We can’t get enough of Louis Vuitton’s Escale Worldtime with its pop-tastic, hand-painted dial that displays the world’s 24 time zones in jaunty fashion.
Hand-painted dial with 24 time zones from Louis Vuitton Escale Worldtime.
WHETHER IN POLITICS, business, or fashion, every now and then a shake-up is needed to keep things fresh. Late last year, Louis Vuitton did exactly that by naming designer Nicholas Ghesquière as successor to the throne vacated by long-reigning artistic director Marc Jacobs, who left to float his own label. It was just as well; after his departure, Vuitton’s CEO Michael Burke was quoted in the New York Times as saying that Jacobs had started to lose focus.
A less profound shake-up occurred in Vuitton’s timepiece division in Basel this year, where the brand unveiled a startlingly refreshing take on the classic world time complication. Worldtimers tend to be a serious-looking lot aimed at globetrotting executives—think dials embellished with world maps—so the Escale Worldtime (‘escale’ means ‘stopover’ in French) was a welcome change.
First off, Vuitton decided to create an entirely new case to accommodate the device, rather than introduce it to its existing Tambour lineup. It’s a move that heralds the start of an entirely new collection, one that has all the makings of a future pillar. Why? Because the round shape is as timeless as they get. Plus, the lugs are reminiscent of the brackets found on the corners of Vuitton’s trunks—a subtle design detail that hints at the brand’s legacy without being cloying. At 41mm in diameter and 9.75mm in height, the Escale Worldtime is substantial yet fits discreetly under a cuff.
The watch’s most striking feature is the profusion of colours on its dial—38 to be precise—something rarely seen on worldtimers. The vibrant geometric patterns, which accompany the names of 24 cities and their respective time zones, are created using miniature painting techniques, a process that requires 50 man-hours per dial. The colours are applied one by one with a paintbrush using tiny, successive strokes before the dial plate is dried in an oven heated to 100°C. The pictograms are motifs that Vuitton’s clients use to personalise their luggage. Again, a nice way of incorporating that signature element of travel.
Closer inspection will reveal that the dial is made up of three separate rotating discs. The outermost disc bears the city initials, and can be adjusted to reflect the user’s reference city, which should be positioned at 12 o’clock or above the yellow pointer. This pointer is attached to the sapphire crystal so as not to interfere with the discs’ movement. Constantly rotating but in opposite directions, the two inner discs house the hours and minutes (in five-minute intervals), with the former divided into black and white zones to indicate the division between daylight and twillight.
With no hands to speak of, local time is read off the yellow pointer, while all other times can be obtained by glancing at the corresponding indexes. At the centre of the dial, the triangular motif resembles an airport runway seen from the perspective of a pilot landing the plane. It’s quirky touches like this that make the Escale Worldtime so brilliant. But there’s also serious watchmaking going on here, thanks to input from the Vuitton-owned La Fabrique du Temps manufacture, which developed and assembled the automatic LV 106 Calibre using a in-house module and an external base calibre.
All the adjustments are controlled by the single, three-position crown. “The first position winds the watch; the second position allows the setting of the cities; and the third position sets the time,” explains Michel Navas, co-founder of La Fabrique du Temps, at a presentation in Singapore in May. “It’s very simple to use. But that’s our philosophy: the more complicated the watch, the simpler it must be.”
Top: Louis Vuitton Chromatime Escale Worldtime.