Time with the new face of Louis Vuitton
SHOPSIFTED - Ana G. Kalaw () - December 9, 2007 - 12:00am

Benoit Vuitton’s last name is identification enough — it carries more weight than that of any rock star or A-list Hollywood celebrity and commands respect that is more legit than most presidential badges.

After all, it is a name that has 150 years of fashion tradition behind it.  Benoit is a sixth-generation descendant of Louis Vuitton, the man who started the luxury goods empire in 1854 and whose name banners a multi-billion-dollar brand that earns revenue mostly from trunks and bags bearing its famed monogram logo. Benoit is the great-great-great grandson and the latest in the line of descendants following in the footsteps of his trunk-producing ancestor.

He was recently in Manila to introduce one of LV’s most exclusive services to special clients, the personalization of the Tambour Monogram Tourbillon watch, a timepiece that boasts an ingenious mechanism from the early days of watchmaking, and is made of the finest and most precious materials.

Young (he’s 29), good-looking, lean and standing a shade over six feet, Benoit could be easily enjoying a playboy lifestyle and living off the benefits of his name. However, he is not one to ignore the incredible opportunities his ancestry affords.

The only member of his generation working for the family business, his first exposure to the business was as a child living in Asnieres, a suburb northwest of Paris, where the Louis Vuitton workshops are based. But he only realized the calling of his heritage in 1999 while trying to complete a master’s degree program in business. He first interned at Vuitton in London, then spent time working in the Japan headquarters before moving to New York in 2003, where he spent his first two months working as a shop assistant in the Fifth Avenue store.

In fact, he was working in the New York store when LV came out with the Tambour Monogram Tourbillon watch three years ago. “I was there in the store when it was launched and I remember showing it to clients on the very first day it came out.” Benoit’s Big Apple stint was brief and he eventually returned to Paris, where he is now based.

His relationship with the Tourbillon continued, however, and he now travels the world as the Tourbillon specialist, offering and doing one-on-one presentations of the personalized luxury watch to VIP clients. In Manila, he met with potential buyers in a luxury suite of one of the city’s five-star hotels. “We want them to see, touch and have contact with the watch in a special environment, not just in the regular store. We are giving them their dreams, so it has to be special, from A to Z.”

Made of the finest materials, most of the Tambour Monogram Tourbillon’s movement pieces are in gold, as well as the heavy rounded case, and the hands. The wheels and the tourbillon carriage evoke the four pointy or rounded petals of the famous LV Monogram. The interior of the case is polished and the model is distinguished by two bridges, a sapphire bridge with an engraved flower and one studded with diamonds. Around the case, the hour markers spell out the twelve letters of the brand name: LOUIS VUITTON.

The Tourbillon by itself is already a coveted piece. Now imagine the same piece bearing the LV name and logo in its mechanism and displaying your own diamond-studded initials. Imagine an LV Tambour Monogram Tourbillon sitting on your wrist and made to your own design specifications — a timepiece with a mechanism unique only to you.

In an age where demand for made-to-order luxury is increasing, the personalized Tourbillon trumps all other bespoke services in fashion. The watch is the ultimate in timepiece luxury. For the price of a three-bedroom condo unit in the heart of Makati and for a waiting time of 10 to 12 months, you become part of an elite club whose members enjoy wearing their status — and the distinction it affords — on their wrists.

Creating by request is all part of the rich and long heritage tradition of Louis Vuitton. Says Benoit, “We arrived into the market 150 years ago by wrapping and by doing special things for special clients by special request. That’s how it still works today. We still want to offer a little part of the tradition of Louis Vuitton by offering a completely personalized watch. The market for watches is really growing and we see that people want something different just for themselves.”

The idea is to give a client a timepiece made particularly for him or her. If you’d rather not have your initials displayed on your watch, you can choose to put in other symbols — some clients have requested Chinese characters, some have asked for a diamond-studded basketball in place of the LV, and some have asked for their family logo to be stamped for posterity on their timepiece.

The customer also has a choice between a setting of white, yellow or pink 18k gold, or platinum, and can choose the material and color of the strap (although the original Tourbillon comes with a finely abraded stingray strap). You can also add any stone of your choice — diamonds, emeralds or sapphires in any color — on any part of the watch — face, clasp, dial — in any number. Some clients even ask for 60 diamonds to be embedded all around the face of the watch, one for each minute.

The sky’s pretty much the limit for this LV service. There is only a single price for the personalized Tourbillon, which signifies not necessarily that you should pile on the bling but that it’s really your call.

Benoit reveals that there are some clients who actually shun the sparkle of a diamond-studded setting and prefer a simple piece. “We want our clients to say ‘I am paying one price and I don’t want any surprises. I just want to create the watch of my dreams.’ You have a dream and we’ll give it to you. You spend money but you get exactly what you want.”

The personal touch doesn’t stop with the timepiece. Each personalized LV Tourbillon watch comes packaged in a one-foot-square mini trunk that is made in the customer’s LV leather of choice — the traditional LV monogram, the more subtle Damien canvas print, or maybe even the Murakami flower logo. 

Each trunk-case displays a small patch where buyers can inscribe anything, such as their name or a personal message if the watch is given as a gift. The spacious trunk also includes a handy travel kit, a key holder and a certificate that specifies the design and setting of your personalized watch. Both trunk and canvas come with their own serial number — it wouldn’t be Vuitton if it didn’t.

* * *

Visit the Louis Vuitton store at Greenbelt 4 or call 756-0637 for more information on the LV Tambour Tourbillon watch.

E-mail comments to ana_kalaw@pldtdsl.net.

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