Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Chrono
Christened after its founding father (Louis-Ulysse Chopard), Chopard’s L.U.C collection houses an ever-growing number of the brand’s finest timepieces. The Geneva-based manufacturer marked an important milestone last year by releasing its first ever perpetual calendar chronograph, the L.U.C Perpetual Chrono. By no means was this a small feat as the fledgling L.U.C collection only came to being a little over 20 years ago in 1996. This year, Chopard gives its prized L.U.C Perpetual Chrono a refreshing makeover. Here, we bring you the details on the new L.U.C Perpetual Chrono and our thoughts on how it compares to its equivalents from other brands.
The case, dial, and hands
The case dimensions of the new Perpetual Chrono is no different to the 2016 edition; at 45 mm in diameter and 15.06 mm in thickness, there is no other way to put it than to say that it is large. The case size is, however, somewhat vindicated by the contemporary dial design. The watch, which would look best on a large wrist, is also made relatively wearable on a smaller wrist by short lugs. With the flanks vertically satin-brushed and the bezel and the top of the lugs polished, a beautiful contrast of finishing is achieved resulting in a visual treat.Where the difference lies between the 2016 and 2017 editions is in the case material used – the 2017 Perpetual Chrono comes in a case made of platinum while its predecessor is crafted in 18k Fairmined white gold.
The dial of the L.U.C Perpetual Chrono is made of solid gold and is decorated with a hand-guilloché sunburst motif emanating from the ‘big date’ display at 12 o’clock. As it is in the new L.U.C Lunar One, the dial of the Perpetual Chrono is blue, which is the colour chosen for the manufacturer’s platinum limited series. The layout of the sub-dials, which display the calendar indications and chronograph counters, are arranged with the intent to optimise legibility. As such, the day/night and leap year indicators are offset from their respective sub-dials. The downside to this is that the chronograph hours and minutes track are warped, making it slightly difficult to take readings. Dauphine-styled hands are used for the hour and minute hands, as well as in the main sub-dials; teardrop-shaped pointers are used for the day/night and leap year indicators. To help distinguish the chronograph displays from the calendar and time displays on the dial, red-tipped hands are used only for the chronograph functions – this is an appealing yet purposeful touch, in our opinion. The relative busyness of the sub-dials at 3 and 9 o’clock is strongly contrasted by the romantic orbital moon phase display that dwells within the small-seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock. Chopard cuts no corners with the precision of L.U.C moon phase displays, a mere one-day deviation in 122 years in this case, fitting for a perpetual calendar timepiece.
Powering the L.U.C Perpetual Chrono is the in-house developed and manufactured Calibre 03.10-L. The 452-part, 42-jewelled movement has a commendable power reserve of 60 hours while operating at a modern 4 Hz beat rate. The Calibre 03.10-L is built around a column wheel that controls all chronograph operations, including the flyback function. The vertical coupling clutch ensures smooth yet firm activation of the timing-related components. While the chronograph parts (including the column wheel) can be viewed from the sapphire crystal case back, the perpetual calendar works are hidden under the dial, as is almost always the case with perpetual calendar chronographs. As sophisticated as the movement is, it is no good if its chronometric precision is significantly affected by the high number of complications running in the background. Indeed, Chopard has not neglected the chronometric precision of the Calibre 03.10-L as it is certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).
Furthermore, the L.U.C Perpetual Chrono bears the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva which in part ensures that the movement is finished to superlative standards. Various traditional finishing techniques are evident from the case back, including: Côtes de Genève on top of bridges, black polishing on screw heads and bevels, and perlage on the baseplate. These techniques require the steady hands of expert finniseurs to be executed, and especially so when the movement is rendered in nickel silver. While nickel silver is beautiful and more corrosion resistant to brass, it is also intolerant of scratches and hence very difficult to work with. Any mistake made in executing the Côtes de Genève motif, circular-graining, satin-brushing and polishing on the movement is irretrievable.
The competitive landscape
Made in a limited run of 20 pieces, the 2017 L.U.C Perpetual Chrono is available for €101,710. At such a princely sum, does the watch offer good value? Answering such a question requires that we compare the subject on hand to its contemporaries.
To start off, we look to Glashütte, a small town in Germany that breathed life into the beastly A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual. The dial layout of the Datograph Perpetual is similar to that of the Perpetual Chrono: big date at 12 o’clock, moon phase display at 6’oclock, twin sub-dials at 3 and 9 o’clock, and off-set day/night and leap year indicators. But that is as far as the similarities go – in essence, the dial design of the Datograph Perpetual is far more sober. The Datograph Perpetual also comes in a more manageable size at 41 x 13.5 mm, which is paradoxical as the Germans are known to ‘overbuild’ their watches. Flip the watch to its back and you will be greeted with the iconic Datograph movement that paved the road to horological royalty for the small German brand.
Featuring a horizontal clutch design, the movement is one of the most picturesque ever seen by man. To say the finishing is flawless is an understatement, for it is also more detailed and elaborate than what you’d normally see from the top maisons of Switzerland. The latest edition of the Datograph Perpetual comes in a white gold case with a grey dial, and is priced at about €115,800. The big question is, is the Datograph Perpetual worth the €14,000 premium over the Perpetual Chrono? Easily, we believe. For one, the Datograph movement inside the Lange is a living legend that is far more visually appealing than the Calibre 03.10-L. The finishing of the movement, which accounts for a significant portion of a watch’s final price, is also superior in the Datograph Perpetual. Granted of course that the Datograph Perpetual is crafted in gold (which is less dear compared to the Perpetual Chrono’s platinum), we believe that it provides as much bang for buck as its Chopard counterpart, if not more. Make no mistake, the L.U.C Perpetual Chrono remains a timepiece that is of exemplary quality and is well-priced. But unless one prefers the bold design language of the Perpetual Chrono, it may be worth saving up a little while longer for the Datograph Perpetual.
No perpetual calendar chronograph face-off is legitimate without the mention of Patek Philippe. Patek Philippe were the first to serially produce the perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch, and it all began with the Ref. 1518 in 1941. Today, the perpetual calendar chronograph is the face of complicated watchmaking at Patek and is considered an icon within the brand. The Ref. 5270, which succeeded the Ref. 5970 as the resident perpetual calendar chronograph reference in the current collection, continues to do the brand proud. It is a paragon of tradition and legibility, as well as complexity. Unlike the dial design of Datograph Perpetual, and even less so the Perpetual Chrono, the Ref. 5270 is purely classic and old-school. Of the three perpetual calendar chronographs, the Ref. 5270 has the best legibility thanks to its neat layout and judicious use of apertures to display the leap year, day/night cycle, day and month. Its size is also comparable to the Datograph Perpetual at 41 x 12.4 mm, making it much more wearable than the Perpetual Chrono.
Thanks to the horizontal clutch design, the movement of the Ref. 5270 is noticeably more architectural compared to the movement of the Perpetual Chrono. What the Ref. 5270 lacks compared to the Perpetual Chrono is a flyback function. However, it more than makes up for its shortcoming with superb finishing (albeit not in the same league as the Datograph Perpetual). The Ref. 5270 is priced at around €140,000, which is a €40,000 premium over the Perpetual Chrono. Given that the Chopard has a similar level of finishing, an additional flyback function, and that design and size preferences are largely personal, how else can one justify paying significantly more for the Patek Philippe Ref. 5270? Well, as far as the watchmaking world is concerned, both the Ref. 5270 and its maker are of greater historical significance and prestige – it’s just how things are. The Ref. 5270 is also superior in terms of value retention (and it only gets better as the reference eventually becomes discontinued) versus the Perpetual Chrono. In the end, whether one chooses the Ref. 5270 over the Perpetual Chrono or not depends on budget, personal taste and how much one emphasises on branding and history.
They may not be the most revered brand in all of watchmaking but by crafting some of the finest watches in the industry and pricing them sensibly, Chopard is making a name for itself. In the latest L.U.C Perpetual Chrono, this ethos lives on; it is a handsome yet sophisticated perpetual calendar chronograph with finishing worthy of the respected Hallmark of Geneva – and all that at a very attractive price point.