Ever since Louis Vuitton produced his first handcrafted leather luggage in 1854, his eponymous label has been synonymous with luxury. With the launch of Tambour Horizon, the French fashion house hopes to elevate the smartwatch in the same way it elevated the suitcase.
Tuesday’s unveiling comes nearly two years after LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton announced it had a product in the works to rival the Apple Watch.
“It’s too feminine and looks too much like the smartwatches already on the market,” Jean-Claude Biver, head of watchmaking at LVMH, said to the German daily newspaper Die Welt of the Apple Watch. “To be totally honest, it looks like it was designed by a student in their first trimester,” added Biver, who oversees LVMH brands Tag Heuer, Zenith and Hublot.
At 42 millimetres in diameter, the Tambour Horizon case is identical in size to the larger version of the latest Apple Watch, but its luxury price point ($2,770 to $3,470, Canadian) and rounded design are a distinct departure from the U.S. tech giant’s industry-leading watch. Featuring a concave bezel modelled after Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Moon watch design, the Tambour Horizon is available in three colours (Graphite, Monogram or Black), with the option of 60 detachable straps.
Running on a Google Android operating system and compatible with both Android and iPhone, the Tambour Horizon also offers a range of exclusive functions, including the “My Flight” feature, which notifies travellers of their flight times, gate information and delays, in addition to phone calls, text messages and e-mails. Drawing on the brand’s jet-set roots and colourful range of travel books, the Tambour Horizon’s “City Guide” application recommends nearby restaurants, hotels, historical landmarks and tourist attractions in real time, while a convenient GMT function puts the local times of major cities at users’ fingertips.
Will luxury devotees bite?
“Right now, the smartwatch market is dominated mostly by Apple and then by Samsung,” says Weston Henderek, director of connected intelligence at the NPD Group, adding, “We do not expect to see this dynamic shifting any time soon.”
Given the surprise success of the Connected smartwatches from LVMH-owned Tag Heuer, it’s nonetheless clear the nascent luxury smartwatch market is ripe for growth. “Tag Heuer proved it could be successful in this space early on, but the volumes were still low,” says Henderek. Still, he says, “Luxury watchmakers have a real opportunity at the high end of the market to tap into potential new customers with new smartwatch offerings.”
While smartwatch sales have fallen short of expectations, market-research firm Canalys estimates the global smartwatch market will grow by 18 per cent to more than $10-billion (U.S.) in 2017.
“I think it’s fair to say that the smartwatch market hasn’t been the boon for Apple and others that some expected,” says retail analyst Doug Stephens. “That said, they sold six million of them in the fourth quarter of 2016, so there’s still a net negative impact on the makers of conventional watches,” he adds.
According to LVMH, its watch and jewelry sales grew 8 per cent in the final quarter of 2016. Of course, Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Horizon could cannibalize the brand’s conventional watch sales, but it just might capture a new generation of customers, too.