Louis Vuitton, already known for making luxury timepieces, made a significant move in 2012 by acquiring La Fabrique du Temps, a Geneva-based specialist that developed high-end mechanical movements for a number of brands.
Headed by renowned watchmakers Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini, La Fabrique du Temps had an enviable reputation in the industry. By bringing its know-how and experience in-house, Louis Vuitton was making a bold statement about its own ambitions on the horological front.
With the acquisition, LV’s vice-president for watches and jewellery, Hamdi Chatti, saw an opportunity to pursue one of the most illustrious certifications in the industry, the Poinçon de Genève, or Geneva Seal.
Not only are the technical and functional requirements to achieve the certification very specific, a watch must be produced within the Canton of Geneva to be eligible.
In the following interview, Chatti and Navas explain some of the challenges they faced before being able to unveil the Louis Vuitton Flying Tourbillon Poinçon de Genève.
Why was it so important to attain the Geneva Seal?
Hamdi Chatti (HC): It’s an instant pedigree for watch connoisseurs. We’ve developed minute repeaters and other complications, and we’re happy with our developments in haute horology, but we always get the same questions: Did you develop this yourselves? Did you make it yourselves?
All these, of course, are legitimate concerns. A Geneva Seal immediately establishes that we developed the watch ourselves, designed it ourselves, and manufactured it ourselves. What’s more, all this is validated by a governing body.
How did you envision this watch?
HC: It needed to be a non-traditional watch. Though we still adhered to traditional watchmaking techniques and know-how, we really wanted something that was contemporary and different.
The watch certainly has a strong identity. What are some of the specifics?
HC: First, it’s a flying tourbillon, but what sets it apart is that the movement appears to be completely suspended. The screws are hidden, and the baseplate goes inside the case. It gives an impression of lightness. When I was discussing the project with Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini, our master watchmakers, I stressed the importance of the finishing.
I explained to them that we would probably be addressing clients who are not necessarily experts, so the Geneva Seal, to most of those clients, would probably be more about the aesthetics, so every part of the watch had to be impeccably finished.
Were there any technical compromises?
HC: With the Geneva Seal, the technical specifications aren’t entirely defined by the watchmakers; it’s the Geneva Seal that dictates them. Therefore there was a real challenge to have a product that not only meets the Geneva Seal’s standards, but also has a strong and recognisable aesthetic without being “over-branded.”
What was the most difficult part?
Michel Navas (MN): The watch features a flying tourbillon on ball bearings and for it to bear the Geneva Seal, the regulation has to be perfect. This can be a challenge on ball bearings, but our watchmakers achieved it by making the tourbillon cage perfectly balanced and very light.
Will you make another watch bearing the Geneva Seal?
MN: We won’t stop here; it’s just the beginning. We’ve reached the bar, we just have to reach it again, now that we know the rules of the game.
If all goes well we won’t have to wait three years!