"It's all about the trunk as seen through the eyes of a jeweller," is how Hamdi Chatti, Vice President of jewellery and watches at Louis Vuitton, describes the new Emprise collection. And this is because Louis Vuitton, which started life as a trunk maker, has all things luggage at the heart of its design ethos.
If you think it a little far-fetched that a large case for conveying your valuables could be a design cue for fine jewellery and watches, take a closer look at the new Emprise collection.
The square shape of the watch does indeed bring to mind a boxy trunk. On the gold model, the dial resembles the quilted fabric found on the padding on the inside of the old steamer trunks. What's more, an air of Parisian elegance is infused into the designs: the leather strap is embossed with a gros-grain pattern, reminding us that Paris is the centre of couture. The facetted glass over the dial was inspired by the interiors of grand Parisian apartments and the effect, created by bevelled mirrors reflecting each other, of never-ending salons. All this enhanced by the sparkle of diamonds around the dial.
The black or white dials of the stainless steel watches are decorated with a series of lines that capture the minimal elegance of wood panelling found in the most elegant French interiors. The metal reinforcements found on the sides of trunks have been miniaturised and wrapped around the case, neatly fastened in place with a round-headed nail, just like the real thing. The horns that attach the watch to the strap are reminiscent of the brass corner pieces on trunks. So pleased was Louis Vuitton with its Emprise watches that a jewellery line followed.
The most valuable pieces are four necklaces and three rings, each of which is a one-off piece. The necklaces feature four very large and rare stones: a sky-blue Santa Marina Aquamarine; a soft pink morganite paired with a mint green tourmaline; radiant-as-sunshine Heliodore; and a glossy purple amethyst complemented by an aquamarine. Each large central stone has been placed in a deep, cage-like setting, framed by a single row of diamonds that adds fire to the rich colours.
Despite the large size of the stones - between 50 and 60 carats - these jewels have a casual 'please wear me to have fun' air about them thanks to the long chain, which slips easily over the neck, and the playful, extra-long tassel made up of gold chains, which dances with every move of the body. Unlike the more formal or rigid construction of high jewellery necklaces, these pieces are made to be worn with ease and comfort, and there is an air of a mighty medallion about them.
The three cocktail rings showcase unusual stones. My favourite is a green tourmaline with an old-fashioned four-facet cut flanked by black lacquer. The square shape of the rings takes us back to the trunk, as do the little round nail heads that troop around their girth.
More accessible are the fine jewellery versions. The necklaces feature lemon quartz, smoky quartz and amethyst with matching earrings, each with the playful gold tassels we see in the high jewellery versions. The matching cocktail rings are designed to show off not one but nine different stones, set into a golden frame that itself mimics the facets of gem. From every angle, one of the nine stones is displayed to its best advantage. A wide, diamond-set cuff, bangle and ring complete this collection of watches and jewellery, which, like its name, is poised to capture hearts.