The new Louis Vuitton Escale is subtle and overt, all at the same time The new Louis Vuitton Escale is subtle and overt, all at the same time

The new Louis Vuitton Escale is subtle and overt, all at the same time

Borna Bošnjak

Nobody would have accused of Louis Vuitton’s flag-rimmed dials of past Escale models to be overly subtle, not even in their most stealthy variants. But that was the Escale of yesterday, and its successor is something that the brand hinted at earlier this year with the new Cabinet of Wonders collection, bringing a subtly updated case and entirely new dial into the collection. Appropriately named the Louis Vuitton Escale Time-Only, this latest Escale will stand next to the Tambour as a more premium, yet still simple take on Louis Vuitton’s new watchmaking direction. Find out more from Andrew’s visit to Louis Vuitton below, or read on for more details.

The dials

louis vuitton escale time only rose gold dial close up

So what did I mean exactly with that title? Let’s start with the dials, where Louis Vuitton’s newfound design restraint is shown off best in my opinion. Previous Escale pieces certainly had a distinctive look, but it’s safe to say they were far from minimalist, instead getting their inspiration from maritime flags. Rather than painstakingly hand-painting these miniature insignia on the dial, Louis Vuitton equipped the new Escale Time-Only with a two-piece affair. Here, the central medallion and circularly brushed outer minutes track are held together with rivet-like indices at the cardinal points, recalling the brassware the brand’s legendary trunks. The grained blue and champagne silver textures of the rose gold-cased dials are another callback to LV’s trunkmaking, supposedly representing the “grained surface of the Louis Vuitton Monogram canvas”.

louis vuitton escale time only meteorite dial

Should you prefer a platinum case, you’ll have the option of a Gibeon meteorite or onyx black tuxedo dial, the former perhaps being the highlight of this new collection for me (and Andrew). Pairing the unique, outer space, texture with the truck-derived details, there is enough to interest you when you look closely, but not too much to be distracting when you’re checking the time.

louis vuitton escale time only diamond dial close up

Even on the blingiest example in the new collection, the stone dial has no unnecessary gem-setting, instead being kept to a refined few brilliant-cut stones for the hour markers. For all three dial types, Louis Vuitton’s designers stopped just short of where one could argue the dials would be “too much”, but leaving just enough visual interest to make sure they’re not yawn-inducing.

The cases

louis vuitton escale time only rose gold blue wrist

To best describe where the new Escale Time-Only fits into the Louis Vuitton watchmaking offering, think of it as a sliding scale between sporty and dressy. On the sportiest side, there’s the Tambour Street Diver, followed by the steel and precious metal Tambours – and then you get to the new Escale. In simple terms, it perhaps edges over the “dressy” line just a tad, and the same is reflected in the way it wears. Rather than some elegant, ultra-thin case, the Escale Time-Only sits at 39mm in diameter and 10.34mm in thickness (40.5mm x 10.7mm for the gem-set platinum), which are ideal everyday wear dimensions. The exclusive use of precious metals, however, adds a touch of refinement back into the mix. Like I said – subtle and overt at the same time.

louis vuitton escale time only diamond case profile

Like with prior Escale cases, the lugs are chunky and once again carry trunk rivet inspiration, but unlike older models, the new Escale has a bezel that smoothly flows into the subtly domed sapphire crystal. This makes the watches wear much smaller, even though their predecessor had similar in dimension. Rendered in 18k rose gold or 950 platinum (with optional gem-setting), the Escale Time-Only sports a water-resistance rating of 50 metres.

The straps

louis vuitton escale time only leather strap

So if it’s a dressy watch, you can expect to find it on unpadded, black crocodile or alligator leather straps, right? Quite the contrary, in fact. Louis Vuitton pairs the new Escales with tonally matching calf leather options that are matte-finished, equipped with a case-matching pin buckle.

This is another example of the new Escale’s intended versatility, and I, for one, am all for it. The one nit I have to pick is with the pin buckle design. It’s perfectly functional and makes sense in this application, but I do wish LV made a more obvious connection to its trunks through its design. Perhaps shaping it like a trunk clasp?

louis vuitton escale time only diamond case strap

The gem-set platinum Escale is the outlier here again, where instead of a pin buckle, Louis Vuitton fits it with a platinum, gem-set deployant clasp which makes sense considering the price-on-application positioning of this halo model.

The movement

louis vuitton escale time only movement caseback

If you’re thinking that this view looks familiar, you’d be right. The LFT023 in the back of the new Escale Time-Only is the same movement you’ll find in the brand’s new Tambour. Louis Vuitton and Le Cercle des Horlogers worked on this movement together, adapting it from the latter’s CH200.CHSA that forms the base of some Speake-Marin movements. The 22k micro-rotor is the visual stand-out here, but I’m particularly fond of the finishing on the machine-frosted bridges with raised, polished edges. It separates the LFT023 from other, similarly priced offerings as something unique.

Regarding the specifications, the LFT023’s Etachron-equipped balance beats at 4Hz for up to 50 hours, and rather than certifying it through COSC, Louis Vuitton obtained chronometry certification via the Geneva Observatory. While the governing body may be different, the ISO 3159 standard the LFT023 has been tested against has essentially the same set of parameters as COSC, the latter being based on the ISO standard.

The verdict

louis vuitton escale time only meteorite wrist

The new Escale Time-Only is the latest in a slew of releases that don’t really subscribe to a particular wearing situation, instead existing primarily as design-driven pieces. Think of watches like the Czapek Promenade, Hermés Cut, and even the Gérald Genta Gentissima Oursin alongside the latest Escale, and you’ll start to get what I mean. The Escale Time-Only feels to me like the kind of watch that won’t need a particular occasion as an excuse to put it on, like a chunky diver might. Instead, you’ll just want to wear it because it’s cool.

It perhaps isn’t the most groundbreaking novelty we’ve seen come out of Louis Vuitton’s workshops, but its simple shape and understated looks (discounting the gem-set piece) expand the brand’s offering to be even more compelling. It feels refined enough to seem like a second or third generation after a significant model redesign, where slow evolution, rather than revolution, is key.

Louis Vuitton Escale Time-Only Automatic pricing and availability

The Louis Vuitton Escale Time-Only Automatic is available now. Price: US$26,400 (rose gold), US$35,500 (platinum), POA (platinum, diamond-set)

Brand Louis Vuitton
Model Escale Time-Only Automatic
Reference W3PG11
Case Dimensions 39mm (D) x 10mm (T) (W3PG11, W3PG21, W3PT11)
40.5mm (D) x 10.7mm (T) (W3PT3Y)
Case Material 18k rose gold (W3PG11, W3PG21)
Platinum (W3PT11)
Platinum, diamond-set (W3PT3Y)
Water Resistance 50 metres
Crystal(s) Sapphire front and back
Dial Silver (W3PG11)
Blue (W3PG21)
Meteorite (W3PT11)
Onyx (W3PT3Y)
Strap Calf leather, case-matching pin buckle
Calf leather, diamond-set platinum folding clasp (W3PT3Y)
Movement LFT023, Le Cercle des Horlogers CH200.CHSA base, micro-rotor automatic, ISO 3159-certified
Power Reserve 50 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds
Availability Now
Price US$26,400 (rose gold)
US$35,500 (platinum)
POA (platinum, diamond-set)