Louis Vuitton Spin Time: A Retrospective

Louis Vuitton Spin Time: A Retrospective

Unlike the traditional clock with hour and minute hands that sweep the dial, a jumping hour display creates a dramatic presentation of time with an aperture that jumps from one hour to the next at the 60-minute mark. This complication is also referred to as direct read, wandering minute or digital display, and is a popular way to get playful with the display of time.

The very first known jump movement was created by French clockmaker Blondeau for a watch timepiece he crafted for the King of France, Louis Philippe I, at the beginning of his reign in 1830. The idea was explored further by Austrian engineer Josef Pallweber for his pocket watches at the end of the 19th century. He patented his jumping hour designs between 1882 and 1887, and paved the way for semi-mass production.

Pallweber’s patent allowed watchmakers to license the design, and companies like IWC and Cortebert were creating designs for jumping hour wristwatches that would gain popularity around the 1920s in beautiful Art Deco styles. In the 1960s and ’70s, jumping hour watches would make a big comeback as a cheaper alternative to the early digital watches that were beginning to make waves.

Jumping hour watches are gaining popularity with collectors recently as watches with a unique character and unusual design. Louis Vuitton has been mastering the complication for over a decade with their own line of in-house movements for a series of watches called the Spin Time collection. The mastery displayed in creating the Spin Time caliber surprised the industry with Louis Vuitton’s inventiveness and creativity.

2009: Tambour Spin Time

In 2009, Louis Vuitton approached the jumping hour design with an innovative new take on the concept. Rather than the usual aperture that displayed the hour, the Tambour Spin Time created a unique and playful display. Traditional index points exist around the dial, but each number is actually a decorated cube that will spin via Maltese crosses to reveal the hour as the jumping hour complication activates with each full turn of the minute hand.

The Tambour Spin Time of 2009 with jumping hour complication
The Tambour Spin Time of 2009 with jumping hour complication

According to Michel Navas, master watchmaker for La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, the design concept came to him as he waited in an airport during a trip. Watching the departure board, he admired the spinning mechanism that rotated through the list of cities and departure times. “The noise that they made while turning was very pleasant to hear. That’s how the inspiration came,” he tells Revolution.

Working with Louis Vuitton owned La Fabrique du Temps manufactory in Geneva, a brand-new caliber named LV89 was created to bring his vision to life. The Tambour Spin Time was born as the first of the very inventive Spin Time collection.

This original Tambour Spin Time had an industrial, masculine style and each of the 12 cubes extended out of the center of the movement to replace the traditional number indexes. At each 60-minute mark, indicated by a central minute hand in yellow, the watch would put on a little show. The current hour cube would spin back to neutral — a simple gray arrow printed on the exposed face — and the next hour cube would spin to display its crisp, white numeral.

2012: Tambour Spin Time Regatta

Louis Vuitton has a passion for sailing and has sponsored the eponymous Louis Vuitton Cup since 1983, the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series and the Louis Vuitton Trophy. The winner of this Challenger Selection Series moves on to challenge the defender of the America’s Cup and five out of the nine winners have actually gone on to win the America’s Cup itself. Its affection for the sport has inspired many design lines for the brand over the years, including their haute horology collections.

In 2012, they brought their love of the race to their Spin Time collection with the Tambour Spin Time Regatta model with a new caliber, the LV156. The case was white gold, and the dial was an innovative blue colored transparent sapphire that showed the inner workings of their jumping hour complication. The timepiece included a chronograph with a 30-minute counter and a regatta-specific five-minute countdown. This regatta-specific five-minute countdown timer was based on the revised America’s Cup rules that allowed five minutes of time for race participants to position their yachts for the start of the race.

The Tambour Spin Time Regatta 2012 was clad in innovative blue transparent sapphire that showcased the inner workings of the jumping hour
The Tambour Spin Time Regatta 2012 was clad in innovative blue transparent sapphire that showcased the inner workings of the jumping hour

In this version, five rotating cubes would visually indicate the countdown on the right side of the dial using the familiar innovative spinning display. The cube faces spin from a blue face to a red face as the five minutes elapse, as a visual indicator of the start of the actual race time. The 30-minute chronograph can be used for non- nautical intervals and can be switched by a function- switching button. At the 12 o’clock position is an indicator to determine if the function is in regular “chrono” or “regate” mode.

The following year, they added a pink gold version with a transparent gray sapphire crystal dial for a more elegant and less nautical sport aesthetic.

2014: Tambour Évolution Spin Time GMT

In 2014, Louis Vuitton unveiled the Tambour éVolution Spin Time, a creative GMT timepiece dedicated to world travel. The case was made in pink gold with a new black material called black MMC (metal matrix composite) that was incredibly durable while still being very lightweight.

The Tambour Spin Time éVolution of 2014 featured a creative GMT complication
The Tambour Spin Time éVolution of 2014 featured a creative GMT complication

Twelve aluminum cubes circled the dial, activated by the LV111 movement. In this version, they actually took advantage of the four visible sides of the cube and engineered the movement to turn two cubes at a time by a quarter turn for a more dynamic display.

Each cube had a side with a satin finish followed by a red arrow pointing outward for the hours between 1 and 12:59, then a second neutral satin finish followed by an arrow pointing inwards for hours 13:00 to 00:59.

At the same time, central pink gold hands indicated the hours and minutes for the GMT time. The tricolor scheme in pink gold, satin-finished aluminum, and cherry red was paired with a rich black alligator strap for an elegant traveler’s watch with a playful, highly legible movement.

2016: Escale Spin Time

The Spin Time lineup got a colorful new makeover in 2016 with the Escale Worldtime inspired version. In this model, each of the 12 spinning cubes were decorated with four faces — one for the morning hours of 0 through 12, and one for the second half of the day of 13 through 24. The other two faces featured colorful hand painted nautical flags. A white tipped hand circled the dial to indicate the minutes and the letters for Louis Vuitton circled the outside of the dial, lined up with cubes.

2016’s Escale Spin Time presented a colorful nautical theme
2016’s Escale Spin Time presented a colorful nautical theme

This version only indicated a single time zone and was available in 18K white gold or pink gold for the bezel, lugs and crown with a titanium case bracelet. This cheerful version brought a burst of color and a return to their love of all things nautical.

2017: Escale Spin Time Blue

The following year, the Escale got a sapphire and titanium makeover inspired by the popularity of blue watches in the market. The AM and PM hour numerals remained, but the colorful nautical flags were updated with pictograms inspired by Louis Vuitton’s classic travel trunks. Each of the motifs were rubber-stamped by hand, one color at a time, for a beautiful, handcrafted finish. The white minute hand remains, circling a central world globe.

The Escale Spin Time Blue of 2017 featured pictograms inspired by Louis Vuitton’s classic travel trunks
The Escale Spin Time Blue of 2017 featured pictograms inspired by Louis Vuitton’s classic travel trunks

Another version, the Escale Spin Time Tourbillon Central Blue, replaced the central globe with a flying tourbillon in the center of the dial display in a V-shaped carriage. The two extremely intricate complications making an appearance in one timepiece for the first time was a tribute to the exceptional skill of Louis Vuitton and La Fabrique du Temps.

2019: Tambour Spin Time Air

As a fitting 10-year anniversary endeavor, Louis Vuitton introduced seven models for the Spin Time collection with a technical new twist. The Tambor Spin Time Air required some engineering mastery to decrease the size of the movement enough so that the cubes would appear to spin in empty space, suspended between two sapphire crystals around the central mechanism. The movement was concealed behind a central design to highlight the floating, rotating cubes.

2019’s Tambour Spin Time Air saw the invention of the breakthrough floating, rotating cubes
2019’s Tambour Spin Time Air saw the invention of the breakthrough floating, rotating cubes

The new collection came in two flavors — the first added the Louis Vuitton letters to one of the neutral sides of the cube and used a stylized LV monogram design to conceal the movement at the center of the dial. This model had three different colorways: a red, white and blue model, a black and yellow model, and a black and yellow model with diamonds set into the bezel and lugs.

The Tambour Spin Time Air of 2019 was the first in the series to feature 12 rotating cubesto display the hours. Two of the cubes would spin around instantly every 60 minutes. The hour therefore ended with a cube revealing its neutral side, making way for the next hour, which was displayed by another cube revealing its distinctive side
The Tambour Spin Time Air of 2019 was the first in the series to feature 12 rotating cubesto display the hours. Two of the cubes would spin around instantly every 60 minutes. The hour therefore ended with a cube revealing its neutral side, making way for the next hour, which was displayed by another cube revealing its distinctive side

The second flavor took a more feminine flair with the movement concealed behind a flower monogram design set with diamonds and enameled with either pink or a deep black. The collection also featured two options that included a diamond-encrusted bezel and lugs, one with black enamel and diamonds, and another with rainbow hued precious stones.

2020: Tambour Spin Time Air Opal

Paired with a white alligator strap, the 2020 Tambour Spin Time Air Opal brought a clean elegance to the line with a diamond encrusted pink gold case and blue sapphires. The floating cubes, also diamond set, were paired with one of three dials in colored opal of sapphire tones, emerald tones or a multi-hued opal of blue, red, orange and yellow.

Tambour Spin Time Air Opal in diamond-encrusted pink gold case
Tambour Spin Time Air Opal in diamond-encrusted pink gold case

2020: Tambour Spin Time Air Aventurine

With high quality stones in a colorway of sapphire and white, the Tambour Spin Time Aventurine used 425 clear-cut diamonds and 12 bejeweled cubes for the jumping hours and featured the two superimposed monogram flowers to conceal the LV88 movement in blue sapphires and diamonds. The case was composed of 18K white gold and the timepiece was paired with a blue alligator strap for a truly elegant statement piece.

Tambour Spin Time Air Aventurine with 425 clear-cut diamonds and 12 bejeweled cubes
Tambour Spin Time Air Aventurine with 425 clear-cut diamonds and 12 bejeweled cubes

2020: Escale Spin Time Meteorite

With a dial crafted from a slice of the Gibeon meteorite that fell onto Earth in prehistoric times in Namibia, this version of the Spin Time took a truly galactic turn. The cubes were decorated with geometric motifs in black, white and gray inspired by Louis Vuitton’s luggage collections. With the interesting meteorite material, one that took extreme care and expertise to work with for the timepiece, and paired with a luminous pink gold case, the finished timepiece was as exquisite as it was interesting.

Escale Spin Time Air Meteorite crafted from a slice of the Gibeon meteorite
Escale Spin Time Air Meteorite crafted from a slice of the Gibeon meteorite

2021: Tambour Spin Time Air Vivienne

For the first time, the cubes of the Spin Time saw a shape evolution with the 2021 Tambour Spin Time Air Vivienne. Rather than floating cubes, 12 floral mascots in pink gold and hand applied lacquer — one version in rich black and another in ruby red — were suspended between the two crystals. The flowers turned to reveal the hour every 60 minutes in their playful jumping hour pattern. Black or red lacquer made an appearance on the center of the dial paired with a diamond-set flower design and an elegant lacquered minute hand. Paired with a deep black or cherry red alligator strap, these two timepieces made a feminine and whimsical addition to the Spin Time collection.

Spin Time in 2022

This year, Louis Vuitton showcases three new models that take the Spin Time collection in interesting new directions. The Steel Escale Spin Time, the Rainbow Escale Spin Time, and the much-anticipated Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum. These models lean toward a contemporary style and introduce a few material firsts. Here’s a first look at these new additions to the revolutionary Spin Time collection.

The 2022 Escale Spin Time collection is available for the first time in all-steel designs with a polished black PVD finish and the choice of a monochrome or rainbow colored time-telling complication
The 2022 Escale Spin Time collection is available for the first time in all-steel designs with a polished black PVD finish and the choice of a monochrome or rainbow colored time-telling complication

2022: Steel Escale Spin Time

The Steel Escale Spin Time is a handsome monochromatic colorway in gray, black and white that brings stainless steel and satin-finished black PVD material architecture reminiscent of the Spin Time Meteorite design. This is also the first time that the Spin Time model is available in steel. The trunk-like details present in many of the Spin Time watches make a reappearance in the black, white, and gray motifs with an ultra modern interpretation.

The dial is gray metallic ruthenium with a sun-brushed finish creating a somber backdrop to the spinning cube display. The 41mm case is stainless steel with satin-finished black PVD and the bezel is polished steel. The lugs, worked to resemble the metal reinforcements found on one of the iconic Louis Vuitton trunks, are also in polished steel.

An LV77 automatic La Fabrique du Temps in-house movement drives the playful display and offers a 40-hour power reserve. The Spin Time display has 11 cubes with the familiar motifs and the final cube displays the time.

Around the dial is the brand name spelled out in alignment with each of the 12 cubes for a dramatic finish to the high contrast timepiece. The Steel Escale Spin Time is paired with a rich black alligator strap.

2022: Rainbow Escale Spin Time

Architecturally identical to the Steel Escale Spin Time, the Rainbow Escale Spin Time brings a burst of color. The dial is a black sunray design that really allows the colorful cube motifs to pop. The cube motifs are worked in a very effective rainbow color scheme from blues to purples, reds to yellow. The finished product is bright, cheerful and exactly as playful as one would expect from a Spin Time model.

A band of coordinating colors surround the Louis Vuitton branding that rings the outside of the dial, and the watch is paired with a black alligator strap.

Tech Specs

Louis Vuitton Steel Escale Spin Time Ref Q5DG10

Movement: Self-winding caliber LV77; 40-hour power reserve
Functions: Spin Time display of hours and minutes
Case: 41mm; stainless steel with satin-finished black PVD; water resistant to 30m
Dial: Ruthenium sunray with 12 rotating cubes
Strap: Black alligator; stainless steel pin buckle
Price: USD 35,500

Louis Vuitton Rainbow Escale Spin Time Ref Q5DG20

Movement: Self-winding caliber LV77; 40-hour power reserve
Functions: Spin Time display of hours and minutes
Case: 41mm; stainless steel with satin-finished black PVD; water resistant to 30m
Dial: Black sunray with 12 rotating cubes
Strap: Black alligator; stainless steel pin buckle
Price: USD 35,500


2022: Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum

In addition to the two Escale models, there is also an exciting new Spin Time Air timepiece. The Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum colorway is a dramatic black with luminous green and yellow accents that deliver an adrenaline laced sport aesthetic.

The Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum adds the micro-electronics to the mechanical complication through the integration of a dozen minuscule LEDs positioned to light up the Spin Time display from within the mechanism
The Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum adds the micro-electronics to the mechanical complication through the integration of a dozen minuscule LEDs positioned to light up the Spin Time display from within the mechanism

In addition to the interesting floating cube design, marked with the letters of Louis Vuitton as well as the numerals for the time, the hour cubes have been worked to illuminate on demand to create a whole new level of visual interest.

Named for the phenomenon in physics, the quantum is a way to describe the smallest amount of a physical property. Photon, for example, is the name for a single quantum of light. This particle is virtually massless and travels at a vast speed and the study of such particles is the foundation for quantum physics.

By adding the micro-electronics to the masterful complication, Louis Vuitton and La Fabrique du Temps have brought a novel concept to their groundbreaking LV68 caliber. It took them two years to realize the design that was inspired by the bioluminescence of deep-sea creatures. This was done through the integration of a dozen minuscule LEDs positioned to light up the Spin Time display from within the mechanism, and powered by twin batteries that can last three years if the LED system is activated six or seven times every day. A battery indicator is cleverly set into the base of the crown, giving the battery levels with a lighted ring around the base.

To further highlight the new technology from its antecedents, Louis Vuitton decided to go with thoroughly modern materials. The matte black DLC creates a deep, rich black setting for the luminous green and yellow colorway of the watch. The cubes, traditionally made from aluminum, have been crafted from a glass made of almost perfectly pure silicon dioxide known as fused silica. This material is left unpolished except for the corners to allow the light to diffuse evenly through the cube.

Turning the watch over, the sapphire back has been marked with a creative interpretation of the Louis Vuitton monogram as a circuit board. At the center of the watch, the LV68 caliber appears to float in the case.

The detailed work on the watch brings all the traditions of watchmaking to this supremely modern piece. Côtes de Genève is applied to the dial plate but updated with a DLC coating and a Super-LumiNova printed Louis Vuitton monogram. A sandblasted flange shows a dozen hour indexes that have been engraved and mirror polished until it creates the optical illusion of applique.

Tech Specs

Louis Vuitton Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum Ref Q1DG2Y

Movement: Self-winding caliber LV68; 35-hour power reserve
Functions: Spin Time display of hours and minutes
Case: 42.5mm; titanium with black DLC coating; water resistant to 50m
Dial: Black DLC coated Côtes de Genève, Super-LumiNova treated with 12 rotating cubes made of fused silica
Strap: Mixed media rubber and alligator; stainless steel pin buckle with black DLC coating
Price: USD 87,500
Availability: Limited edition of 100 pieces


Michel Navas tells Revolution, “The first idea of Spin Time Air Quantum was to marry two completely opposite worlds in the same case — the world of fine watchmaking and the world of high electronics. It’s a daring project that only Louis Vuitton dares to undertake.”

With the mix of deep black and brilliant yellow and green, the multitude of matte, frosted and highly polished surfaces, and the electronic lighting, the Louis Vuitton Tambor Spin Time Air Quantum lives up to the anticipation and then some. As Wei Koh summarizes, “When you press the crown, both you and your watch will be the immediate center of attention in any smoky boîte, discotheque or pavilion of nocturnal activity. It would, of course, be very entertaining to ignite the watch in the dark room in Berlin’s Berghain.”

Drawing on Louis Vuitton’s heritage as a trunk maker and packer, the Escale Spin Time is designed with trunk-like details. The lugs resemble the signature elements found on Louis Vuitton trunks
Drawing on Louis Vuitton’s heritage as a trunk maker and packer, the Escale Spin Time is designed with trunk-like details. The lugs resemble the signature elements found on Louis Vuitton trunks

Ultra Modern and Ultra Fun

The three new models of the Louis Vuitton Spin Time collection bring three very contemporary designs in three very different ways. The handsome, monochromatic Steel Escale Spin Time brings a sense of sober dignity with a playful heart. The Rainbow Escale Spin Time brightens up the new model with a thoughtful application of color that brings a bit of levity with all of the skill and precision of the brand. Finally, the Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum pushes the boundaries by applying electronics to light up the floating cubes and gives us an ultra modern timepiece with a sporty, high energy vibe. Each delivers exciting new interpretations of the iconic Spin Time collection with enough personality for any connoisseur.

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