Louis Vuitton travels the world through the new Escale Cabinet of Wonders Louis Vuitton travels the world through the new Escale Cabinet of Wonders

Louis Vuitton travels the world through the new Escale Cabinet of Wonders

Russell Sheldrake
  • Three new limited editions are relaunching the Escale line at Louis Vuitton.
  • Inspired by highly decorated tsubas (katana sword guards) collected by Gaston-Louis Vuitton.
  • Utilising a plethora of métiers d’art techniques to depict three evocative creatures.

Louis Vuitton continues its overhaul of its watch lines under the leadership of Jean Arnault, where the brand has now turned its attention to the Escale line. Previously known for being the travel time of the brand’s collection, depicting miniature flags, we now move to a more conceptual view of travel, through the experiences and cultural icons encountered, rather than the practicality of telling the time.

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The three new models are the Koi’s Garden, Snake’s Jungle, and Dragon’s Cloud. All three employ. range of artistic techniques and give incredibly different impressions in the process. With just 20 of each being produced, Louis Vuitton has been able to deploy its full range of internal and external capabilities in executing these intricate designs.

Having built up a reputation for low quantity, and high quality artistic creations, this new direction for the Escale line seems to fit right in with the way LV Watches has built itself up in the last 20 years. While its unique creations often include some form of high complication, such as an automata, these pieces go without complex horology, and focus entirely on the artistic crafts.

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The inspiration for these three pieces came from the eclectic collection of Gaston-Louis Vuitton, the third generation of the Vuitton family to run the business and a man known for his love of travel above all else. On. his travels he would collect all sorts of things including 800 or so tusbas that ended up being the inspiration for these pieces.

The Koi’s Garden depicts two blue koi fish made from white gold that have been oxidised through heat treatment and then covered in a blue lacquer. A significant piece of iconography in Japanese culture, these koi fish playfully circle each other surrounded by pebbles made from smoky quartz, rock crystal, and diamonds, with discs of mother-of-pearl engraved with the LV flower monogram visible beneath some of them.

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A common theme that runs throughout these pieces is the GLV monogram of Gaston-Louis Vuitton found on each, hand engraved and paired with a semi-precious stone to match the watch it is in, along with the cap stone on the crown. Here GLV is paired with a deep black onyx.

Next, the Snake’s Jungle brings together micro-sculpture, hand engraving and champlevé enamel to bring the coiled snake to life above a more muted background of woods, straw, and parchment brought together using marquetry techniques that give the sense of a bamboo forest.

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The 3D effect of this piece is carried from the dial to its white gold case, where bamboo leaves have been hand engraved on to it, adding a sense of texture and depth to the watch. A small easter egg to be found on this piece lies in the snake’s scales, which have been made up of LV flower monograms and V’s, all hand engraved with real accuracy to ensure that enough material was left to allow for the coloured enamel to sit properly.

Finally, the Dragon’s Cloud is, to me, the most evocative of the entire collection. The golden dragon clutches the GLV monogram with its cornelian stone, which matches the red ruby eye of the dragon, as it appears to fly through a cloud. All of which has been produced with hand engraving.

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There is a rare form of enamel work on display here as well. The bottom half of the dragon demonstrates paillonné enamel, which requires small pieces of gold leaf to be placed in between layers of translucent enamel, allowing them shine through. Here these yellow gold paillon form the shape of the LV logo, giving the impression of the dragon’s scales.

To give a sense of the wind blowing past the mythical beast, Louis Vuitton has a hand hammered dial and then demascesed in wires of yellow and rose gold. An intricate process that required the brand to turn to Fanny Queloz, an artisan who has set up her own workshop in La Chaux-du-Fonds specialising in these delicate techniques.

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In fact, Queloz was not the only external artisan who LV has turned to in the creation of these pieces. And in a rather unusual move, the brand has decided to name all of them in its press materials. With Eddy Jacque carrying out the engraving on the snake, joined by Rose Saneuil who carried out the marquetry, and Vanessa Lecci completing the champlevé enamel.

All three of these models feature the same in-house, micro rotor movement, the LFT023 which is also found in the new Tambour models. With modified finishing found on the movement bridges, as an engraved pattern has been added to the grained texture that was there before. It carries over the same specs, including the 50 hour power reserve, running at a 28,800 vph.

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Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders pricing & availability

The prices of these watches has not been disclosed but they are only being made as a limited run of 20 pieces each, with each one numbered on the case back.

Brand Louis Vuitton
Model Escale Cabinet of Wonders Koi’s Garden, Snake’s Jungle, Dragon’s Cloud
Reference Number W3WG11, W3WG21, W3PG41
Case Dimensions 40mm (D) x 12.04mm (T)
Case Material White and yellow gold
Water Resistance 50 meters
Crystal(s) Sapphire front and back
Dial Hand engraving, marquetry, champlevé and paillonné enamel
Strap Braided leather
Movement Calibre LFT023
Power Reserve 50 hours
Functions Hours, minutes
Availability Limited to 20 pieces per model
Price POA