For 2024, Louis Vuitton continues its contemporary luxury watchmaking journey with a newly revised version of the Escale case collection. This month, Louis Vuitton formally launches the Escale Time-Only Automatic Caliber LFT023 in a few versions that feature 18k gold or platinum cases. The Escale case is directly inspired by the look and hardware of Louis Vuitton’s famous trunks. Until recently that only included discreet elements on the case such as the lugs – which evoked the look of the brass metal corners and other connectors used for generations on Louis Vuttion trunks and boxes. F0r 2024, Louis Vuitton’s in-house designer at its Geneva-based La Fabrique du Temps revised and updated the Escale with a new dial that further evokes, in a very elegant manner, the strong legacy of Louis Vuitton’s trunk business.

The updated Escale case was introduced in an earlier 2024 Louis Vuitton timepiece collection, each with lavish handmade artistic dials. Now with the more down-to-earth but still luxurious Escale Automatic watches, we can see the complimentary dials that Louis Vuitton designed to go with the updated Escale case. Matthieu Hegi, designer and artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s watches, told me that he wanted to blend classicism with Louis Vuitton’s trunk hardware in a way that was classy but deliberate. The goal was to create a timeless design that feels like it has always been there but is distinct for Louis Vuitton and visually references the deeper “design codes” of the brand. Doing that is incredibly hard, and I think he and his team did a nice job.

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The Escale Time-Only Automatic dials may look simple, but there are lots of impressive designs down to the materials used and the precise finishes that the team was able to achieve. The result is a dial that is both legible and deep-feeling, in a watch that isn’t too large and is rather comfortable to wear on a regular basis. The most “trunk-evocative” elements on the dial are the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock hour markers. As connectors, they visually connect the outer peripheral ring of the dial with the inner more decorative ring. The outer ring is “vintage inspired” in the sense that it relies on small applied dots for the minute markers. Louis Vuitton also claims that these points are meant to recall the pin-like nails that are still hand-hammered into most Louis Vuitton trunks. You can see two versions of the inner dial with the gray meteorite version paired with the platinum case model, and the textured-leather look of the middle dial on the 18k rose gold model of the Escale. Louis Vuitton says this style is meant to suggest the surface texture of many of their monogram bag materials. The brilliance of the dials is that they don’t necessarily seem like much at first, but their appeal grows on you over time as you appreciate the easy readability, lack of excessive elements, and the subtle decoration and focus on quality where it is appropriate.

The Escale case itself is 39mm wide, about 9mm thick (about 10mm thick with the crystal), and with a roughly 46mm long lug-to-lug distance with 50 meters of water resistance. Each case is given a unique serial number on a special plaque placed on the rear of the case around the periphery. Over the dial is a slightly domed AR-coated sapphire crystal, and attached to the cases are form-fitted high-quality leather straps of various colors. I need to add that the pin buckles on the straps are gorgeous in their elegance. From a fashion perspective, Louis Vuitton clearly got these elements about the Escale correct. More so, even though these are — in the classic sense — dress watches, their role in fashion has changed today. These are watches meant to easily fit with a suit and tie but are intended to be dressed down with casual upscale attire anytime the wearer chooses. The exception, of course, is the platinum Escale Time-Only Automatic model that, with its monochromatic black and gray hues, seems to be intended to be paired with a tuxedo. Louis Vuitton is worn on red carpets quite often, so even this [today] rarified look will get plenty of use within the brand.

Powering the watches is the still-fresh in-house 147-component Louis Vuitton La Fabrique du Temps caliber LFT023 micro-rotor automatic. Louis Vuitton debuted this movement when relaunching the Tambour watches in 2023 (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here). There are some cosmetic changes to the bridges and finishes, but the Tambour and Escale share the same in-house engines built by the company’s La Fabrique du Temps facility in Geneva. The LFT023 movement is a time-only mechanism that operates at 4Hz with 50 hours of power reserve. The micro-rotor is 22k gold, and the overall finishing is very nice. I especially like the engraved texture on the micro-rotor’s surface. The watches I shot for this article were non-working versions, but I have worn other watches with this movement, and it performs pretty well. The caliber LFT023 is also a Chronometer. Interestingly, the Chronometer certification rating is presented by the Geneva Chronometric Observatory, as opposed to COSC.

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While not all of them will be made public, Louis Vuitton has also launched much fancier versions of the Escale Time-Only Automatic that include gem-set cases and other precious stone options. This type of case and dial platform afford Louis Vuitton a lot of creative liberty to add stones and use the dial for other forms of craftsmanship and artwork. I fully expect Louis Vuitton to base a number of models and pièce uniques on the new 39mm Escale case. It is unclear how “entry-level” the collection may be as there are no steel versions, but I wouldn’t rule that out for the future. Price for the Louis Vuitton Escale Time-Only Automatic reference W3PG11 (pictured 18k rose gold version with silver dial) and W3PG21 (18k rose gold version with blue dial) is $27,500 USD. Price for the platinum case with meteorite dial reference W3PT11 is $37,000 USD. Learn more at the Louis Vuitton website here.

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