Dragons, Snakes and a Koi Garden: Louis Vuitton’s Escale Cabinet of Wonders Trio is a Master Class in Métiers d’Art

Dragons, Snakes and a Koi Garden: Louis Vuitton’s Escale Cabinet of Wonders Trio is a Master Class in Métiers d’Art

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The Escale Cabinet of Wonders Koi’s Garden depicts a pair of engraved white gold carp swirling in a stream surrounded by smooth pebbles made of gems.
Louis Vuitton

With the launch of a trio of Escale Cabinet of Wonders pieces this week in Megève, France, Louis Vuitton offers a tribute to Gaston-Louis Vuitton, grandson of the founder, who ran the company from 1907 until 1970.

Gaston-Louis was a voracious collector who traveled the world accumulating objects that spoke to his passion for artistry and decorative crafts. This zeal and his fascination with Japanese culture led him to assemble a collection of about 800 antique tsubas (highly decorated Japanese katana sword guards). 

That collection inspired the new trilogy, each limited to 20 pieces (prices upon request), combining an array of métiers d’art, watchmaking’s historic decorative crafts including engraving, enameling, marquetry, and gem setting.  

La Fabrique du Temps, Louis Vuitton’s fine watchmaking department in Geneva, brought together a team of master artisans from both inside and outside the company to execute the fantastical visions of the project’s artistic director Marie Boutteçon, an independent design consultant specializing in métiers d’art timepieces.

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Dragons, Snakes and a Koi Garden: Louis Vuitton’s Escale Cabinet of Wonders Trio is a Master Class in Métiers d’Art

1. Escale Cabinet of Wonders Koi’s Garden

The Escale Cabinet of Wonders Koi’s Garden depicts a pair of engraved white gold carp swirling in a stream surrounded by smooth pebbles made of gems. The serene scene is framed by a 40mm white gold case. 

Koi’s Garden is the result of 150 hours of painstaking handwork. The carp are so finely rendered that each scale and fin is engraved by hand, then fired in a kilnto impart a fine layer of dark oxide to enhance dimensionality before they are hand polished. The final touch is a thin coating of translucent blue lacquer to make them glisten beneath the pond’s surface. 

Amber-colored pebbles are made of smoky quartz and the white pebbles are rock crystal, while blue rock crystal pebbles are topped with mother-of-pearl discs engraved with Louis Vuitton Monogram flowers. Some pebbles are set with diamonds that sparkle like glints of sunlight on the water. 

Dragons, Snakes and a Koi Garden: Louis Vuitton’s Escale Cabinet of Wonders Trio is a Master Class in Métiers d’Art

2. Escale Cabinet of Wonders Snake’s Jungle

The backdrop of the Snake’s Jungle piece is made up of 367 hand-cut, minuscule pieces.
Louis Vuitton
The Snake’s Jungle piece turns to the bamboo forest, depicting a reticulated serpent in bright shades of green and blue enamel rearing its head with a forked tongue and fangs extended. It appears ready to bite a hovering orb of white gold and nephrite jade that forms the monogram of Gaston-Louis Vuitton. 

Artisans construct the surrounding bamboo forest with marquetry of four varieties of wood, two types of parchment, and three shades of straw. A total of 367 minuscule pieces are hand-cut and seamlessly assembled like a miniature jigsaw puzzle to create the verdant backdrop. 

The imposing serpent is created using a combination of micro-sculpture, engraving and champlevé enameling. To imbue a sense of motion, its coils are sculpted according to the rules of perspective, while its scales are hollowed out and decorated with engraved V strokes and Monogram flowers. Meanwhile a spray of bamboo leaves spills off the dial and onto the white gold 40mm case. 

Dragons, Snakes and a Koi Garden: Louis Vuitton’s Escale Cabinet of Wonders Trio is a Master Class in Métiers d’Art

3. Escale Cabinet of Wonders Dragon’s Cloud

The Dragon’s Cloud dial plate is hammered to a matte finish, with grooves cut for the inlay of yellow- and rose-gold wires in undulating lines.
Louis Vuitton
Completing the trilogy is the 40mm rose gold Dragon’s Cloud, depicting an Asian dragon in its natural habitat amid the clouds clutching a carnelian-set GLV monogram in its talons.

To set the scene, artisans use a rare technique known as damascening, which involves inlaying metals of contrasting colors to create a layered appearance. The dial plate is hammered to a matte finish, and then grooves are cut for the inlay of yellow- and rose-gold wires in undulating lines.

The yellow-gold dragon and surrounding clouds are engraved and finished with a combination of polished and matte surfaces. The mythical animal’s scales are enameled in solid black at the top, while at the bottom, the scales are adorned with the Monogram flower motif, created using paillonné enamel. This extremely delicate technique suspends tiny gold leaf spangles (or paillons) in layers of translucent enamel. The dragon’s glowing red eye is a cabochon-cut ruby secured by a fold of its golden eyelid.

The trio’s case middles and buckles are further embellished with three variations of engraved Seigaiha waves, representing the ocean in traditional Japanese iconography. Associated with good fortune and well-being, this ancient talismanic motif is echoed on the bridges of the chronometer-standard manufacturer cal. LFT023 movement. Meanwhile, complementary hand-braided calf-leather straps echo the braided leather hilts of Japanese katana swords. 

In addition to the Escale Cabinet of Wonders pieces, Louis Vuitton also presented the Tambour Moon Flying Tourbillon Sapphire Frank Gehry, a unique piece produced in collaboration with the renowned architect. The entirely transparent sapphire crystal flying tourbillon took inspiration from Gehry’s work at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris and the Louis Vuitton Maison Seoul. 

A duo of Tambour Slim Vivienne pieces combine a jumping hour display with colorful métiers d’art to express themes of Japan’s famous blossoming cherry trees and space exploration.

Finally, the Voyager Flying Tourbillon Poinçon de Genève Plique-à-Jour puts a contemporary spin on the age-old enameling technique of plique-à-jour, which evokes a stained glass window. The panes of tinted translucent enamel showcase the flying tourbillon movement developed at La Fabrique du Temps, which also crafted the dial entirely in-house.

Keywords: Dragons | Snakes | Koi Garden | Louis Vuitton | Master class | Watch | Métiers d’Art

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