Louis Vuitton’s Timekeeper Hamdi Chatti

FROM TRUNKS TO TIME. Meet the man who tinkers with time for Louis Vuitton: Hamdi Chatti

The name Louis Vuitton would perhaps not come to mind when you’re thinking about buying a new Swiss watch. But Hamdi Chatti, vice president of Louis Vuitton jewelry and watches, has gradually paved the way to ensure that that will happen.

Given his extensive background in high-end watches and jewelries—which includes stints in Piaget, Harry Winston and Montblanc—Chatti seems like a perfect fit for the job. Established only 15 years ago, Louis Vuitton’s watchmaking division has proven to be a most exciting venture. With the acquisition of La Fabrique du Temps, a Swiss movement specialist, five years ago and the integration of Louis Vuitton’s watchmaking manufacture in Geneva in 2014, the French maison seems ready to stand tall among the giants in the game. Of course, only time will tell.

In the meantime, Chatti talks to DA MAN on what makes the brand tick and about the brand’s latest novelties during an exclusive presentation in Bangkok last June.

DA MAN: Tell us about the big anniversary.
Hamdi Chatti:
It’s the 15th Anniversary of the Tambour [collection]. So it’s an important anniversary to celebrate, and we’ve worked on that for a couple of years. We believe that Tambour will remain forever for us. It’s iconic; it has a very strong design and is different from what already exists in the watch industry. So, we were confident to present a new design that still looks Tambour but in a very contemporary way, hence the Tambour Moon.

DA MAN: What message you want to get across with the Tambour Moon?
Hamdi Chatti: The watch industry is a very old industry. What we’re looking for is a way to express the traditional savoir-faire but with a very contemporary twist. It’s like modern art, you need to know how to paint well first to be a great artist. And contemporary design is crucial, not just for the high-end, but also for those everyday pieces as well.

DA MAN: Speaking of which, what about last year’s LV 55, the brand’s first unisex watch?
Hamdi Chatti: The LV 55 still remains in our watch family, but we focus on the Tambour and Escale collections going forward. The LV 55, as a matter of fact, will be geared toward jewelry pieces and will be less for daily wear. Although it was designed as unisex in the beginning, it ended up with women buying it more. This speaks something about the design. That’s why now we’re focusing back on the Tambour.

DA MAN: When you talk about Tambour, you talk about unique watchcase design. Will Louis Vuitton work on a more simple shape, perhaps one that’s more commercial, so to speak?
Hamdi Chatti: No. We don’t need that. We want our watches to be recognizable right from the very first glance. Especially when you’re talking about Tambour, there’s something special as the case is a perfect circle—most watches are not a perfect circle, mind you—and this also applies to the Tambour Moon. We want to make sure that we keep that strength at the core of our watch collection.

DA MAN: With the new tourbillon piece this year, you’ve earned the Poinçon de Genève certification. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from it?
Hamdi Chatti: Two things. The Geneva Seal (Poinçon de Genève) is the oldest seal in the watch industry, more than 130 years old. So, the first lesson is that conservative people can be open, too. If you take time to explain why you’re doing this, they might say, “It’s not traditional,” but I told them we wanted to create a contemporary movement in the new tourbillon piece and that tradition can be modern. They finally relented and agreed to bestow the certification.
The second lesson is that when you do this kind of design, you need to have the whole team behind you because it is such a new thing that people can be proud of. In the end, the result speaks for itself, and it’s more than about having the Geneva Seal itself, because people want to make sure that they stand for what they believe in.

DA MAN: Being a relatively new kid in the watch block, how does Louis Vuitton set or follow trends?
Hamdi Chatti: We go with the trend set by Louis Vuitton as a whole. So, for example, the blue dials for the Escale pieces this year didn’t come from the watch industry, but was inspired by the leather goods, Kim Jones’ palettes in fashion, etc. The interchangeable strap will take on more literal adaptations from the fashion line, as there’ll be new straps launched more often in the future. So, if there’s new fashion collaboration in the pipeline, we’ll have a special watchstrap from those collections, too.