of art by Swiss craftsmen with Anita Porchet and Dick Steenman responsible for enamelling and engraving respectively. The enameling of the snake and the dial alone consumed more than 50 hours. On the dial, the monogram flowers lend modern elements to an otherwise prominent vanity made up of the menacing skull and precise scales of the rattlesnake.
The 46.8mm watch case in 18k rose gold is reminiscent of the percussion instrument from which the Tambour took its name, while the reptilian pusher is embellished with two rubies as eyes. On the dial, the enamelled snake painted and engraved by hand fiercely guards a brilliant-cut diamond.
The enamel work, in particular the translucent white tint found on the teeth, is remarkably realistic and the single gold number seems to offer a facetious approach to such a serious subject.
It doesn’t matter whether you have come to appreciate it as the celebration of a life well lived or the mark of the end of a journey; what is indisputable is that the performance of the Tambour Carpe Diem is second to none. The in-house movement developed and assembled in the sacred temple of Louis Vuitton fine watchmaking allows the pieces to move in unison to convey an idea that continues to afflict society as a whole.
The LV 525 caliber is pending several patents for its innovations. With 426 components in total, the hand-wound movement has a 100-hour power reserve. Visible on the back of the timepiece, the caliber bridge is also designed in the shape of a skull.
A question that no one seems to have a definitive answer to, rather than worrying about the narrative that might unfold tomorrow over which we have no control, it may be wiser for us to move our business to the present – to seize the day.
(All images: Louis Vuitton)
This story was first published in the June 2021 issue of Prestige Malaysia. To read the latest issue, pick up a copy at the nearest newsstand or subscribe on Magzter.