Louis Vuitton Returns to the Escale Wristwatch

Subtle and refined details.

Louis Vuitton is steadily rebuilding its watch collecting, reorienting the offerings towards more designs with thoughtful details and decoration. Having already redesigned the Tambour, the brand now debuts the Escale Time-Only Automatic.

Returning to a case design that’s been in the Louis Vuitton catalogue for well over the decade, the new Escale is a no-frills three-hander with discreet references to the brand’s trunks incorporated into the aesthetic.

Initial thoughts

I’ve long been a fan of the Escale case – we covered the Escale Worldtime over a decade ago – because it is simple, distinctive, and wears well.

The signature Escale models in the past, however, were world time models with extravagantly multicoloured dials. The aesthetic was typical, over-the-top Louis Vuitton. I liked them, a lot in fact, but they were not for everyone, and certainly not easily legible.

The new Escale, on the other hand, is a practical watch that is legible but thoughtfully designed with discreet details that evoke Louis Vuitton’s trunks.

It retains the same case but with a discreet, three-hand dial. Extravagant it is not, but it has wider appeal.

Inside is the same LFT023 found in the Tambour, so movement-wise it has the same strengths and weaknesses. The movement is thin and attractively styled, but could do with more refined details, like the regulator index for instance.

Though not perfect (or entirely in-house), the LFT023 compares well against the ETA 2892 found in the original Escale models, reflecting the rapid advancement of Louis Vuitton’s watch division. Moreover, the LFT023 feels to me like an in-between calibre that’s merely a stop along the journey towards vertical integration and an eventual movement made in house.

The Escale is similar to the Tambour in terms of pricing as well. It is smartly positioned next to the likes of H. Moser & Cie. but below Patek Philippe in the price spectrum, making it a reasonable proposition.

Discreet detailing

The case of the new Escale is essentially identical to that of the original, retaining the same compact dimensions of 39 mm by 10.34 mm (and a bit slimmer not counting the domed crystal).

Fairly simple on its front, the Escale case is best appreciated in profile, where the lugs and crown reveal themselves.

Inspired by the riveted brass corners found on Louis Vuitton trunks, the lugs are a distinctive detail that refine the design. They polished and contrast against the brushed flanks of the case.

Similarly, the octagonal crown is modelled on a single brass rivet, and it in turn inspired the crown of the Louis Vuitton x Rexhep Rexhepi LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie.

Unlike the original Escale that limited the trunk detailing to the case, the new Escale cleverly integrates the same elements into the dial.

The hour markers at the quarters feature actual rivets that secure them to the dial, while the engraved dots on the minute scale evoke the nails on the frame of a trunk.

Made primarily of two parts, the centre and chapter ring, the dial in all its variants features solid gold hands and applied markers.

The sections of the dial, hands, and markers can each be varied to create the different versions, all of which are surprisingly different, reflecting the modularity of the dial construction.

The top of the line version is a polished black onyx dial with a silvered chapter ring and brilliant-cut diamonds on the hour markers. This black-tie variant also sports a bezel set with baguette-cut diamonds to complete the look.

Also in platinum is the model with a meteorite dial centre that gives the watch a monochromatic yet varied look. Although everything is in shades of silver and grey, the different textures and surface finishing make it interesting.

And finally the more affordable versions include a pair in pink gold with a grained dial in either silver or blue, with the blue being notably striking.

All versions of the Escale are powered by the LFT023 that’s chronometer certified by the Geneva Observatory. Almost identical to the calibre found inside the Tambour (the only difference being the seconds), the LFT023 was developed in collaboration with Le Cercle des Horlogers.

The movement specialist has supplied the architecture that underpins the LFT023 to other brands so the layout is familiar, but the calibre has been substantially customised for Louis Vuitton.

Amongst the notable details are the relief markings and borders on the frosted bridges, the clear jewels, and the engine-turned solid-gold micro-rotor.

It’s an attractive movement in terms of aesthetics, save for the Etachron regulator index that should be replaced with something more refined.

Key specs and price

Louis Vuitton Escale Time-Only Automatic
Ref. W3PG11 (rose gold with silver dial)
Ref. W3PG21 (rose gold with blue dial)
Ref. W3PT11 (platinum with meteorite dial)
Ref. W3PT3Y (platinum with onyx dial and diamond-set bezel)

Diameter: 39 mm (model with diamond-set bezel is 41 mm)
Height: 10.34 mm (model with diamond-set bezel is 12.74 mm high)
Material: 18k rose gold or platinum
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: LFT023
Features: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 50 hours

Strap: Leather with pin buckle

Limited edition: No 
 At Louis Vuitton boutiques
Price: 18k rose gold €29,000; platinum with meteorite dial €39,000; platinum with baguette-cut diamonds €150,000

Prices exclude taxes

For more, visit Louisvuitton.com.


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RGM Unveils the Model 25 “Birds of America (Glossy Ibis)”

After Audubon’s magnum opus.

RGM Watch Co. recently bestowed an artisanal touch on its time-only Model 25 with the “Birds of America (Glossy Ibis)” with a mother-of-pearl dial featuring a miniature painting that reproduces a drawing from John James Audubon’s famous book of the same name. Notably, the Birds of America is also equipped with an ETA calibre upgraded by RGM to have a power reserve that’s 30% longer.

Initial thoughts

RGM was historically a guilloche specialist – notably the brand does traditional engine turning in house – so the Birds of America is a logical diversification that continues the brand’s speciality. Though the artisan responsible for the miniature painting is unnamed, the dial is impressively rendered with a skilful depiction of the bird. The details of the ibis are practically as vivid as in Audubon’s illustration.

Interestingly, the Birds of America is not merely a stylistic exercise. A significant feature is the upgraded ETA 2892 inside that has a 53-56 hour power reserve,  a significant enhancement over the standard 44 hours, which was achieved with in-house upgrades according to RGM. 

This release is priced at U$17,900, and comparable commissions depicting others birds from Audubon’s book will cost similar. It’s more affordable than comparable watches from established Swiss brands, making it a relatively good value proposition.

After Audubon

The latest release is based on a plate depicting the glossy ibis in The Birds of America, the landmark work by French-American artist and naturalist John James Audubon (1785-1851). RGM founder Roland G. Murphy, himself an amateur photographer with a passion for wildlife, chose this particular species for this watch.

RGM is of course not the only brand to have turned to Audubon for inspiration. The best known is the “Birds of America” series made by Vacheron Constantin in the late 1990s that reproduced Audubon’s drawings in cloisonné enamel.

Plate featuring the glossy ibis reproduced in John James Audubon’s Birds of America from 1837. Image – The National Gallery of Art

RGM adapted the artwork to suit the round dial of the time-only Model 25, which is often the base for the brand’s decorative timepieces. According to RGM, the ibis dial was hand-painted on mother-of-pearl by female artisan from France whose identity the brand has not disclosed.

The process starts with the artist sketching an outline on the mother-of-pearl with a pencil. She then fills in segments of the outline with acrylic paint. Following that, the dial is fired in an oven heated to 90°C to set the paint. This cycle is repeated up to 20 times to achieve the vivid colors of the final product.

Except for the painted miniature, the Birds of America retains the elements of the Model 25, including the discreet silver chapter ring with the minute scale.

It also features the same Breguet-inspired case design with a fluted band. The steel case measures 40 mm in diameter and 10.4 mm thick. Unlike more affordable RGM models that rely on imported cases, the Model 25 utilises a case made in the United States.

The watch is equipped with an ETA 2892-A2 that’s been upgraded by RGM. The brand replaces the stock winding system was replaced and modifies the barrel to increase the power reserve to between 53 and 56 hours, compared to 44 hours for a stock ETA 2892-A2. RGM also installs a solid gold rotor made in-house.

Key facts and price

RGM Model 25 “Birds of America (Glossy Ibis)”

Diameter: 40 mm
Height: 10.4 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: Modified ETA 2892-A2
Functions: Hours, minutes and seconds 
 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 53-56 hours

Strap: Leather or rubber strap
Limited edition: No, but custom dials available upon commission
Availability: Direct from RGM Watches
Price: US$17,900 for a comparable custom order

For more, visit rgmwatches.com.


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