Louis Vuitton is one of those mainstream luxury brands that also happens to make legitimately decent wristwatches. I have to say this time and time again because there are still people who place Louis Vuitton watches in the same category as other lower-end fashion watches from big luxury names. Louis Vuitton even has some very special high-complication pieces as well as in-house movements and modules produced at their “La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton” department. Today I am reviewing the Louis Vuitton Escale Time Zone 39. This watch combines a base Swiss automatic mechanical movement with an in-house world time complication module produced by Louis Vuitton. Quirky, colorful, and pretty, this is the Louis Vuitton version of a dressy time zone ring-base worldtimer that many other brands have a version of.
It is worth mentioning that Louis Vuitton produces the Escale Time Zone in 39mm wide and 41mm wide versions. For now, the 41mm wide version only comes with a blue and white dial (the reference Q2D220 Escale Time Zone Blue 41). Let’s take a close look at the 39mm wide reference Q5D200 (aka Q5D20) Louis Vuitton Escale Time Zone. In short, this is a decently affordable, “look at me” dress watch from a well-respected brand that has real horological merit, and can serve the right person as a daily wear.
Some history and background first. Many of Louis Vuitton’s watches are inspired by their luggage and trunk collections of yesterday. These were hand-made products that helped put the French luxury brand on the map. An example of this influence in the product is the lugs. Separate pieces which are attached to the side of the case, these lugs are meant to mimic the look of the metal hardware on the brand’s historic luggage items. Another nod to the world of Louis Vuitton trunks are the colorful “flags,” which are above or below the reference city name on the world time disc. I’m not an expert in vintage Louis Vuitton trunks, but my understanding is that these little flags could be painted on luggage after one had traveled to a city (and seem to be inspired by the world of maritime flags).
Louis Vuitton originally introduced these colorful flag motifs on versions of the Louis Vuitton Spin Time watch as well as the Louis Vuitton World Time. In those more high-end models, these flags were hand-painted in enamel. For a watch like the Louis Vuitton Escale Time Zone, the flags are lacquer painted, but you aren’t paying $40,000 and up for the watch. With that said, the quality of the coloring and graphic application is very good.
Speaking of the Louis Vuitton World Time, it is the (now discontinued I believe) precursor to the Escale Time Zone 39. aBlogtoWatch went hands-on with the very exclusive, almost $300,000 Louis Vuitton World Time Minute Repeater here. The World Time watch was designed to indicate the time and change the time to any of the major 24 time zones using only discs. Suffice it to say that the Louis Vuitton World Time was an attractive watch, but also not particularly easy to read. With the Escale Time Zone Louis Vuitton not only wanted to produce a less expensive product, but also one that was a bit more legible and useful for daily wear. The good news is that Louis Vuitton succeeded.
Another quirk of the World Time is that unlike most standard world time watches, you couldn’t read the local time as well as the time in another time zone. Instead, my understanding is that you could cycle through 24 time zones on the dial, but you couldn’t see a reference time. With the Escale (which means “local”) Time Zone, Louis Vuitton remedied that issue with the caliber LV 87 automatic movement. The movement is interesting and fun, but it does have some legibility drawbacks in the name of design. The movement features two rotating discs on the dial, as well as two hands for the hours and minutes. There is no indicator for seconds or a date, which I think a lot of watch lovers aren’t going to have a problem with.
The central part of the dial exists over where the hands actually connect, and all you can see is the arrow-style hour hand, and the different-looking minute hand. The different hand shaping does make them easy to tell apart, but they aren’t too large to begin with, and there is arguably a lot going on with the dial to distract you from reading the time. With that said, given that the Escale Time Zone is rather straightforward in its functionality, reading the dial is simple once you know what you are looking for. All operations work from the crown, and that includes winding the movement manually if desired, setting the time, and changing the local time. Changing the local time involves moving the outer reference city ring so that the time zone you are currently in is placed at the top. You then use the rotating 24-hour ring to indicate the time in any of the other major 24 time zones by simply looking at where the reference city name is and then seeing what hour is directly underneath it on the 24-hour disc (which is in black and white in order to indicate day and night).
Operating at 4Hz (28,800 bph) with 42 hours of power reserve, the automatic movement isn’t exactly visible through the sapphire crystal caseback window – but something is. Louis Vuitton designed the caseback to have a large black circle with the Louis Vuitton logo and a ring that is connected to the automatic rotor, which visually spins along with it. So while the black “LV” part of the caseback doesn’t move, the silver section around it that says “Louis Vuitton” and “La Fabrique du Temps” does. Again, it’s a nice playful element that I appreciate.
Also available in 18k pink gold, the Escale Time Zone 39 is 39mm wide and here, we see it in steel. Louis Vuitton did a nice job of making a relatively subdued round-cased dress watch, but with enough brand character to make it feel special. As I said, this is the closest thing to a dress watch that Louis Vuitton currently produces in my opinion. Elements like the shape of the crown are particularly cool, and the case is water-resistant to 50m. It also sits pretty low on the wrist with a thin profile (even though I wouldn’t call this an “ultra thin” case).
Color lovers get more to enjoy on the rear of the watch when noticing the bright yellow rubber lining on the inside of the gray alligator strap. It goes without saying that a Louis Vuitton strap is going to be nicely made, and I also appreciate the use of curved strap ends which fit the case in a more elegant manner. Color is really what helps define the appeal of the Escale Time Zone 39, because you simply don’t get a watch like this if you are someone with conservative tastes who shuns bright colors. If you are someone who enjoys wearing bright colors, and a lot of them, then this might just be an ideal watch for you.
Recall again that the 41mm wide version of the Escale Time Zone has just blue and white colors on the dial – which allows the same design to be a bit more conservative and 2mm larger. While I really like the colors on the 39, given that I don’t wear long sleeves very often, I prefer the 41’s size a bit more for my tastes. It’s hard to pinpoint just who Louis Vuitton has in mind as an ideal customer for a watch like this. What comes to mind are people who find a world time complication useful, but are generally bored by the designs of many of the other available world time watches. I’ll be honest that many of them bore me in ways the Escale Time Zone does not. My biggest compliment to Louis Vuitton is in just how quirky, yet practical the Escale Time Zone seems to be. It mixes a very comfortable, logical watch, with a dial that most people simply don’t expect (and I really appreciate that). It isn’t without its faults, but if you want to maximize “personality value,” are bored of other world time watches, and want an avant garde dress watch from a “famous” brand like Louis Vuitton, you can’t really go wrong with the Escale Time Zone 39.
Now for prices. Starting with the most expensive item, the 18k pink gold reference Q5EK40 version of the Louis Vuitton Escale 39 is $12,100 USD. The larger reference Q5D220 Escale Time Zone Blue 41 in steel has a retail price of $7,450 USD, and price for this reference Q5D200 Escale Time Zone 39 in steel is $7,200 USD.