Curtains Up: Louis Vuitton Wows with Tambour Opera Automata

What happens when you provide exceptionally talented watchmakers and equally skilled artisans with a state-of-the-art atelier and give them the greatest possible creative freedom? Possibly an exquisite miniature masterpiece of fine watchmaking that is astounding in both technical and artistic craftsmanship. We are talking about the Tambour Opera Automata by Louis Vuitton.

Although the French luxury group only ventured into the realms of haute horlogerie in 2002, this statement piece crafted in the brand’s Geneva-based L’Atelier du Temps is a testament to horological savoir-faire at the highest level. It makes use of one of the oldest and most difficult mechanisms to achieve in watchmaking, the Jaquemart technique. Five animations – including jumping hours, retrograde minutes, and the power reserve indicator – breathe life into this bravura piece that indicates the time without hands.

The proverbial stage for this extraordinary show is a scenery from the world-famous Chinese Sichuan Opera, which dates back to the early 18th century. As a tribute to “Bian Lian”, the art of face-changing, a somewhat eerie-looking but vibrantly colored mask is presented, which changes its expressions at the push of a button. For example, the chin flips down and up, and various motifs appear in the eye sockets.

Another protagonist of the show is a tiny solid-gold dragon made up of three parts that, in a 16-second performance, moves its head indicating the jumping hours and displays the retrograde minutes on a red fan with its tail. This spectacular performance, perfected down to the smallest detail, is orchestrated by the LV 525 caliber, which took over two years to develop.

Despite the tremendous effort required by the animations to make all the parts move, the hand-wound movement, composed of 426 components, offers a power reserve of 100 hours. Equally impressive are the virtuoso Métiers d’Art techniques performed by recognized experts in their respective fields. For example, the relief and tremblage engravings are executed by Dick Steenman (Van’t Hoff). Anita Pochet, a highly renowned specialist, is responsible for the similarly time-consuming and painstakingly detailed enamel work and miniature painting.

Pricing for the Louis Vuitton Tambour Opera Automata is available upon request.

To learn more, visit Louis Vuitton, here.

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