Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver: All Killer, No Filler?
Music buffs might know the phrase “all killer, no filler.”
Many may know what the phrase means intuitively, but to musicphiles it has a very clear meaning: every song on an album is a solid work of art and none are quick tracks designed to pad it.
Most people who have purchased or downloaded an album after hearing a hit song on the radio will understand the disappointment of discovering that most of the tracks pale in comparison to that popular single. When I was younger and actually going out to buy albums without being able to hear every song on the internet first, that was the risk. It was very possible that what you would discover would be a couple of excellent pieces of music interspersed between mediocre or downright lazy songwriting.
I get it, I know why it happens. It’s often due to the pressure to release a new album as fast as possible, and studio pressures are immense when so much money is involved. But sometimes it’s because the band or songwriters simply didn’t have enough great songs and the result is, at best, a passably enjoyable album.
But then there are the albums where every single track blows you away and cements the band or artist as a true pinnacle of the craft – or, at the very least, every song is incredibly enjoyable and can be listened to repeatedly. It’s tricky to be sure because it plays into taste just as much – or more – than actual skill or talent.
This is why the phrase “all killer, no filler” is often used in music critique because it helps to quickly convey that the critic is on board with what the artists have created.
The world of watchmaking does not lean on this phrase too heavily, though I’m sure it’s used. I often think of the phrase not to describe iconically great watches, but rather watches that seem surprisingly successful.
This brings me to Louis Vuitton and the new Tambour Street Diver, a very solid new diver’s watch from a brand focused on haute couture and whimsical timepieces more than practical tool watches.
So my question today becomes: is the Tambour Street Diver a surprisingly “all killer, no filler” dive watch?
Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver
The Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver is pretty darn good in proving that a fashionable timepiece can fit within an established aesthetic and still be a practical and usable tool watch. So what is the Tambour Street Diver and why do I think it’s so good?
The new model just released at Watches and Wonders 2021 is the latest iteration in the Tambour collection by Louis Vuitton, which debuted all the way back in 2002. The first diver’s watch from the brand arrived soon after in 2005, followed by the LV Cup Regatta Timer in 2008, and the Diving II in 2010, all showcasing a clear inclination toward nautically themed watches.
The new Tambour Street Diver follows codes previously set out for the Tambour Diver but has some updates that bring the watch much closer to the realm of all killer and no filler.
The Tambour Street Diver is a time-only watch with a small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock and an internal rotating bezel to track dive time. It is housed in the Tambour case, which is designed like a drum with sloped outer walls tapering up toward the crystal, creating a very distinct shape.
It’s a sharp-looking watch to be sure, and with unique notched lugs, a contrasting outer bezel, and bold markers it is clearly a Louis Vuitton while also clearly being a dive watch.
Often brands make watches that are only technically dive watches but fit squarely with their aesthetics, forgetting (or ignoring) important details required for them to be taken seriously. Louis Vuitton hasn’t forgotten these. A look at the progression of the Tambour Diver over the years highlights how the brand understood what would make a good diving watch that still fits within the Louis Vuitton and Tambour styling.
Retro to practical: Louis Vuitton Tambour Diver journey
The very first Tambour Diver looked a lot like the new Street Diver, but it was designed to look like dive watches from the late 1960s and ’70s and had a few flaws, in my opinion. The original had an internal rotating bezel (smart) but the color choices made it feel a bit dated, and not in a fun way.
The dial featured an old standard design element: equally sized square hour markers with one replaced by a date window. The sapphire crystal had a square magnification bubble, which disrupted the style and readability of the dial. The hands were a thick baton style with no pointed tips.
It also featured dual screw-down crowns, but with small bezels around the exterior making for a small surface to manipulate, which is not good for a dive watch. But it did feature a solid case back and water resistance to 300 meters, so there was a solid base to start from.
Moving up to the Diver II the entire aesthetic changed, allowing Louis Vuitton to try out some other ideas (again, not necessarily to my liking).
The new case included a flat-topped external rotating bezel with the dive time insert clearly emulating a lot of other common dive watches. Now this isn’t a bad idea, it just feels as if it strayed from one of the good original ideas and ended up blending in with the competition – and that feels like a bad move for such a high-end brand.
The hands were skeletonized, tapered batons that significantly reduced the amount of lume but did offer a bit more of a unique aesthetic. The hour markers changed from the equally sized squares to equally sized circles, their outer edges trimmed by the edge of the dial. Again, a distinctive stylistic change but the consistency of size and the incongruence with the hand style seems off.
The date window was still there cluttering up the dial and now the small seconds subdial was shaped like a nautical flag, adding another bit of flair. It also makes it feel less cohesive as a design. The elimination of the second crown for the internal rotating bezel completed the change for the Diver II to turn it into the Louis Vuitton take on a Seiko Tuna mixed with a few other inspirations. Basically, it felt like it took a step back as a bold and aesthetically consistent Tambour piece.
The Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver is back on track
The Tambour Street Diver gave up a little to get a lot. The little it gave up is in the water resistance, which has dropped from 300 to 100 meters, likely due to a couple aesthetic changes. The new Street Diver returns to the original aesthetic of the first Diver but contains updated details across the board to make it feel both modern and more usable.
The dive-time bezel under the crystal has returned and once again offers a crown at 1:30 to adjust it before going down for a dive. But the crowns are no longer surrounded by small bezels reducing the tactile surface, making them easier to operate.
The external case bezel is now highly contrasting to the case and dial colors on two of the four models, and all the dive-time internal bezels are highly contrasted for maximum visibility.
The hands have been redone to include a pencil-shaped hour hand (slightly skeletonized with a pointed tip and painted with luminous substance) while the more important (for divers) minute hand is tipped with a very large arrow matching the color of the 15-minute section of the dive-time bezel. This allows for easier and clearer reading of the elapsed time and adds a nice pop of color.
The hour markers have also been updated and are now in the more functional rectangle and circle shape variations, allowing the user to once again easily visually distinguish which marker is which. It may be a subtle change but details matter with a tool watch designed to keep you safe.
The main crown is polished metal while the internal bezel crowns are all PVD coated for visual separation. Finally, a change that I know many dive fans will appreciate: the Tambour Street Diver ditches the date window and magnifying glass. Removing a date wheel that didn’t match the dial color and the square magnifying lens finally makes the watch feel more considered.
The reduction in water resistance is likely due to the change in crown style combined with the case back. Instead of a solid case back, the Street Diver sports a transparent case back to view the movement inside, adding another joint and making it harder to achieve a higher water-resistance rating without thicker crystals and gaskets.
But as this model is called “Street Diver,” it’s clear that was a tradeoff the brand was willing to accept. One hundred meters is still plenty good not to have to worry about the watch, but clearly it’s not meant to compete with hardcore diver’s watches.
To this I say good! The Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Driver is a dive watch from a historic fashion brand clearly meant to also have fashionable appeal, and it doesn’t have to pretend to be something it isn’t. This is why I think it is much more successful than the earlier iterations of Louis Vuitton’s diver’s watches.
Aesthetically, it seems to have found its sweet spot and sort of grown into the watch it should be. Clearly there is a bit of inspiration from Ulysse Nardin in some of the color scheme choices (or a ton of other dive watches), and it results in a more mature piece.
The very large “Louis Vuitton” molded into the rubber strap is meant to catch people’s attention (presumably so they know what you are wearing), but for the Street Diver that’s perfectly fine. Nobody is ditching a dive computer for a mechanical wristwatch, but if you were snorkeling in the Bahamas or reef diving off the coast of Australia this watch would suit you well and still look good when you go to the yacht club that evening as well.
So is the Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver all killer and no filler? I don’t think so, but given past models it is closer to that without major aesthetic fault. Clearly, like any great album, personal taste is always a factor, but as high-end dive watches go, I think the Tambour Street Diver is a solid entry.
It won’t be winning horology awards with its off-the-shelf movement, and the clear desire to be eye-catching as well as functional means the hardcore dive watch nerds will undoubtedly scoff at it.
But if you like bold watches, are a fan of the Tambour case shape, and like knowing that you don’t need to worry about getting your relatively expensive watch wet, the Street Diver could be a great choice.
Ranging from $5,600 to just under $17,000 for the two-tone 18-karat pink gold model, it is relatively competitively priced.
I think that Louis Vuitton should hone this model just a bit, let it ride for a while, then experiment with more color options and metal choices. I think it could become a leader in the Tambour collection, and I would happily recommend it to those wanting something well designed and a bit different!
So now that I’ve broken it down over time, let’s really break this one down!
- Wowza Factor * 8.1 This is a watch designed to grab attention, clearly. The aesthetics were considered, and I think visually it is a success!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 82.4 » 808.067m/s2 It definitely has me lusting with some serious force even though it’s designed to take me where I’ll feel weightless!
- M.G.R. * 45 A solid ETA movement is never a bad choice. Without commenting on value for the price point, you could definitely do worse than the workhorse 2895 inside!
- Added-Functionitis * Mild I am being a bit generous simply because I am including the internal rotating bezel as a complication since it technically helps you track elapsed dive time. Of course, it has no mechanical link to the movement so I can only recommend children’s strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream this time around!
- Ouch Outline * 8.2 Forgetting to brace your arm when cutting with a utility knife! Sometimes you can have a dull blade and a strong arm and the result is slipping off of what you are trying to cut and slamming your hand into something harder than your skin and bones, resulting in deep gouges and more than a little blood. No worries, it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last, and I would do it again if it meant getting one of these on my wrist.
- Mermaid Moment * Now that made it better! I had previously seen the Tambour Diver and upon seeing the Street Diver update, I knew it was a solid upgrade aesthetically!
- Awesome Total * 616 Start with the case diameter in millimeters (44) and multiply by the hours of power reserve (42) then divide by the number of variations of the automatic models (3), and the result is a rather bold awesome total!
For more information, please visit louisvuitton.com/eng-us/magazine/articles/tambour-street-diver.
Quick Facts Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver automatic
Case: 44 x 12.8 mm, stainless steel with PVD treatment or two-tone stainless steel with PVD coating and pink gold
Movement: automatic Caliber ETA 2895-2, 42 hours power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; dive-time bezel under the crystal
Price: $7,505 in stainless steel; $16,910 in stainless steel with pink gold
Quick Facts Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver quartz
Case: 39.5 x 11.8 mm, stainless steel
Movement: unspecified quartz movement
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; dive-time bezel under the crystal