How illuminated you are by Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Horizon Light Up, announced today, will almost certainly have less to do with what you think of Louis Vuitton than with what you think of luxury smartwatches.
This, despite the passing of time and the exponential value of the smartwatch market (Apple Watch shipments in 2020 were thought to be more than double the entire Swiss watch industry’s output that year), remains a niche product category. Originally defined by TAG Heuer in late 2015, it’s since been added to by Hublot and Louis Vuitton, and by Montblanc, whose Summit hasn’t quite reached the heights intended.
There are others, of course, although Tissot’s top-end T-Touch Connect Solar or hybrids made by the likes of Frederique Constant don’t carry the same sense of ‘luxury maison’, as the French-speaking brands have it, nor the perception of absolute longevity associated with them. Delivered today, a customised Louis Vuitton trunk would not be expected to become redundant a few years from now.
This creates some tension, therefore. Can a wristwatch made by a true luxury brand also be smart/connected? If the answer is yes, it finds its best form to date in the Tambour Horizon Light Up. This is Louis Vuitton’s third attempt at a smartwatch, and while there’s no promise it will survive the onslaught of technology, it is a rare exception to the accusation that luxury smartwatches are jazzed up versions of things you can buy in Currys PC World.
Because with the Light Up, Louis Vuitton has pressed the reset button, rethinking the Tambour Horizon’s physical form – the way its infinity-pool style sapphire crystal spills over the watch’s edge is modern craftsmanship at its finest – and its gizzards, too. While its competitors are content not to reinvent the wheel with the operating system (‘we can’t compete with Google’ is the refrain), Louis Vuitton has given it a go. The resulting bespoke OS is far more playful and creatively elaborate than we might be used to, and its focus is a world away from the obsessive, data-driven health and fitness approach taken by pretty much everyone else in the smartwatch category.