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How Louis Vuitton Makes Its Award-Winning Sapphire Crystal Tourbillon Watches

The horological world is so steeped in tradition that many brands reissue archival watches to drum up new business. Not Louis Vuitton.

Under the close eye of Jean Arnault, watch director (and youngest child of LVMH honcho Bernard Arnault), the French house is designing and producing some of the world’s most complicated and forward-thinking timepieces, including the crystal-clear Tambour Moon Tourbillon Volant models, three of which debuted in 2021. The two new versions that came out this spring brought the total to five and made them the first collection of sapphire-cased watches to obtain the prestigious Poinçon de Genève. Only timepieces whose case and movement components are made by hand in Geneva, to the highest possible standards, can carry this hallmark.

Many of these elements are machined and assembled at La Fabrique du Temps, a specialist manufacture acquired by LVMH in 2011. The facility was founded just four years before that by master watchmakers Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini, who set up shop after working together at Patek Philippe and Franck Muller.

“The philosophy of La Fabrique du Temps is to deliver a pure and perfect watch with zero faults,” Navas tells Robb Report, noting that craftspeople can spend the equivalent of weeks polishing and finishing the individual components before assembly has even begun. No doubt the proverbial juice is worth the squeeze. The tourbillon-equipped hand-wound timepiece has a case that’s almost completely transparent and formed from a material second in hardness only to diamond. Producing it is so intensive that company won’t reveal how many pieces it makes each year. And the watch is priced accordingly, at around $410,000.

“[Louis Vuitton is] very young in the watch industry—just 21 years—which could be taken as a handicap, as a problem,” Navas says. “But for us, it’s an opportunity. We can dare.”

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