Louis Vuitton's Exceptional New Feats of High Watchmaking

a close up of a watch
Louis Vuitton's Exceptional New WatchesCourtesy of Louis Vuitton

Welcome to Dialed In, Esquire's column bringing you horological happenings and the most essential news from the watch world.

Up until relatively recently, watches made by fashion brands weren’t taken seriously by collectors. Even when real efforts were made to put proper movements behind the dials, they lacked the sort of horological wizardry that would get watch nerds salivating. But in a world where corner-cutting is simply not done, some of those fashion brands had bigger ideas—much bigger.

Enter Louis Vuitton. In 2011, the storied luxury house bought La Fabrique du Temps, a small-scale manufacture founded in the suburbs of Geneva just four years earlier by watchmakers Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini. The duo was already working closely with the brand, but as Vuitton decided to up-gear its watchmaking, their expertise was needed in-house. LFT, as it’s known for short, now employs around 200 technicians and watchmakers; its newly expanded headquarters is fast filling with new machinery, watchmakers, and competencies.

One distinct advantage Louis Vuitton has—watchmaking-wise—is a century-and-a-half of untapped history. It is to that rich archive that LV looked for 2024’s most exciting novelties.

the dragon dial
The dragon dial.Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

For a trio of high watchmaking firsts dubbed the Escale Cabinet of Wonders watches, the brand focused on Gaston-Louis Vuitton, the grandson of the company founder who led the company for a staggering 63 years, from 1907 to 1970. A polymath and a passionate collector of art and artifacts, his collection of some 800 tsuba—the ornamental sword guards placed between the hilt and blade—was the inspiration for three new, limited-edition Escale watches.

There are 20 pieces of each intricately decorated design. The first, in white gold, depicts carp. The next, in rose gold, a dragon. And the last, in white gold once again, shows a snake. Each is executed using a different combination of multiple Metier D’Art skills, from marquetry and enameling to damascening to hand engraving. In cases where a particular skill was not covered in-house by LFT, Vuitton looked to acknowledged leaders in these exacting crafts.

a closer look at the snake dial
A closer look at the snake dial.Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

For the first time, Gaston-Louis Vuitton’s personal monogram—which he designed himself early in the 20th century—figures on the dials of each these watches. It’s a strong suggestion that Gaston (and his varied collections) will serve as inspiration for future high watchmaking endeavors. One suspects that the wait will be more than worth it.

Escale Cabinet of Wonders watches (price upon request) by Louis Vuitton.

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