Traveling Time Instruments From Luis Vuitton

by Jack Freedman

NOTICE OF DISCLAIMER: Please note that any and all information submitted here may not be accurate and could be unconfirmed.

Traveling Time Instruments from LOUIS VUITTON

Few people, even in the horological world, are aware of unique timepieces once sold by Louis Vuitton, a luxury goods company whose name is almost synonymous with travel.

Since 1854, Louis Vuitton, a trunkmaker in Paris, has excelled in the art of travel. Its history, rich in creativity, is closely interwined with that of the century, and with those who were its privileged witnesses. Its master craftsmanship of luggage accompanied the world’s most cultivated travelers around the globe. The same attention to detail and same quest for luxury and durability can still be found today in their creations.

To assist those who go around the world on business or for pleasure, and who communicate with the major capitals of the planet, the French company, in 1988, conceived a very special timepiece which design was created by Italian designer Gae Aulenti and manufactured by IWC, (International Watch Company) of Schaffhausen, Switzerland. It sold for U.S. $11,500 but, according to Louis Vuitton in New York, was discontinued about seven years ago.


This TEN-FUNCTION watch gives you a sense of being in all places at once. It indicates the local time, the date, the month and the current phase of the moon. Simultaneously, its mobile dial can display the current time in any other city or time zone around the world, even distinguishing day from night hours. What makes this timepiece so special, and the focus of a review on this feature page, is that never before have such complex functions, seven in all, been organized around a “single axis”. Truly a unique mechanism.

Protecting a high precision 24-jewel quartz movement, its 18 karat gold watch case was fashioned from a solid block and hand polished. A special backing protects the mechanism from the influence of magnetic fields.


In calling on Gae Aulenti with the original design of a universal watch – one for the quintessential traveler, Louis Vuitton recognized an architect and designer who has exercised her talents in the most diverse fields. An urban planner in Rome and Caracas, she also designed skyscrapers, interior spaces and scenery for theaters all over the world. Her furniture and other objects have received international honors and awards. Functionalism is her master word. She likes to associate art with function, and preaches starkness of shape and space. Gae Aulenti’s creations are considered landmarks in the history of design and contemporary art.



For 130 years now, skilled craftsmen at the IWC Watch Company in Schaffhausen have been producing first-class timepieces for watch lovers the world over. For 20 years, IWC was also well known for their collaboration with Porsche Design during which time IWC pioneered in manufacturing cases and bracelets from titanium. A further milestone was reached when IWC first used ceramics for its cases.

In the course of the years, IWC has introduced forward-looking innovations to the world of watchmaking. Little known, though, is IWC’s cooperation with Louis Vuitton whereby IWC developed and manufactured an exclusive timepiece for the company, the “Louis Vuitton – I Universal Time Watch”, designed expressly for the traveler.

Let’s glance at the many functions as illustrated in the diagram.

A.Watch case in 18 karat gold

B. Multi-function crown for:

  • setting the red hour and minute hands
  • adjusting the lunar phases
  • setting the time zone band (cities)
  • stopping the second hand

C.Universal time corrector key

D. Date corrector

1. Red hour hand of principal time

1a. Circle of principal hours (12 hours)

2. Red minute hand for principal time, for the second time zone and the universal time (24 hours)

2a. Minutes and second scale

3. Second hand

4. Date hand

4a. Date scale

5. Lunar phase indicator

6. Golden hour hand of second time zone

6a. Red index identifying the second time zone

7. 24 hour disc, with indication of the hours of the day and of the night, on a transparent sapphire disc (universal time)

8. Band with 24 time zones identified by city names and adjustable by crown B

8a. Zero meridian indicator, Greenwich time zone (GMT)

9. Dateline indicator

9a. Auxiliary indicator on the 24 hour disc (7) to determine the date

The crown B allows the setting of the following functions:

Crown pressed in:

This is the normal position when the watch is worn. The crown should be placed in this position after each setting.

Crown partially extended:

By turning the crown in the desired direction, the time zone band (8) is moved as is, in a synchronized manner, the golden hand of the second time zone (6) and the 24 hour disc (7). Crown completely extended

The second hand (3) and the watch are stopped. By turning the crown, the two hour hands (1) and (6) , the minute hand (2) and the 24 hour disc (7) move in a coordinated fashion. This is the way the principal time is set. The lunar indicator (5) is set by an alternate back and forth movement of the red hour hand (1) between 2:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.

The initial use of this universal time travel watch requires one to make settings in the following order: adjustment of lunar phase, adjustment of principal time (red hands), adjustment of dates, adjustment of universal time.

Once adjusted, the lunar phase indicator need not be adjusted for three years; the precision mechanism driving the indicator will show itself, at the end of this period, to have a maximum difference of one day with the real position of the moon.

This timepiece has another unique and interesting feature. If you are temporarily not interested in the indication of a second time zone, you can simply make the golden hour hand (6) disappear under the red hour hand. To do this, use crown B to rotate the city ring (8) until the city corresponding to your principal time is located under the index (6a) and the watch will have one less hand.

Further setting instructions for use are well described in a 4 1/2 inch square hard cover LEATHER BOUND (what else from Louis Vuitton?) users manual printed in many languages.


Even the leather strap is different than normal. It underwent special tanning in order to increase its resistance to moisture. Without pins, screws or other fastening elements, the strap simply glides across the bottom of the watch case until it is anchored by a small indentation.

An interior cushion in the band assures the correct seating of the watchcase. It originally came in a selection of three leathers: buffalo, calfskin and snakeskin and in four colors: black, green, gold and red.


A much simpler and smaller quartz timepiece, also designed by Aulenti and manufactured by IWC, is the LV-II travel watch which has an alarm function that can be used as a reminder of an appointment, telephone calls or departure. Its case is in zirconium oxide, a ceramic chosen for its exceptional resistance. It neither scratches nor tarnishes. Totally impervious to water and anti-magnetic, the case came in black or green with a sapphire crystal.

Both above mentioned timepieces are remarkable achievements of two companies widely recognized and highly respected for their innovative accomplishments in their own fields. Thus, the purpose of this review is only to illustrate to watch enthusiasts these masterpieces which take a special place in the history of watchmaking.

The writer acknowledges thanks to Louis Vuitton, IWC, and others for information gathered to cover parts of this report.

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(copyrighted by Jack Freedman, 7/98)