The Chopard LUC manufacture has come a long way. Two decades, in fact. 2016 celebrates the 20th year that Karl-Frederich Scheufele realised his vision of a manufacture movement. Beginning rather tentatively with the LUC 1.96, then progressing to the in-house chronograph. Steadily, the manufacture honed her skills, and with the Strike One, ventured in the world of striking watches. And for the 20th Anniversary, they complete the entire scale of the classical complications. With the Full Strike. A very special minute repeater.
Chopard LUC Full Strike
This is Chopard’s first ever minute repeater: the LUC Full Strike, featuring a number of world première features. Of note, the repeater strikes the traditional the hours, quarters and minutes on sapphire gongs, and awarded with the Poinçon de Genève for fine finishing, and above all an extraordinary sound.
The LUC collection already included the LUC Strike One launched in 2010, which chimes each striking hour. The collection now welcomes a minute repeater entirely developed, produced and assembled by Chopard: the L.U.C Full Strike. Interestingly, we saw a similar development process by Lange with their Zeitwerk Striking Time in 2011 and Zeitwerk Minute Repeater in 2015.
The case, dial, hands
The case is 42.5 mm-diameter watch in Fairmined rose gold with an open worked dial houses a substantial number of technical solutions that make it one of the most innovative minute repeaters on the market.
Chopard remains one of the few manufactures to use and support the Fairmined gold, and this is an interesting demonstration to the Schuefele’s dedication to being fair and active in social development and environmental protection. Karl-Frederich Schuefele, Co-President of Chopard explained that using Fairmined gold is approximately 10% more expensive than regular gold, but adds significant complexity to its handling and control within the in-house foundry and manufactory.
The case is a regular Chopard LUC style case in the mentioned Fairmined rose gold. It is well constructed and very refined in design and execution, but other than that is not unusually exceptional. The hands are also in gold, with an art deco style motif. The markers are Roman appliqué, but as the dial features cut-outs to showcase the striking mechanism below the dial, it is half-skeletonised. The skeletonising is done in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Two power reserve indicators are displayed at about 2 o’clock, one for the striking works and the other for the timekeeping train.
The cutout allows the observer to see the full striking works, and be mesmerised by the spinning regulator at approximately 8 o’clock dial position. The hammers occupy the space at about 10 o’clock, and the crystal gongs are visible. The gongs are constructed from a single block of crystal.
The hammers are very traditional in design and material (steel), and six years of research went into ensuring a pleasant tone and resonance as it strikes the crystal gongs. Crystal gongs are a recent innovation and currently only by Chopard, though Jaeger LeCoultre uses the sapphire crystal as a transmission surface. The sound from the steel gongs are directly connected to the sapphire crystal on their minute repeaters including the Hybris Mechanica 11.
The striking works are commanded to work by a button mounted co-axially to the crown, instead of being actuated by a slide on the side of the case. This requires double barrels. One for the timekeeping functions, and another for the the striking works. The winding crown winds the timekeeping mainspring in one direction, and the striking works spring in the other. And the power of the spring is released by the push of the crown. The striking barrel is in the state of wind at all times the watch is running, instead of being armed only on-demand in the typical minute repeater. A full wind allows enough power for 12 full strikes (12:59) and a security system blocks the striking works if there is insufficient energy to complete the strike. This system is more akin to the system used in the typical Grande Sonnerie than a regular minute repeater.
The movement LUC 08.01-L
The movement is an in-house developed and manufactured caliber 08.01-L. Chopard took some 15,000 hours of development time for the movement which bears 3 patents.
- A Security system that protects the movement from inappropriate handling that can damage the striking works. The movement accumulates enough energy to strike 12:59 the longest time in the minute repeater repertoire twelve times. The double power reserve indicator shows the residual power of each mainspring with two superimposed hands. When the power reserve of the striking works is too low, the security system prevents the watch from striking. A clutch system is used to ensure conservation of power, such that the regulator is only activated when all the time reading components of the repeater are in place. A traditional repeater sets the regulator spinning once the activation slide is released, consuming power from the spring before it is ready to strike. And finally, during chiming, the crown is disconnected from the movement, disabling the time setting function until the strikes complete.
- A silent regulator and fast striking system. The regulator on the Full Strike is not only quiet, and almost inaudible, but the system architecture is designed in such a way that it omits the silent quarters and goes directly from the hours to the minutes during the first quarter of every hour. As noted the JLC Hybris Mechanica 11 also strikes in a similar way.
- A sapphire gong system. The traditional material for the repeater gongs are steel. But the Chopard uses a monoblock sapphire crystal, machined into shape. The tuning is done by the Chopard watchmakers and this is quite a delicate process. The gongs are tuned to F and C.
Movement finishing is very good. The mainplates are in maillechort. The design of the bridges and plates also follow the traditional aesthetic norms with beautifully sharp inward and outward angles. Perhaps as a nitpick, we could have asked for more such angles, which displays of watch craft at the highest levels. The anglage is well executed, and gleams beautifully on the edge of the bridges. the Côtes de Genève are magnificently executed as is expected in a movement at this level of high watchmaking.
Overall, the finishing is in the same class with the best.
The movement is COSC certified, an unusual certification for a striking watch, where the focus is usually in the striking system and not in chronometry.
We will let this little video we recorded do the talking. Listen in particular to the silence of the regulator. And the fullness of the tonality of each strike. Clean, clear. Loud. And also to the resonance, and reverberation of the decay. The sound of the resultant chimes are not dis-similar to that of the chimes of a silver knife were delicately tapping a Bohemian crystal glass placed on the table of a gourmet restaurant. Enjoy.
Throughout the 16 seconds that the watch takes to strike 12:59, it chimes in a uniform manner, a result that is extremely hard to achieve and a feather in Chopard’s cap.
The Chopard LUC Full Strike at S$ 351,330 inclusive of GST is by no an inexpensive watch by any measure. But it is par for the course for minute repeaters. It is neither the most inexpensive in its genre, nor the most expensive. In fact, pricing wise, it follows the Chopard value proposition, and remains below the average price of similar offerings.
It is targeted squarely at the classical minute repeater market. Karl-Frederich Schuefele told Deployant that he wanted a classical repeater, but without the attendent classical problems. Thus the strive towards a quiet regulator. The pursuit which resulted in crystal gongs. The use of double barrels and activation via a button coaxial to the crown instead of arming the repeater’s spring by pushing a slide at the case side. And the very traditional hour/quarter/minute striking system.
So in surveying the competitive landscape, we see several huge trees standing proud. Among them, in alphabetical order:
A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater (€ 440,000 converting to about S$ 664,000 incl GST in a platinum case). The Zeitwerk is the only minute repeater to feature a jumping hour/jumping minute time display. It strikes the time as one would see it on the dial, announcing it as a decimal style. Only the Credor and some unique Kari Voutilainens offer this more intuitive strike system. However, it is argued that the classsical minute repeater is one which strikes hours/quarters/minutes, and this is the style Chopard fashioned its repeater on. The movement on the Zeitwerk is innovative. The aforementioned jumping hour/minute system, the use of a constant force remontoir system, and a very powerful mainspring are the key innovations. Along with the spectacular finishing regularly found in Lange watches.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie (S$ 780,000 with GST in titanium case). The AP Supersonnerie includes a tourbillon and a chronograph as part of the sporty package. The AP’s regulator is near silent. And the strikes are clear, loud, clean. Good tone, with a beautiful decay. To our ears, perhaps the Supersonnerie sneaks one in over the Full Strike. Finishing at this level is at a level where we can safely say it is sufficient to compete. Not quite to be judged at the top of this very esteemed list, but like Rolls Royce use to quote as brake horsepower of her motorcar engines: “Adequate”. But it also costs more than twice as much. The case is very sporty, quite large, with a powerful presence. It is not a watch to quietly hide under the sleeve.
Credor Minute Repeater (¥ 34,650,000, or about S$ 429,000) brings the Japanese marvel closest in price to the LUC. But it is still nearly S$ 100,000 dearer. The Credor also features an almost silent regulator. And one which complements the silence of the Spring Drive mechanism. The strikes offer another perspective to the tempo, the style of the Swiss repeater. It is strikes the time announcement in a decimal style (like the Zeitwerk) rather than repeating the hours/quarters/minutes. Finishing is top drawer, ably competing with the best of the rest. It offers a more zen approach, totally appropriate given the Japanese origins of the Credor.
Jaeger LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica 11 ( € 294,000 or approximately S$ 413,000 in a platinum case. The Hybris 11 includes a tourbillon and is automatic winding. The JLC is also an ultra thin, and features several innovations under the case, chief among them being the use of a peripheral rotor, and the very thin flying tourbillon. The strikes of the Hybris 11 is very loud, perhaps piercing, and this can be demonstrated in the lab by measuring the decibels of the strikes. It achieves this by the use of the innovative Trébuchet hammers, with the gongs directly connected to the sapphire glass. It also features the same system where each of the first quarter of the hour is not struck but skipped so there is no pause in between. Other than the Chopard LUC, is the only watch to feature this on this list. But the strikes lack the last bit of refinement in the tonality and resonance. Finishing is very fine, and can hold up to scrutiny, though perhaps the JLC and the AP are possibly at the lower levels in this august list.
Patek Philippe is perhaps the brand best known for its association to the classical minute repeater and so must feature on any list. They offer several including one without any other complication: the Ref. 5078 (€ 333,420.00 or about S$505,000 in platinum). The 5078 is very classical in design and execution. Understated, elegant, beautiful. The sonics are also superb with the strikes being loud, clear, with good resonance. The sound of the regulator is present, but muted and does not disturb the strikes, but rather like background music. Finishing is ne plus ultra like the other watches on this list, except where noted. In other words very similar to the Vacheron, Lange and Credor. Historically, the Patek repeaters have offered fair to good returns in the secondary markets, perhaps more than any other brand’s.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra Thin Minute Repeater (S$633,400 with GST in platinum case). As waxed lyrical in our review of the VC, this is possibly the best repeater the author has ever heard. The regulator is not totally silent, but quiet enough. The strikes are not the loudest, but loud enough. The tones are magnificent, and an absolute sonic treat. The regulator can be heard when the the repeater’s striking works is in operation, but hardly obtrusive. The design and look is totally classical – slim, elegant. The finishing is tip top, and beyond reproach. It is very watch to slip away un-noticed under the cuffs. One to desire for totally the opposite reason as one would covet the AP Supersonnerie. It too sits almost 80% more expensive than the LUC Full Strike.
In this rather august company, the Chopard LUC Full Strike is the least expensive among the watches in this short, non-exhaustive survey. And when seen in this light seems remarkably well priced.
To say that the Chopard LUC Full Strike offers an interesting alternative to the usual suspects for the competitive and perhaps very lucrative minute repeater market is to take away from this beautiful creation. The watch is beautiful and checks all the right boxes. It is the most inexpensive to purchase in our Competitive Landscape survey. But at this price level, the collector has many options. Not only in terms of other (equally legitimate) minute repeaters, but also various other avenues. For example, he could buy two or perhaps more watches.
But the LUC Full Strike remains a shining star on Chopard‘s already well decorated and magnificent crown. A crowning glory of 20 years of the LUC manufacture. A venture which the Schuefeles’ need not take, but one which we are glad that Karl-Frederich has taken. We sat down to a téte-a-téte recently over tea one afternoon and discussed the motivation behind the LUC, among other things. Watch out for that series soon to eavesdrop on our conversation.
Chopard L.U.C Full Strike – technical details
– 18-carat “Fairmined” rose gold
– Total diameter: 42.5 mm
– Thickness: 11.55 mm
– 18-carat rose gold crown with L.U.C logo: 8.50 mm
– Vertical satin-brushed caseband
– Polished bezel and case-back, hand-engraved case-back
– Exhibition back fitted with glareproofed sapphire crystal
– Mechanical hand-wound: L.U.C 08.01-L
– Number of components: 533
– Total diameter: 37.20 mm
– Thickness 7.97 mm
– Number of jewels 63 jewels
– Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
– Power reserve 60 hours
– Mainplate and bridges in non-treated nickel silver
– Bridges adorned with the Côtes de Genève motif
– Chronometer-certified (COSC)
– “Poinçon de Genève” quality hallmark
Dial and hands:
– Gold dial with opaline silver-toned base
– Finely snailed small seconds
– Blue and black transfers
– Gilded Roman numerals
– Gilded Dauphine-type hours and minutes hands
– Gilded baton-type small seconds and watch movement power-reserve hands
– Blue baton-type striking mechanism power-reserve hand
– Railway-type minute track engraved under the sapphire crystal
Functions and displays:
– Minute repeater striking on the sapphire crystal and sapphire gongs (patented system)
– Central display of the hours and minutes
– Small seconds display at 6 o’clock
– Concentric display of the watch movement and striking mechanism power reserves at 2 o’clock
Strap and buckle:
– Strap in hand-sewn double-sided CITES-certified alligator leather, dyed with plant pigments
– 18-carat rose gold pin buckle
20-piece limited edition
Ref. 161947-5001 – In 18-carat “Fairmined” rose gold
Price: S$ 351,330 inclusive of GST.