Chopard L.U.C Lunar One
Chopard’s L.U.C collection houses some of the finest accomplishments of the brand’s horological endeavours. Bearing the initials of the brand’s founder, Louis-Ulysse Chopard, watches within this respected collection are held to exceptionally high standards and stand shoulder to shoulder with those from established maisons such as Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. One such timepiece from the L.U.C collection is the Lunar One. First released in 2005 as Chopard’s first perpetual calendar watch, the Lunar One remains the collection’s flagship timepiece to this day. For 2017, the Lunar One has received a contemporary yet dignified makeover, resulting in perhaps the best-looking iteration of the reference thus far. Here, we bring you the details of the new Chopard L.U.C Lunar One and take a look at how it fares against its equivalents from other brands.
The case, dial, and hands
For the first time, the Chopard L.U.C Lunar One comes in platinum, the most noble of metals. Measuring 43 mm in diameter and 11.47 mm in thickness, the case is undeniably large for what is meant to be a dress watch. But given the modern dial design of the Lunar One, the 43 mm case size isn’t so much justified as it is vindicated. While it isn’t ideally sized, the case is attractively finished. The vertical satin-brushed flanks along with the mirror-polished bezel and lugs result in a spectacular contrast which allows the timepiece to be easily worn dressed up or down.
The dial for the new L.U.C Lunar One is nothing short of alluring. Sometimes, a simple colour change can elevate a timepiece, and this is one of those cases. This year the Lunar One is equipped with a royal blue dial that is finished with an resplendent sunburst pattern radiating from the L.U. Chopard marquee at 12 o’clock. With perpetual calendar watches, the struggle is often with displaying all the indications on the dial with not just legibility but also finesse. In this regard, the Lunar One soars above the competition as the displays are laid out in such a way that they are not just legible but also impeccably balanced. Sub-dials are used to great effect to display the various calendar (and non-calendar) indications: month and leap year at 3 o’clock, small seconds and orbital moon phase at 6 o’clock, and day of the week and day/night cycle at 9 o’clock. What we like in particular are the guilloché patterns that decorate these sub-dials. The linear and sunburst guilloché on the day/night indicator is a nice touch and contrasts beautifully against the concentric pattern on the rest of the sub-dial, as well as the matte sunburst dial. Perhaps the most eye-catching element of the dial is the orbital moon phase display that dwells within the 6 o’clock sub-dial. Adorned with stars and a deep blue sky, the display is as gorgeous as it is accurate; to be specific, it has a 122-year accuracy after which only a one day correction is needed. Last but not least, the date is displayed in a ‘big date’ format via two apertures at 12 o’clock. Compared to the moon phase display, the date display looks rather plain – almost unimaginative – and would benefit from some embellishment, in our opinion.
All the displays on the dial are indicated by dauphine-style hands except for the day/night and leap year displays which are indicated by triangular pointers. The hour and minute hands are also dauphine-styled and painted with luminescent material to aid legibility in low- or no-light conditions. The applied Roman numerals that mark the hours are some of the more interesting ones that we’ve come across on a wristwatch. The numerals are not just mirror-polished but also sumptuously curved (as shown in the sketch below), lending themselves to some stunning light play.
Powering the L.U.C Lunar One is the 355-part, 32-jewelled Calibre 96.13-L. Equipped with a 22-carat gold micro-rotor, the self-winding Calibre 96.13-L has a commendable power reserve of 65 hours while operating at a contemporary 4 Hz beat rate. In accordance to the spirit of the L.U.C. collection, watch movements housed in L.U.C watches are immaculately finished; in fact, they are some of the most well-finished in the industry. The Calibre 96.13-L is no different. The edges of every bridge are chamfered and polished, and serve to highlight the traditional Côtes de Genève motif on the surface. The baseplate features tight and even perlage throughout, while the swan neck regulator and screw heads are skillfully black-polished. The gold micro-rotor is engraved with the historical L.U.C logo and finely guilloché-worked, further highlighting the attention to detail that Chopard invests in the finishing and decoration of L.U.C timepieces.
Not only does the Calibre 96.13-L meet the highest quality standards of the manufacturer, it also bears the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva which in-part ensures that the movement is chronometrically precise and finished to exceptional standards. The precision of the movement is also COSC-certified – while this may seem redundant, given that movement also bears the Hallmark of Geneva, it is worth noting that precision testing for COSC certification is indeed more stringent (COSC: -4/+6 s per day; Hallmark of Geneva +/- 8.5 s per day). The only gripe we have is that the movement appears to be dwarfed by the case that girths it. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the case is simply too big and would benefit a great deal from even a 2-3 mm size reduction.
The competitive landscape
The new platinum L.U.C Lunar One retails at USD67,900. The exorbitant prices paid for a luxury watch can’t normally be justified, but as it turns out, not all exorbitant prices are equal – some exorbitant prices give you better value than others. To find out if the platinum Lunar One provides the proverbial bang for buck, it is only right to compare it to other platinum perpetual calendar watches from competitor brands. First up, we have the ultra-classic Patek Philippe Ref. 5140P-017, the only variant of the Ref. 5140 still in production today. The Ref. 5140P is dainty at 37.2 mm in diameter compared to the Lunar One. While some consider the watch to be too small, the purists and traditionalists will be pleased – at 37.2 mm, the timepiece is at its dressiest and most classic. Interestingly, both the Lunar One and the Ref. 5140P share a very similar display layout. The Ref. 5140P does not have a seconds function but instead has a radial date in the 6 o’clock sub-dial; the rest of the displays are in the exact same position as in the Lunar One. This leaves the 12 o’clock portion of the dial display-free with just the Patek Philippe marquee present. As seemingly perfect as it is, the dial design of the Ref. 5140 is not without controversy. Many connoisseurs deem the date display where ’27’ and ‘5’ are ‘squashed’ by the 3 and 9 o’clock sub-dials to be unsightly.
The self-winding Calibre 240 Q which powers the Ref. 5140P has been in service since 1985, being first used in the Ref. 3940. Its finishing is – at the very least – as good as the Lunar One’s Calibre 96.13-L, but what’s most impressive about the Calibre 240 Q is its dimensions. At 27.5 x 3.9 mm, the Calibre 240 Q is significantly smaller than the Calibre 96.13-L (33.0 x 6.0 mm). Designing and fitting the perpetual calendar works into such a small space would not have been easy for the watchmakers at Patek Philippe.
There is also the price to consider: the Patek Philippe Ref. 5140P-017 retails at a price of around USD105,000 – almost USD40,000 more than the Chopard! There are a lot of perks to be had from owning a Patek, such as heritage (they basically invented the perpetual calendar wristwatch), brand prestige and value retention. But one has to ask if all that is worth USD40,000. If the answer is ‘no’ (which to be honest, is rarely ever that straightforward), then really it comes down to mainly design and size preferences.
Also providing stern competition to the L.U.C Lunar One is the Langematik Perpetual by Saxon manufacturer A. Lange & Söhne. At 38.5 mm in diameter and 10.2 in thickness, the Langematik Perpetual is also smaller and dressier in size compared to the Lunar One. All the functions found in the Chopard, including the big date, are present in the Lange and are laid out in the same position on the dial, except the leap year indicator, which is off-centre. The Langematik Perpetual also has an additional zero reset function where the seconds hand resets to zero when the crown is pulled – this enables precise time-setting. The watch is powered by the Calibre L922.1 SAX-0-MAT which, like the Calibre 96.13-L and the Calibre 240 Q, is wound by a micro-rotor. The movement finishing on the Lange is objectively more detailed and elaborate than on either the Patek or the Chopard. Considering the man-hours, skills and equipment needed to attain the level of finissage on a Lange movement, it is not surprising that it becomes a significant driver of price – upwards of a third of the final price, which is around USD97,900.
What should one consider when deciding between the Langematik Perpetual and the Lunar One? Firstly, dial design – the two timepieces have very similar dial designs in that they are contemporary and have near-identical layouts, although the Langematik Perpetual remains the more sober with its silver dial. Secondly, size – the Langematik Perpetual is dressier and comparable to the Ref. 5140P while the Lunar One dwells in a realm between dressy and casual. Then, there’s movement finishing, where we’ve established that the Lange is superior. Lastly, and most contentious of all: brand prestige. While it is known to the watch cognoscenti that the L.U.C collection houses some of the highest quality works of horology seen today, Chopard as a watch manufacturer still isn’t spoken about in the same reverence as brands such as Patek Philippe or A. Lange & Söhne. This is in part due to Chopard bearing the stigma of “a jewellery brand making watches”. The irony of this is that Chopard began as a watchmaker before switching to jewellery. Then there’s also the fact that Chopard still focuses heavily on fashion watches. While A. Lange & Söhne may be young and small, they have always been about producing the finest watches in the world and have on many an occasion shook the high-end watch world. Most consider A. Lange & Söhne to be one of the best in the world, with some speculating that they are the only manufacturer capable of going toe-to-toe with Patek Philippe; such is the reputation that the Saxon brand has carved for itself in little over 20 years. Given that size and design preferences are subjective, the question then remains: are the prestige and movement finishing of Lange worth a premium of USD30,000? That is a riddle for the eager collector to solve.
The Chopard L.U.C Lunar One is the gift that keeps on giving. It is not perfect, but it provides the pleasures of high horology without demanding a blood sacrifice. Chopard’s L.U.C collection is indeed the hero the luxury watch industry needs but not one it deserves. It continues to lead the way in terms of quality and sensible pricing. The era of brands getting away with charging over-inflated prices is approaching its twilight and many manufacturers would do well to take a leaf out of Chopard’s book. While priced merely to the extent of a high-end annual calendar watch, the L.U.C Lunar One comfortably rubs shoulders with the gold standard perpetual calendar watches of the industry – that in our books is a triumph, not just for Chopard but also for the future of the industry.