The New Louis Vuitton High Watchmaking Collection Is An Artistic Horological Showcase

What’s next for Louis Vuitton’s high watchmaking? It is difficult to tell because the brand has gone from surprise to surprise in recent times. From a Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève-winning jacquemart striker to an unexpected collaboration with Akrivia, one of today’s most in-demand independent watchmakers, Louis Vuitton seems to be unafraid of exploring any territory. But between its Genevan manufacture La Fabrique du Temps and artisans who are experts in all sorts of traditional crafts, whether sapphire cased or metiers d’art, it is probably going to be daring, as artistic as it is technical, and unusual.

This year does not disappoint in this regard. As it has for the past few years, Louis Vuitton announced its latest flotilla in the first quarter of 2024. From the seven unveiled timepieces, the arguable highlight is the Voyager Flying Tourbillon Poinçon de Genève Plique-à-jour. The platinum Voyager case—41mm in diameter—is a modern, geometrically inspired one, something between a circle and a square, with the curves of the former but the muscularity of the latter. It is paired with a flying tourbillon movement developed exclusively by La Fabrique du Temps, with a vertical geartrain layout that artfully conceals most of its supporting structure, giving it an illusion of floating in mid-air. It is inscribed with the Poinçon de Genève at 9 o’clock, which denotes that the movement has satisfied a rigorous set of finishing and performance standards. Above this architecture is a striking window of traditional craftsmanship: the plique-a-jour enamel technique was pioneered some 1,500 years ago, and a long and meticulous process has resulted in a vibrant stained-glass effect, supported within a white gold framework of V shapes. The minimalist structure of the calibre lets plenty of light through, which maximises the visual effect of the dial’s translucent sections of blues and greys. Each dial takes around 100 hours to create.

The next timepiece is a big-name collaboration with none other than Frank Gehry, one of the world’s most significant contributors to contemporary architecture. He is best known for his unusual deconstructivism works, such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Dancing House in Prague. Gehry has history with Louis Vuitton, having designed the Fondation Louis Vuitton building in Paris and the Louis Vuitton Maison Seoul in 2019. The partnership continues with the Tambour Moon Flying Tourbillon Poinçon de Genève Sapphire Frank Gehry, which is the first high watchmaking piece the architect has worked on. Its most striking feature is the drum-shaped Tambour case, a Louis Vuitton signature, rendered entirely in sapphire with a 43.8mm diameter. Sapphire is a notoriously difficult material to manipulate and, here, it has been shaped by hand to produce a dial sculpted with asymmetric wave-like patterns inspired by Gehry’s work on Fondation Louis Vuitton. The dial alone takes 250 hours to create and is possibly the most challenging dial created at La Fabrique du Temps. The final result emphasises the interplay of light through the transparent material, lending an unusual, shifting viewpoint to the flying tourbillon movement beneath it. Gehry’s signature adorns the caseback.

On the traditional front is a new trio of Louis Vuitton Escale watches, known as Cabinet of Wonders. Each timepiece is limited to 20 pieces and debuts a new version of the Escale case, though one maintaining its classical roundness and lugs that echo the metal brackets of Louis Vuitton trunks. The designs were inspired by the artefacts in the personal collection of Gaston-Louis Vuitton, one of the brand’s more influential figures, a third-generation scion who led the company from 1907 to 1970. The artefacts in question were a collection of highly decorated antique tsuba, which are the guards on Japanese swords. Each design is an extravagant showcase of sculpting, engraving and miniature painting. The first of these, Koi’s Garden, depicts two blue carp circling each other in an engraved white gold pond, with various crystals and pebbles acting as stones and scintillating rocks. Snake’s Garden features a reticulated serpent decorated with champlevé enamel, over a bamboo forest backdrop; said backdrop is a complex marquetry assemblage of wood, parchment and straw comprising 367 pieces. Dragon’s Cloud veers into the fantastical, with an Asian dragon outfitted with monogram flower scales executed in paillonné enamel, involving delicate gold leaf cutouts suspended in layers of translucent enamel. Its eye is a cabochon-cut ruby. Equipped with 40mm cases in white or rose gold, both caseband and self-winding movement are decorated with seigaiha, a traditional Japanese pattern of stylised waves.

Rounding out the collection is something a little more playful. Vivienne is a character introduced by Louis Vuitton in 2017 and her quirky silhouette lives on as two new jumping hour watches. The Louis Vuitton Tambour Slim Vivienne Jumping Hours come in two guises.

Sakura has a delicate pink cherry blossom motif, with a mother-of-pearl dial, with Vivenne dressed in a kimono and wielding a parasol. Astronaut sees her explore space, with a dial combining blue mother-of-pearl and aventurine to create a starry backdrop. Vivienne’s flower-shaped halo is set with brilliant-cut white diamonds, which are also found on various dial highlights as well as the bezel and lugs of the 38mm white gold case.

The jumping hour mechanism features two windows that alternate telling the time, while a near-invisible minute hand indicates without obstructing the motifs beneath it. On the dial, a new inscription ‘Fab en Suisse’ (made in Switzerland) can be seen, paying homage to Louis Vuitton’s watchmaking home of La Fabrique du Temps in Meyrin, Geneva. These triumphs of high horology, and more, can all be viewed on Louis Vuitton’s official website.

Louis Vuitton

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