Louis Vuitton brings a new redesigned Escale Collection with time-only watches

The release of the new trunk-inspired timepieces celebrates the collection’s 10th anniversary
After reviving the signature Tambour watch last year, Louis Vuitton is reintroducing another emblematic line that was released in 2014 - the Escale collection. Though the first generation Escale featured Worldtimers, it is now extended with six new time-only dressy novelties. There are two rose gold models done in blue or silvery dial tone, one platinum version with meteorite dial, a high jewelry model in platinum with an onyx dial as well as two special limited editions with a 50-piece rose gold model (a tribute to Gaston-Louis Vuitton), and a 100-piece platinum model with guilloché and grand feu enamel dial.  

With the Tambour serving as Louis Vuitton’s benchmark integrated bracelet sport watch, the next move was naturally a dress watch. We are experiencing a dress watch renaissance with a slew of notable pieces like Chopard’s L.U.C 1860 reissue, the Rolex 1908, Patek’s 6119G/6119R Calatrava, and pieces from just about every Cartier collection such as Tank Chinoise or Cloche De Cartier. And then there are the indie offerings like Moser’s Endeavour and the revived Parmigiani Toric Petite Seconde. Indeed it’s a crowded field out there for enthusiasts in the market for a dress watch that checks all the boxes from case construction and proportion, dial quality, attention to movement finishing, and so on.

So, the question here is: where does the new Louis Vuitton Escale fit in? While only time can tell when it comes to how enthusiasts and collectors react at a commercial level, Louis Vuitton’s substantial investment in their watchmaking division is certainly on display with the new Escale. For now let’s get into some context and, more importantly, take a closer look at the hard product. 

The word “Escale” is French for “stopover” (as in layover) and the collection has always been intimately rooted in Louis Vuitton’s iconic trunks and luggage, and by extension the worldtimer connect. The new Escale case seems simple enough, measuring 39mm wide and 10mm thick but a closer look reveals many small touches and details that add substance and some nuance while echoing the previous generation. Of course, these touches hearken back to Louis Vuitton — as in the man before the brand  — and the trunkmaking that established his legacy in the mid-nineteenth century. You can see the angled lugs with plates affixed to the case band that extend into the center case adorned with those rivets that are a callback to the brackets that were used to reinforce the historic trunks that inspire the collection. 

Where previous Escale watches like the Time Zone and Spin Time Tourbillon largely stuck to this lug design insofar as embracing the namesake theme, this new generation benefits from leaning further into it. There are hand-applied indices at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock on each of the models, with this design language also evoking the aforementioned brass brackets affixed to the trunks. These markers actually utilize rivets which hold the central and outer ring of the dial in place. Speaking of the minuterie outer rings, these are adorned with round studs inspired by the nails on the Lozine which is the vulcanized fiber used on LV trunks. And while it is nothing too major in terms of design or aesthetic, there is the text denoting “Paris” right on the dial beneath the Louis Vuitton text at 12 o’clock.

Also note the return of the octagonal crown with alternating fluting and polished edges and a domed face finished with the LV monogram. The polishing on the crown, lugs, and bezel play against the brushed case band very nicely and lend some much appreciated visual contrast. Finally, there is a special plate (well, a cartouche if you want to keep it en français) riveted onto the case back that has the watch’s unique serial number. This is —you guessed it— a nod to the engraved serial number plates found on their historic trunks.

This latest Escale has redesigned hour and minutes hands which are intended to resemble tapered needles and are quite similar, if not the same, as the hands used on the exceedingly lust worthy Akrivia X Louis Vuitton LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie collaboration done with Rexhep Rexhepi in late 2023. The hands are faceted and polished but do not fall victim to the curse of glare-ridden illegibility that can come with polishing. One critique I have to offer is that I wish the hands were a tiny bit longer, perhaps with the hour hand’s reach extending to the base of the hour indices and the minute hand’s reach extending to the studs on the outer ring. That said, the seconds hand tip is shaped to follow the downward curve of the dial which is an impressive technique that also helps increase accuracy by minimizing parallax error. Further, the seconds hand is actually done in PVD-coated titanium rather than gold which requires special tools in order to not mark the surface of such a thin and curved hand.

The rose gold models come in a textured dial that evokes the grain of the brand’s ubiquitous monogram canvas. Done in either a rich deep blue or silvery dial tone, both have matching rose gold accents throughout the case and dial details with preference between the two really being a matter of taste. While I assume the blue dial will naturally draw a lot of attention, I admit to having a fondness for the subtlety and relative discretion of the silver dial. The platinum Escale takes an entirely different approach with a meteorite dial that quite cleverly takes advantage of the patterns and designs that were naturally formed in some distant corner of space. This is not the first time we see this celestially-sourced dial material used as there was the previous generation Escale Spin Time Meteorite which was nominated in the Men’s Complication category at the 2020 GPHG. And while gender classification was just mentioned, it is worth noting that Louis Vuitton is marketing the new Escale collection as unisex which just makes sense.

Just as with the redesigned Tambour, the new Escale collection uses the caliber LFT023 micro-rotor chronometer certified movement. Conceived and developed by the dynamic duo of Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasisni of La Fabrique du Temps, this movement also has the handiwork of La Chaux-de-Fonds- based Lès Cercle des Horlogers which is a small movement manufacture owned by Christelle Rosnoblet (also CEO of Speake-Marin). The LFT023 operates at 4 Hz with a 50-hour power reserve and an accuracy of -4/+6 seconds per day, boasting the Geneva Chronometric Observatory certification issued by the TIMELAB Foundation who also happen to issue the Geneva Seal.

The movement finishing is quite well done with the hand-engraved and polished 22k gold micro-rotor adorned with a repeating pattern inspired by the LV monogram set above the perlaged baseplate. I am once again impressed with the sandblasted and grained bridges that are framed with the polished and chamfered edges. Applied text, black polished screws, and clear sapphire jewels add small but potent enhancements to the finish. I am, however, left feeling tepid by the Etachron regulator. 

While it might have been an acceptable position some years back, the knock against “fashion” or “jewelry” brands as serious watchmakers is — with all due respect— a fairly obtuse position. In the case of Louis Vuitton, the integration of La Fabrique du Temps and serious investment in resources is a long-term play. The revamped Louis Vuitton Escale collection will be the only new addition to their core collection this year and is priced at Rs. 22,98,000 (approx.) in rose gold and Rs. 30,90,000 (approx.) in platinum.

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