A Look Inside Louis Vuitton’s Masterful Escale Cabinet Of Wonders

Welcome to the Cabinet of Wonders, Louis Vuitton’s horological realm. It’s a place of imagination and fantasy, and new to its dreamscape is a trilogy of extraordinary limited-edition Escale wrist watches inspired by the personal collections of Gaston-Louis Vuitton (the grandchild of the eponymous founder who ran the company for more than 60 years). 

This métiers d’art collection finds its point of departure in the aesthete’s personal collection of fine and rare objects. This included a selection of 800 or so antiquated tsubas (elaborately decorated Japanese katana sword guards remarkable for their concentration of craftsmanship in pocket-sized dimensions) that directly influenced the tiny universes and symbolism of the Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders.

The first in the series, the Koi’s Garden, depicts two exquisitely detailed carps sculpted from white gold in a swirling waltz amid the gentle eddies of a clear stream, surrounded by multi-hue pebbles of smoky quartz, rock crystal and diamond seemingly worn smooth by the ripples of time. Darkened by the oxidising kiln-firing stage before receiving a coat of translucent blue lacquer that truly brings the marine creatures to life, they glisten in the light the way a living fish would. Sculpted from gold and set with onyx, Gaston-Louis Vuitton’s personal monogram can be found at the six o’clock position. The whole tableau is layered over a mother-of-pearl disc engraved with Louis Vuitton Monogram flowers while the undulating lines of water are hand-engraved on a white-gold dial plate. 

The second wonder is a more savage, more viscous timepiece that’s been aptly entitled the Snake’s Jungle. Venturing to the wild heart of a verdant bamboo forest that’s actually crafted from a composition of wood, parchment and straw hand-assembled using marquetry techniques, Louis Vuitton lands on the serpent. Using a mix of micro-sculpture, reticulated engraving and champlevé enamelling techniques for the viper, the slithering white gold animal, cast in jewel-bright hues of blue and green rears its head with its forked tongue and fangs extended. Its mesmerising gaze is fixed on a hovering GLV monogram orb of gold and nephrite jade. As a “potent allegory of untamed Nature”, the bamboo leaves burst out of their glass confines and spill out onto the white-gold case. 

Finally, Dragon’s Cloud shows a majestic rose gold dragon clutching a carnelian-set GLV monogram in its fierce talons while the glare of its cabochon-cut ruby eyes entrances the wearer. Its scales are enamelled and adorned with gold monogram flower paillons, with the lower half of its body distinguished by the use of paillonné (an extremely rare form of enamel containing tiny pieces of gold leaf (known as paillons) suspended between layers of translucent veneers). An equally rare technique known as damascening is applied to the traditional habitat of the Asian dragon – both sky and sea – and uses contrasting metals to create sense of layering that echoes the organic textures found in nature. Once considered lost arts, both practices signal the immense power and age-old wisdom of the dragon. 

Each watch is limited to 20 pieces only, and are all paired with a calf-leather strap that’s been hand braided to reflect the braided leather hilts of Japanese katana swords, as well as case-sides and gold pin buckles engraved with Seigaiha waves. An exceptional feat of savoir faire resulting in a technically rich tapestry of the natural (and fantastical) world, this Cabinet of Wonders will transport you to a whole new world. 

Photography courtesy of Louis Vuittton. 


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