For 2024, Louis Vuitton introduces a lovely limited-edition set of watches known as the Escale Cabinet of Wonders, which includes three models, including Koi’s Garden, Snake’s Jungle, and Dragon’s Cloud. In addition to introducing a new Escale case design (which will be more in focus later in the year for Louis Vuitton), this limited-edition Escale Cabinet of Wonders set celebrates the new “La Fabrique des Arts” portion of Louis Vuitton’s Geneva-based La Fabrique du Temps luxury watch manufacture. This Arts department is where in-house staff members perform a host of traditional artistic techniques ranging from engraving, miniature painting, stone and gem-setting, guilloché engraving, and more. Louis Vuitton has been rapidly beefing up this department by fully employing some of its freelance artisans, while also developing an in-house training program to share and spread the skills among the artisan team. This trio of limited-edition Escale Cabinet of Wonders watches are excellent examples of what the artists at Las Fabrique des Arts are capable of, including dials that feature hand-engraving, hand enamel painting, and some elements of stone- and gem-setting.

Visually, the theme of these Escale Cabinet of Wonders watches is Asiatic and inspired by the personal interests of Gaston-Louis Vuitton. Gaston-Louis Vuitton was the grandson of the original founder of Louis Vuitton and ran the company from 1907 until 1970. Gaston was quite the character in a lot of ways, including the fact that he was a very serious collector in a way that modern enthusiasts can probably relate to. Rarely is the watch community able to get into the minds and lives of important historical personalities like this. Gaston-Louis Vuitton was also highly artistically minded. He was obsessed with typography (as are many of us) and even created many of his own logos and monograms. In fact, the “GLV” monogram on the face of these watches was designed by Gaston himself. These watches are the first time that Louis Vuitton has used the Gaston-Louis Vuitton monogram, and we will see if it shows up again in future models.

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One item that Gaston liked to collect was Japanese tsubas (he reportedly acquired over 800 of them). These are oval-shaped pieces of engraved metal used as handguards on traditional Japanese katana blades. This, and Gaston’s fondness for a range of Asian art, inspired the visual direction of the dial and case designs for the Escale Cabinet of Wonders watches. Another sword-inspired element of the watches is the strap, which has an interesting leather weave reminiscent of the handle of Japanese katanas. The case and movement engravings are further inspired by decor that would have been found on tsubas and other Japanese crafts. More so, each of the three Escale Cabinet of Wonders watches has a slightly different engraved texture/pattern on the watch cases and movement to add variety to these high-end timepiece treats.

On the dial, we have a more pan-Asian visual theme that moves away from Japan and extends toward China. That makes sense given that, while Louis Vuitton does very well commercially in Japan, China is a market that is clearly important to major players in the luxury industry. Thus, the dial designs are intended to appeal to multiple markets in Asia and collectors who appreciate these themes. Accordingly, we have dials that celebrate koi fish, an Asiatic-style dragon (more China-focused), and a beautiful tropical snake (more focused on nature and regions around the tropics).

Each of the Escale Cabinet of Wonders dials includes a prominent motif of the Gaston-Louis Vuitton monogram that he designed himself. My instinct tells me that he was inspired by the Yin-Yang motif. The position and coloration of the monograph differ depending on the case design, but it is clearly a focal point of the dials in addition to the hand-engraved creatures. From a craft perspective, the dial (and case) engraving and painting are excellent. The detailing is immaculate and the overall compositions are both elegant and attractive. I can’t see anyone gazing at these creations and not immediately being impressed by them (even if the style isn’t for you). Louis Vuitton claims that each of the watch dials requires around 150 hours of work to create, hence why these timepieces command serious luxury prices. For those more interested in the particular artistic techniques used for each of the dials, Louis Vuitton has produced some really nice information explaining the process and showing the various stages of crafting.

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Powering the watches is the still-fresh Louis Vuitton caliber LFT023 automatic mechanical movement. This movement debuted in 2023 when Louis Vuitton relaunched the Tambour family as a new model with an integrated bracelet. Inside the Escale Cabinet of Wonders watches, the movement’s bridges have a different decoration style, but these are the same movements from a performance perspective. Relatively thin in size, the LFT023 operates at 4Hz with about 50 hours of power reserve. On these watches, the dials only display the time with minutes and hours. The movements have 22k gold automatic micro-rotors and can be viewed through a sapphire crystal window on the rear of the watches.

We also see the new Escale case which is quite comfortable and elegant on the wrist. This case shape has features inspired by Louis Vuitton trunks, including the metal hardware on corners and other places on the trunks. That explains the design of the lug structures. Two of the Escale Cabinet of Wonders watches are in 18k white gold, while the Dragon’s Cloud is in 18k rose gold. Each also has a unique material for the cabochon in the crown. The watch cases are 40mm wide, about 12mm thick, and water resistant to 50 meters. Despite the lavish design of these watch dials and cases, they are easily comfortable enough for daily wear and robust enough not to worry about damaging a delicate mechanism.

Louis Vuitton will continue to impress with what it can do at its growing La Fabrique des Arts department, and this trio of limited-edition watches is just a reminder of its capabilities at the outset of 2024. This is the same department that also does a lot of personalization and customization work for Louis Vuitton’s most elite timepiece clients. Each of the three Escale Cabinet of Wonders watches will be a limited edition of 20 pieces and includes the reference W3WG11 Koi’s Garden, the reference W3WG21 Snake’s Jungle, and the W3PG41 Dragon’s Cloud. Price for each is $269,000 USD. Learn more at the Louis Vuitton website.

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