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1-on-1: Comparing the Chopard L.U.C XPS 1860 with the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950

by Frank Chuo on February 25, 2020
Overview
Brand

Chopard
Parmigiani Fleurier

Complication / Type of Watch

Stainless steel, ultra-thin dress watch

Recommended Retail Price

L.U.C XPS 1860: USD9,020
Tonda 1950: USD10,600

Comparing the Chopard L.U.C XPS 1860 with the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950

Quiz time: What are some traits that Chopard and Parmigiani Fleurier share?

Answer: They are privately owned companies; they make exceptional watches; and their watches are underappreciated – that last part is sadly all too true.

Compared to brands such as Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, the watchmaking prowess of Chopard and Parmigiani Fleurier is fairly unknown to the uninitiated, and even to fledgling watch enthusiasts. Those who know, know that both brands do in fact compete at the high end of horology alongside the old Genevan Maisons. Between Chopard and Parmigiani Fleurier, they produce watches that are comparable in quality and, to a certain extent, design language.

As such, we thought it interesting to compare the most essential timepieces from Chopard (specifically from the haute horlogerie L.U.C range) and Parmigiani Fleurier. For the exercise, we chose the L.U.C XPS 1860 and the Tonda 1950 in hopes of discerning the differences and similarities of both timepieces and in the process, appreciating the sheer competency of both manufacturers. To keep things fairly even, the two watches are stainless steel variants and have virtually the same pricing.

How did the two watches fare against each other? Spoiler alert: it was close.

The Case

At first glance, the cases of both the L.U.C XPS 1860 and Tonda 1950 are relatively similar in looks. They are both slim and elegant, with the former being 0.77 mm thinner than the latter, at 7.20 mm, and the latter 1.0 mm smaller than the former, at 39.0 mm in diameter. Both watches also feature polished, thin bezels that allow their respective dials to shine.

A simple case for understated elegance.

Where the two cases start to differ is in the lugs. They are fairly basic on the L.U.C XPS 1860 while the Tonda 1950’s are much more nuanced. The lugs of the Tonda 1950 resemble cow horn lugs but with less tapering and curviness. It is worth noting that they do extend beyond the main case on the sides so the case may appear slightly larger than it really is. The other point of difference between the two cases is in the finishing. The L.U.C XPS 1860 is polished on the top surface but brushed on the flanks for contrast. Meanwhile, the Tonda 1950 is entirely polished; the finissage therefore lacks visual contrast but gives the watch a more refined look. Overall, both cases are executed excellently and appropriately for dress watches – but the case of the Tonda 1950, with its charming lugs, is likely to win more hearts.

Lugs to die for, and an entirely polished case.

The Dial

The dials of the L.U.C XPS 1860 and Tonda 1950 variants that we have chosen have at least one thing in common, and that is that they are clean and contemporary in design. The L.U.C XPS 1860 dial is the more sober of the two. It is rendered in a classic silver tone, with white gold appliques and  “Dauphine fusée” hands to tell the time. Perhaps the most controversial element on the dial is the date display at 6 o’clock. On one hand, it sticks out like a sore thumb like all date displays tend to on an otherwise clean dial; but on the other, it is a most practical complication to have.

The Chopard dauphine fusee hands have become an L.U.C signature.

Meanwhile, the Tonda 1950 dial is executed in matte blue, immediately making it more modern-looking than its L.U.C counterpart. The hour indices are also applied but are more slender than the ones on the L.U.C XPS 1860 (which also has an applied ’12’). The choice of hands differ on the Tonda 1950 – they are alpha hands with a large slathering of luminescent material. As there is no date display to worry about, a large seconds sub-dial occupies the bulk of the 6 o’clock region instead.

A striking visage that is the dial of the Tonda 1950.

Being one of the most important aspect of a watch, how does one decide which is the watch with the ‘better’ dial? Between these two, it all comes down to personal preference, really. If one’s goal is to have a more classic dress watch, the L.U.C XPS 1860 is probably the way to go. With its rather monochromatic colour palette, the visage of the L.U.C XPS 1860 aims to complement rather than seek attention. The lack of luminescent material on the hands would also be desirable to dress watch purists. On the contrary, the Tonda 1950 dial stands out with its mesmerising blue dial. It is perhaps better suited to those who desire a more youthful iteration of the dress watch. The lack of a date display will certainly be a boon to many connoisseurs, though, as it is typically seen as a disruption to coherent dial design.

The Movement

Both Chopard and Parmigiani Fleurier typically pride themselves in creating movements worthy of high horology. In the L.U.C XPS 1860 beats the Calibre 96.03-L while in the Tonda 1950, we have the Calibre PF702. A first look at the two movements reveals that they look pretty similar. They have the same number of bridges, a mini-rotor for automatic winding, and even the same number of jewels as inscribed on one of their bridges with gold-filled engraving. They also have similar finishes: Geneva waves on the bridges, perlage on the main plate, polished bevels on the edges of bridges, polished screw heads, and so forth.

The Calibre 96.03-L as seen through the sapphire crystal case back.

It is worth pointing out that Chopard offers a more premium version of this movement with the precious metal variants of the L.U.C XPS 1860. These gold/platinum variants are powered by the Calibre 96.01-L which share the same functions, specification and dimensions as the Calibre 96.03-L. The main discrepancy is in that the Calibre 96.01-L bears the Hallmark of Geneva, thus implying that it has more refined finishing. It also has a swan-neck regulator for the balance which allows for finer adjustments to be done by a watchmaker.

The Calibre PF702 as seen through the sapphire crystal case back.

Between the Calibres 96.03-L and PF702, where they start to differ is in function and specification. Functionally, the Calibre 96.03-L has a date function whereas the Calibre PF702 doesn’t. With regards to differences in technical specifications, the most significant talking point lies in the power reserve of both movements. The Calibre PF702 has a standard power reserve of 48 hours, which is good enough for an automatic timepiece. The Calibre 96.03-L, however, boasts a praiseworthy 65 hours of autonomy thanks to the manufacture’s L.U.C Twin Technology (twin stacked barrels). More impressively, the Calibre 96.03-L achieves superior power reserve in spite of having to power a date complication and a 4 Hz balance wheel (the Calibre PF702 has a more traditional 3 Hz balance wheel). The stacking of the two barrels does add some height to the movement (3.3 mm thick compared to the Calibre PF702’s 2.6 mm thickness), but the Chopard is still a thinner watch overall so that doesn’t really matter.

One of the most aesthetically pleasing mini-rotors in the market, gorgeously polished and adorned with a sunburst pattern.

Another interesting matter is that while the Calibre 96.03-L is made in-house, the Calibre PF702 technically isn’t, as the movement is based on a Vaucher VMF5401. While Parmigiani Fleurier does indeed own Vaucher, Vaucher is still a separate entity, therefore qualifying the Calibre PF702 as a supplied movement. Now, it bears mentioning that the buzzword ‘in-house movement’ doesn’t necessarily translate to quality; in fact, movement specialists often make better movements than watch manufacturers. And yes, despite being a third-party movement, the Calibre PF702 is still held up to Parmigiani Fleurier’s superlative watchmaking standards and finishing.

Between the Calibre 96.03-L and the Calibre PF702, we see two excellent examples of how brands have been trying to cater to more ‘entry-level’ buyers. On one hand, with Chopard, you have a more toned-down, less-frills-but-still-amazing variation of the original movement, while on the other hand, with Parmigiani Fleurier, you have a good third-party movement (from a company you own anyway) with in-house finishing.

Not to be outdone by Chopard, the mini-rotor on the Calibre PF702 is also a delight featuring a waveform engraved patterns and a multitude of curves and sharp angles.

The Pricing

The Chopard L.U.C XPS 1860 in stainless steel is priced at USD9,020 while the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950, also in stainless steel, retails for USD10,600. Both non-limited edition watches cost virtually the same, with the L.U.C XPS 1860 being around 10% less pricey. As far as luxury watches and high watchmaking are concerned, the two subjects in question are fairly priced and offer good value.

Conclusion

One size does no fit all. There are certain parts that we preferred on one watch and some parts that we favoured on the other. The more nuanced case (lugs, specifically) of the Tonda 1950 captured our attention because it just looks more interesting than the really pedestrian case design of the L.U.C XPS 1860. Of course, pedestrian can be a good thing if you’re trying to stay low-key, but all in all the Tonda 1950 case manages to strike a satisfying balance between elegance and flair.

On the wrist, the Tonda 1950 sits with proportion and bedazzles with its contemporary blue dial.

With the dial, it’s a bit of a toss-up. It, again, comes down to whether you want something that stands out. The Tonda 1950 with its blue dial does that. The lume on the hands is great for low-light visibility but really subtracts dressiness from a supposed dress watch. The dial of the L.U.C XPS 1860 is sober and dignified but may come across as a bore if you have modern tastes. The date display can be a deal-breaker if you’re more into a clean dial than the practicality of the complication.

With regards to the movement, the Calibre 96.03-L gets our vote for being technically superior. The Calibre PF702 is a solid, well-finished movement, but it doesn’t have the performance of the Calibre 96.03-L, which – we neglected to mention beforehand – is the only one of the two to be COSC-certified for precision. And sure, while the term ‘in-house’ means nothing when it comes to raw watchmaking, it does mean something when it comes to watch collecting. Many collectors do care that the movement inside of their watch comes from the brand itself (granted the movement is quality) and not from a movement supplier. An in-house movement ‘implies’ that a watch manufacturer is fully – not partially – capable and with that comes the (inaccurate) perception of quality. Sure, there are third-party movements that are revered for their outstanding architecture, robustness, technicality, or history (think the Lemania Calibre 2310 or the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 920) – this is just not the case with the reliable but unremarkable Vaucher VMF5401, unfortunately.

At the end of the day, there are no losers between these two fine specimens. The Tonda 1950 is arguably the better looking watch overall but if you care about movement specifications and origins, the L.U.C XPS 1860 will certainly sway, especially when it is slightly less expensive.

The L.U.C XPS 1860 is a class act on the wrist. The date display – always convenient to have – is executed with dial balance and discretion in mind.
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