Louis Vuitton Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum

The lightness and lightness of 3D complications.

An astonishing combination of mechanics and electronics, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum is the latest watch from La Fabrique du Temps, the manufacturer acquired by the luxury giant in 2011. The Quantum is a fresh interpretation of the brand’s signature complication – a hidden LED ring lighting up the 12 hour-hopping cubes.

Spin Time is an original and unique concept that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, mainly because Louis Vuitton is all about fashion and leather goods. Complications take more than a decade to mature.

Spin Time launched in 2009 as a countdown to regatta, which wasn’t particularly interesting (though it was also expensive at the time). Only the complexity of the Spin Time Air is really notable, but the length of time it takes to get there means some momentum is lost.

I like the complexity, although it’s also hindered by moderate base movement (more on that below).

The Quantum is basically a Spin Time Air with a hint of frivolity that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but retains all the mechanics of the Spin Time’s complication. It’s a no-brainer for a luminous mechanical watch, the first to manage long-lasting bright light.

While the aesthetic is mostly two-color, it’s a loud design, especially with the oversized “LV” on the dial. But that’s the point, I do love how otherworldly many of Louis Vuitton’s designs are (for the monochromatic and understated stuff, there’s always Chanel).

Like many of the brand’s other watches, the Quantum is a large watch, although it feels smaller, both visually and physically. The black-coated case reduces its visual footprint, and the fact that it’s titanium means it’s light. And it’s very light because the walls of the case are rather thin due to the width of the cube display.

Where the watch falls short is the base movement, the ETA or Sellita automatic. Granted, Urwerk was based on ETA Peseux, Ludovic Ballouard still is, but today the expectation is at least a high-end outsourced movement or a proprietary movement.

Both will make Spin Time more compelling. But given Louis Vuitton’s trajectory as a watchmaker, producing an in-house movement doesn’t seem far off. This will increase the appeal of Spin Time (although it may be accompanied by an equally high price increase). Review copy watch

cubic display
Louis Vuitton first launched Spin Time in 2009, the same year Ludovic Ballouard launched his Upside Down. However, the first Spin Time was neither refined nor complicated, as it was essentially a cubic regatta countdown function with five cubes to count the time until the yacht race. The “floating” Spin Time Air, which debuted a few years ago, makes the concept truly impressive.

The case is 42mm wide and a little over 12mm tall, and while it feels bigger than it really is, thanks to the tall, sloping sides and narrow lugs, the DLC finish makes it look a little smaller than usual

The Quantum is essentially a traditional Spin Time Air with the addition of a compact LED ring. While it wasn’t the first mechanical watch with a light module — De Bethune and Van Cleef & Arpels had done it before — the Quantum was the first with a durable and bright light feature.

Its brightness is the result of the method taken. Watches with similar functions in the past relied on generators, which necessarily produced dim and short-lived lighting. The De Bethune DB28GS, for example, uses the mainspring to power the generator, which means that when the LEDs are activated, the power reserve quickly decreases.

In contrast, Quantum opted for a simple but effective solution, a pair of watch batteries. Activated by a button on the crown, the LED ring lights up for three seconds, but stays lit as long as the button is pressed. According to Louis Vuitton, even if the LED ring is “activated 6 to 7 times a day,” the battery is enough to keep it running for three years.

The LED ring was developed by Swiss electronics specialists with the task of keeping the housing dimensions constant and easy to maintain. Therefore, the LED ring does not increase the overall size of the housing. Standard model and Quantum have exactly the same external dimensions.

Serviceability results in two standard watch batteries being held by a separate battery holder. The battery can be quickly replaced in a Louis Vuitton boutique without touching the rest of the movement.

The LED ring is an add-on module that has no mechanical connection to the movement, keeping the mechanical aspects of the Quantum unchanged, so the time display operates exactly like the standard Spin Time Air.

This is a three-dimensional jumping hour display with a traditional minute hand. The dial has 12 cubes, each of which rotates twice a day to indicate the current time. When the minute hand passes 12 o’clock, both the previous hour and the current hour cubes jump. The previous hour cube rotates to show a yellow face, while the current hour flip shows a black face, indicating the time.

The jump cube mechanism is a module that sits on the base movement. Louis Vuitton is tight-lipped about the base, but it could be either the Sellita SW100 or the ETA 2671, the workhorse movement developed for women’s watches (the two are basically the same, the former being a “clone” of the latter).

Like most monitors of this type, the Spin Time relies on Maltese cross gears for its jumping motion, but does it in an unconventional way. Since the cubes are three-dimensional – as opposed to the flat, single-plane display of traditional jumping hours – each cube is driven by a Maltese cross perpendicular to the plane of the movement. Sale replica watches

Even more unorthodox is to house the movement inside the case. It is held in place by two sapphire discs, one full on the front and the other on the back, plus a doughnut-shaped plate halfway along the height of the movement.

On the standard Spin Time Air, the ring plate is also sapphire, giving the impression of floating or “mysterious” movement, although that’s not the case with the Quantum, as the ring plate is DLC-coated brass. The brass plate is necessary due to the electronic module located on the back of the movement.

The cube of the standard Spin Time Air is made of aluminum, while the cube of the Quantum is made of fused silica, a glass made almost entirely of silica. The high purity makes it particularly suitable for optical applications.

While the four sides of the cube indicating the hours are emblazoned with the brand name letters, the chamfered edges of the cube, as well as the top and bottom sides, remain legible. Therefore, the white light from the LEDs located on the top face of each cube creates the appearance of the cube glowing from within.

Although not noticeable due to the black finish, the details of the dial are surprising, especially the flange around the cube that serves as a cover for the LED ring. The flange is frosted but has an inner edge and hour markers and is milled with a diamond-tipped drill to give it a mirror finish.

With its simple but effective battery-powered LED approach, the Quantum is by far the most useful illuminated mechanical watch. This concept is the perfect complement to the Spin Time complication. It can be improved with good base movement, but it’s only a matter of time.

Louis Vuitton Tambour Spin Time Air Quantum
Ref. Q1DG2

Diameter: 42.5mm
Height: 12.3mm
Material: Titanium with DLC coating
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: LV 68
Functions: Hours, minutes and LED light functions when jumping blocks
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Chain: self-winding
Power reserve: 35 hours

Strap: Alligator leather inlaid with rubber