For this eccentric collection of watches honoring Gaston-Louis Vuitton, the brand enlisted an impressive lineup of artisans for the job. The Escale Cabinet of Wonders is a trilogy consisting of Koi’s Garden, Snake’s Jungle, and Dragon’s Cloud. All three watches pay homage to Louis Vuitton’s grandson Gaston-Louis, who held a role in the company from 1907 till 1970. Before diving into these three magnificent pieces of art, it makes perfect sense to discover where today’s Louis Vuitton High Watchmaking department got its inspiration.

Gaston-Louis Vuitton

Gaston-Louis Vuitton once said during an interview that he was almost born in a trunk. Of course, he was referring to his grandfather Louis and father Georges’s travel goods business. He started working at Louis Vuitton in 1907, in his early 20s. In 1936, after his father Georges passed, Gaston-Louis became the third-generation leader of the Louis Vuitton company.

Japanese tsubas depicted in Cabinet of Wonders: The Gaston-Louis Vuitton Collection

A passion for collecting rare objects

In addition to photography, lithography, and the arts, Gaston-Louis Vuitton was passionate about collecting rare and artistic objects. A book called Cabinet Of Wonders: The Gaston-Louis Vuitton Collection highlights many pieces from the huge collection of objects he gathered during his lifetime. Part of his collection consisted of over 800 antique tsubas. Admittedly, I had no idea what those were, even though I have watched Quintin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movie(s) at least a few times. I found out that a tsuba is an elaborate hand guard for a Japanese katana (sword). Gaston-Louis Vuitton’s antique tsuba collection inspired the design and symbolism of the new Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders trilogy introduced earlier this month in the beautiful surroundings of Megève in France.

Marie Boutteçon and a team of highly skilled artists

These three new Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders watches are in the spirit of Gaston-Louis Vuitton and bear his self-designed monogram on the dials. The inspiration from the tsubas found their way into the watches, which feature artisanal work from several renowned artists, including Eddy Jaquet (engraving), Fanny Queloz (damascening), Rose Saneuil (marquetry), and Vanessa Lecci (enameling). They all worked with La Fabrique des Arts Louis Vuitton under the direction of Marie Boutteçon, a designer of métiers d’art timepieces. Boutteçon not only designs these watches for Louis Vuitton but also counts Christophe Claret and Parmigiani Fleurier, among others, on her list of clients.

Marie Boutteçon — Image: Marie Boutteçon

Her father (Jérôme Boutteçon) was a master of wood marquetry and worked on watches from Cartier, Jaeger-Lecoultre, and Patek Philippe. Because of this, Marie Boutteçon was exposed to watchmaking from a young age.

Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders Koi's Garden

Koi’s Garden

A whole 150 hours of manual work went into the dial of this white gold Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders Koi’s Garden watch. It features a mainplate engraved to look like swirling water underneath two circling carp. Surrounding the carp are pebbles of smoky quartz and rock crystal. In addition, diamond-set pebbles create the effect of shimmering sunlight on the water. Simulating ripples in the water are pebbles of rock crystal over mother-of-pearl discs with engraved LV Monogram Flowers. What’s most mesmerizing, though, are the two white gold carp. After being manually engraved, they undergo a kiln-firing process to establish a dark oxide color that gives them more depth.

Translucent blue lacquer

To create the sheen of the carp’s scales, parts of the oxide layer are carefully removed, allowing the white gold to show through. Lastly, an artisan specializing in miniature painting coats the carp with a translucent blue lacquer. At 6 o’clock, there’s the GLV monogram made of white gold and set with onyx. The dial features 105 brilliant-cut diamonds, totaling 0.24 carats.

Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders Koi's Garden

This Koi’s Garden ref. W3WG11 has an 18K white gold case measuring 40mm in diameter and 12.04mm thick. Its flanks boast an engraved Japanese wave motif, and the octagonal crown even features an onyx insert. You will find the “1 of 20” engraving on the perimeter of the transparent case back. The Koi’s Garden watch comes on a blue hand-braided calf leather strap inspired by katana handles. Befitting the case, the buckle is 18K white gold and engraved with the Japanese wave motif.

The movement for all three watches is the same caliber LFT023. This is the proprietary micro-rotor automatic caliber we find in the new Tambour, but here, its bridges display an engraved Japanese wave motif. This caliber beats at a 28,800vph frequency and offers a power reserve of 50 hours.

Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders Snake's Jungle

Snake’s Jungle

In a bamboo forest, a snake opens its jaws toward the GLV monogram crafted in gold and nephrite jade. The base of the scenery (or dial) is a composition of four wood types, two types of parchment, and three colors of straw, all masterfully combined using marquetry techniques. In this incredibly complex puzzle consisting of 367 individual pieces, there are even 14 different shades of green.

Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders Snake's Jungle

The Snake’s Jungle shows a serpent made using micro-sculpturing, engraving, and champlevé enameling techniques. The 3D body of the serpent is 18K white gold decorated with engraved V-strokes and, once again, Monogram Flowers.

Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders Snake's Jungle dial close-up

The colorful surface of the serpent is the result of the champlevé enameling technique. It displays beautiful shades of green and blue, perfectly blending into the jungle scene.

Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders Snake's Jungle case side

This reference W3WG21 also has a 40mm 18K white gold case with a 12.04mm thickness. This time, however, it has a hand-engraved bezel and a crown set with a nephrite jade stone. The Louis Vuitton Snake’s Jungle comes on a green hand-braided calf leather strap with a white gold pin buckle engraved with — you guessed it — a Japanese wave motif.

Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders Dragon's Cloud

Dragon’s Cloud

The last watch in this trilogy is also the only one made of yellow and rose gold. The 40mm case is 18K rose gold and has the Japanese wave motif engraved on the case band. The base plate of the dial is hammered to achieve a matte finish, and then grooves are cut to make room for yellow and rose gold wires. The gold dragon is engraved, and the surfaces combine polished and matte finishes.

As you can see in the picture, the dragon boasts enameled scales. These are partially executed with the paillonné enameling technique. This involves using thin sheets of gold foil between the translucent enamel layers, resulting in vivid, brilliant colors. The scales of the dragon also feature applied yellow gold Monogram Flowers, matching the gold of the engraved dragon and the wires.

Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders Dragon's Cloud pocket shot

At 9 o’clock on this dial, we find the GLV monogram, this time made of gold and deep red cornelian. Lastly, the dragon’s eye is a ruby cabochon weighing 0.03 carats.

Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders Dragon's Cloud

The case dimensions of this reference W3PG41 are equal to those of the other two watches. Matching the GLV monogram, the crown also features cornelian stone. The Dragon’s Cloud has a brown hand-braided calf leather strap with an 18K rose gold pin buckle.

A tribute to the mastery of traditional decorative techniques

Louis Vuitton Escale Cabinet of Wonders Collection is for the lucky few (well, 60 of them), and it wouldn’t surprise me if several clients purchased all three references. These are pieces of art, and I appreciate the craftsmanship and artisanal skills of the people mentioned above. Marie Boutteçon did an amazing job designing these watches that honor Gaston-Louis Vuitton. As she said on her Instagram account, “This trilogy of timepieces is a tribute to pure art, craftsmanship, and mastery of traditional decorative techniques that I cherish.” I think that sums it up pretty well.

All three watches have a retail price of US$269,000. For more information, visit Louis Vuitton’s official website.