Interview: Louis Vuitton’s Hamdi Chatti Talks Tourbillons, The Geneva Seal, Voyager And More

It’s been a very busy year for Louis Vuitton watches – as evidenced by the fact that the brand is unveiling a host of new products that run the gamut from a stunning new men’s Voyager collection to a SpinTime Escale and a flying tourbillon that holds the coveted Geneva Seal.

Recently, we had the chance to sit with Hamdi Chatti, vice president for watches and jewelry at Louis Vuitton and discuss how far the brand has come in its watchmaking world.

Earlier this year, the brand unveiled its new Flying Tourbillon Poincon de Genève – an approximately  $262,000 tourbillon timepiece that holds the Genève Seal stamp of quality. The Seal is only given to Geneva-based brands that adhere to the strictest terms of aesthetics and technical prowess.  The brand, which only began creating watches about 14 years ago, is so proud of the quality seal, that it is incorporating its design – the Genève Coat of Arms – into the dial.

Louis Vuitton Flying Tourbillon Poincon de Genève

“Having built a Geneva Seal watch is very important. We are proud of it and we are putting a tiny golden seal on the dial to showcase the Seal,” says Chatti, adding that the brand was working on developing and perfecting the watch for the past two years to make it Geneva-Seal worthy.

The “Poinçon de Genève” is an independent institution (established in 1886) regulated by the laws of the Geneva canton, which examines the manufacturing and finishing of all the components that go into making the watch — from movement to case, precision and technical aspects. The “Poinçon de Genève” has guaranteed the highest degree of craftsmanship and compliance with fine watchmaking standards.

Just two of the brand’s in-house watchmakers are capable of working on the Flying Tourbillon and so its production is naturally quite limited, with just about one piece being made per month by each watchmaker.  As such, they are special order only.

The Poinçon de Genève Flying Tourbillon is a skeletonized tourbillon with a V in the tourbillon cage. The LV104 caliber was developed entirely from scratch by La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton in the canton of Geneva. The movement consists of 168 parts and is cased in platinum.

The LVMH Groups acquisition of Fabrique du Temps movement manufacture  two years ago played an important role in the unveiling of not only the Flying Tourbillon Poincon de Genève, but also of the other new collections.
“We have had some very important advances now, with many crafts coming together,” says Chatti. “This helps us become a much more credible player in the watchmaking world. “

Louis Vuitton - GMT Pink Gold
Louis Vuitton Voyager GMT Pink Gold

Also this year, Louis Vuitton unveils the new Voyager collection of timepieces for men. In a year when most brands are introducing women’s collections, Louis Vuitton stays true to its roots—showcasing men’s watches first and then later launching the women’s versions.  The new Voyager watches feature a unique case shape that is a cross between a cushion and a round and is highly identifiable.

“The case shape is so unusual that we are sure it will become an icon for us,” quips Chatti.

The watch, with “V” (a double entendre for Voyager and Vuitton) at 12:00 and also in the center of the dial in a brushed metal motif, is a GMT Automatic timepiece. The V design of the dial is actually based on the original V motif created by Gaston-Louis Vuitton.

Louis Vuitton GMT Silver dial

The Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton Voyager GMT is an automatic watch with 42 hours of power reserve. It features an arc on the dial with a 24-hour indication in black or blue to designate day or night.  The V design of the dial is actually based on the original V motif created by Gaston-Louis Vuitton.  The straps are made of the Louis Vuitton Taurillon leather, which is slightly grained and incredibly supple. Bracelets are also offered. The watch is created in steel with an anthracite dial or in 18-karat pink gold with a rich blue dial. The 41.5mm steel version retails starting at $5,700.

This year, too, Louis Vuitton unveils new 39mm pieces in the Escale collection. This series of world time watches with hand-painted dials in bold bright colors has two nice surprises. One is the coveted world time watch now in this smaller 39mm size; the other is the introduction of the brand’s famed Spin Time GMT/Time Zone watch with hand-painted cubes.

Louis Vuitton Escale Spin Time Pink Gold

For those unfamiliar with the Spin Time watches, the line –unveiled about five years ago – features cubes at each of the hour markers and every hour the cube spins to reveal the time in the appropriate box.  All of the other cubes remain decorative except for the one that showcases the hour.  This line has previously been interpreted with diamonds or gemstones on the cubes, but adding the bright hand-painted cubes transforms the watch into an artistic piece. The painting process involves transferring the paint on to the dial via a silicone-coated rubber stamp – all done by hand, color by color.

Louis Vuitton - Escale Spin Time White Gold
Louis Vuitton Escale Spin Time White Gold

“It is playful and whimsical now,” says Chatti happily.  “The SpinTime Escale watches are the only ones to have colors changing every hour on the hour.”

Louis Vuitton - Escale Time Zone Pink Gold & Steel
Louis Vuitton Escale Time Zone Pink Gold

The collection is offered in steel and in gold, as well as in tow tone.  All of the pieces will be in boutiques starting this summer into fall.  Additionally, while it has been a stellar year of introductions for Louis Vuitton, Chatti promises there is more in the works. “ This year was strong, but next year we have a lot of surprises in store for watches.”

Photo Credit: Haute Time: Follow Haute Time on Instagram to catch all of the new releases as they happen.

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