Time to Buy Louis Vuitton Watches?

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Louis Vuitton watches have been something of a joke. Quartz-powered fripperies for people who wouldn’t think twice about buying a sub-$400 Armani-branded watch, but could never afford an Armani suit. LMVH heir Jean Arnault number five is determined to change that. Will he be successful?

Louis Vuitton’s style is often described as classic, elegant and luxurious. In a word, expensive. So young master Arnault – the new head of LV’s watch division – killed quartz.

Well not entirely. Not yet. The brand still offers LV wannabe’s the $6405 Tambour Monogram above, in 28mm, 31mm and 39mm.

I kinda like it; it looks like one of Louis Vuitton’s iconic bags. Shove a proper movement in there and…

Anyway, the brand’s horological lineup now tempts buyers with 28 mid-market timepieces, ranging from the 33mm $3100 Tambour Slim Monogram to the 40mm $18,500 steel sport watch, the Tambour Automatic (above).

Louis Vuitton watches most steel sports watch is the template for future pieces. It’s powered by caliber LFT023, a micro-rotor, chronometer-certified engine conceived by Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasisni of La Fabrique du Temps.

Michel and Enrico’s workshop is about to get a lot busier. Arnault has tapped the atelier for all LV’s future watches, which will all be really expensive. The 18-grand watch will be the lowest priced watch on sale. At the moment, the highest price piece is due to sticker for $52k.

As The Wall Street Journal points out, ha! You can buy a perfectly nice Rolex, Vacheron, Audemars Piguet or Patek at that price, never mind status pieces from independent watchmakers and top shelf stuff from OMEGA, IWC and the rest of the mostly mid-market players.

So how will Arnault elbow Louis Vuitton watches into that space? Fucked if he knows.

We’re not going to make a ton of money with this,” Arnault says of the company’s strategic about-face. “It’s not going to be highly profitable at all, but it’s really about making sure that we switch the message completely.

The message: exclusivity. Less stores will sell the Louis Vuitton watches. The medium: celebrity.

Last year, Bradley Cooper became Louis Vuitton’s first and only watch brand ambassador, Arnault’s first marketing initiative.

The WSJ provides a profile of young Jean, and I do mean young. The exec is all of 24-years-old. And rich as fuck. So familiar with ultra-mega-high-end living generally, top shelf watches specifically.

Many years ago, a biz guru taught me an important lesson. The trick in business is not to do things better than the other guy. Do things differently. That’s doubly true in a crowded marketplace.

I’m afraid young Master Arnault isn’t following that sage advice. How could he? He doesn’t have enough experience in the biz to be intimately familiar with how the other guys do expensive watches. No doubt he considers the LV brand a magnet in and of itself. Which it is.

As is Gucci. And Armani. And Ralph Lauren. All of which have eschewed competing with high-end Swiss watchmakers. And not because they don’t have mountains of cash.

If you want a reasonably-priced LV watch, now is the time to buy. Meanwhile, a word in your ear young Jean. The one-off Carpe Diem watch is your template. Not the Royal Oak.

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