Louis Vuitton unveiled a very neat and unique new complication at Baselworld 2013, a dual chronograph + differential display. Developed in-house by La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, the caliber is specifically intended for match racing, though there are a number of other uses for this type of functionality. This first-of-its-kind complication displays two distinct chronograph times, as well as the difference between the two at any given moment. The mechanical ingenuity of the 437-component caliber is complemented by extremely simple means of operation (a four-stroke monopusher) as well as a beautiful aesthetic highlighted by a blue grand feu enamel dial. I will break it all down for you, below.
According to the International Sailing Federaton, “A match race consists of two identical boats racing against each other. This is a one-on-one duel of strategy and tactics and the objective is simple – to be the first to cross the finish line. A match race begins four minutes before the starting time when each boat must enter the starting area from opposite ends of the start line. Each match lasts approximately 2o minutes.” The most famous sailing competition of this sort is the America’s Cup.
With a bi-chronograph configuation, complemented with a differential timer, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Chrono is ingeniously designed to handle match race timing. The primary challenge of such functionality is undoubtedly to ensure perfect synchronization between two distinct sets of chronograph components. In addition to the chronograph modules (column wheel), there is also a dedicated set of gearing for the hours and minutes; adjustment is made via the LV-stamped crown at 2:00. The manual wind caliber is comprised of 437 total components, including four barrels.
How Louis Vuitton’s Twin Chronos + Differential Timer Works
Despite the mechanical complexity of the manual-wind caliber, its handling is relatively simple: a four-stroke monopusher button located at the 7:00 position of the case controls all of the bi-chronograph functions. First push activates both chronograph counters (symmetrically set on the lower dial section at 7 and 4); second push stops the 7 o’clock counter and activates the third sub dial which keeps track of the differential (situated at the 12 o’clock position); third push stops the 12 o’clock and 4 o’clock counters; the fourth push resets all counters.
Below we see the first chronograph (lower left) has elapsed 5 mins 10 secs; the second chronograph (lower right) 10 mins 25 secs; the difference between the two elapsed times of 5 mins 15 seconds is simultaneously displayed on the differential timer (upper dial)
The crown at 2 o’clock winds the 3 chronograph barrels; the crown at 4 o’clock winds the regular H/M/S barrel
More practically speaking, think of these actions in terms of a match race. Press the monopusher first at the start of the race (starting both chronograph counters); press again when the first boat crosses the finish line (minutes (white needle) and seconds (red needle) are recorded). The other chrono counter (at 4 o’clock) continues to time and the counter at 12 o’clock is now recording the differnential. When the second boat crosses the finish line, the monopusher is depressed again, marking the time of the second boat and also displaying at a quick glance the time difference between the first and second finish. The time reading is very intuitive with the minutes (white needle) and seconds (red needle). Does this make sense? If not leave a comment below and I will help you further understand it.
Appropriately, Louis Vuitton elected to show off this superb caliber through the sapphire caseback.
Here is a look at the grand feu enamel (“email” en francais) at various stages of production.
The Louis Vuitton Tambour Twin Chrono is cased in white gold (45.5mm x 14.35mm) and will be limited to just 30 pieces.