The day Chopard cemented its place in modern-day fine watchmaking was the day it introduced the L.U.C 1860 and, with it, the now-esteemed L.U.C collection. The original L.U.C 1860 was highly acclaimed back in the day and remains a legend to this day. Since then, the L.U.C collection has blossomed to include models such as the Full Strike that won the coveted Aiguille d’Or prize in 2017 or the super-complicated All-in-One that came at the turn of 2010.
Chopard L.U.C 1860 in Lucent Steel
The new Chopard L.U.C 1869 in Lucent Steel retails for SGD 33,600 inclusive of GST.
For 2023, Chopard had decided to go full circle by re-interpreting the first L.U.C timepiece. Re-issuing an old masterpiece can be risky business as the pressure to live up to expectations is very real. The risk appears to have paid off as – dare we say – the new L.U.C 1860 is at least as gorgeous as the old (and maybe even better). While the design of the new L.U.C 1860 remains somewhat unchanged, the manufacture did not hesitate to modernise the model and implement changes in areas that could be improved upon. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the new L.U.C 1860 in Lucent Steel with salmon dial.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The new 1860 is the first L.U.C timepiece to be rendered in Chopard’s homebrewed Lucent Steel alloy. Precious metal it is not, but Chopard’s Lucent Steel sure looks the part thanks to its luminous brilliance. Measuring just 36.5 mm in diameter, the case size of the new L.U.C 1860 is faithful to the original. This ensures the reissue retains its identity as a true dress watch like its predecessor was. While Chopard has chosen to keep to the original size, there are minor but notable differences in case design that distinguish and usher the watch into the 21st century, the most obvious of which is found on the case middle. In the original L.U.C 1860, the entirety of the watch is polished, typical of old-school dress watches; this is not the case for the reissue, as the case middle here is given a brushed finish. As a result, the case (and therefore the watch) has a more casual appearance, especially when you take into account the choice of material.
While a dress watch case crafted in Lucent Steel is fascinating and novel, it is the dial of the new L.U.C 1860 that grabs the headlines. The dial is made of solid gold, but that’s not why it has it’s rich salmon colour. Instead, the salmon hue is obtained by galvanic treatment. The pairing of white metal and salmon dial is one that has been around for many decades and is almost universally adored amongst the watch cognoscenti. It is not surprising, then, that there is a pre-existing variation of the original L.U.C 1860 crafted in white gold with salmon dial. Even less surprising is the fact that it is one of the best selling versions of the watch. But we digress. Other similarities between the old and the new guard include the chevron hour markers, the Dauphine hands, and the hand-guilloched radiating pattern on the central medallion.
Similarities are important and all, but there are also differences significant enough for the new L.U.C 1860 to have an identity of its own. The aforementioned guilloche pattern on the dial emanates from the historical Chopard logo at 12 o’clock in the 2023 entrant, while in the original version, it radiates from the central hands. Both iterations look amazing, but perhaps the old execution edges it, simply because it looks more balanced. Since the very beginning, the dials of the L.U.C 1860 (new and old) are made by dial specialists Metalem. And if you think these dials look familiar, it’s because Metalem also made dials for Philippe Dufour’s Simplicity watches, some of which feature the familiar ‘centre medallion with radiating guilloche pattern’ design. But perhaps the most important difference between the old and the new L.U.C 1860 is the complete lack of a date display in the latter. If the steel-salmon dial combination didn’t already win you over from the get-go, the clean visage of the new L.U.C 1860 resulting from the omission of a date window surely will.
At the risk of starting a riot, the reissue is, marginally, the better looking piece. Sacrificing the practicality of the date display, in this case, is well worth the cleaner look of the dial.
Driving the L.U.C 1860 in Lucent Steel is the 176-part, 29-jewel Calibre L.U.C 96.40-L. The movement – with twin mainspring barrels stacked in accordance to Chopard Twin Technology – has 65 hours of power reserve, while operating at a modern 4 Hz frequency. Like the Calibre 1.96 that powered the original L.U.C 1860, the twin mainspring barrels in the Calibre L.U.C 96.40-L are wound by an off-centre micro-rotor. The movement is chronometre-certified by COSC.
When the Calibre 1.96 was unveiled back in 1996, it was hailed as the next best thing since sliced bread – one of the finest self-winding calibres at the time capable of going toe-to-toe with fine watchmaking giants such as Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. It’s the same story with the new Calibre L.U.C 96.40-L which looks almost identical to the Calibre 1.96. Standards certainly haven’t slipped as the movement is as gorgeous as ever, lending itself to Geneva Seal certification, which in part ensures that a movement is constructed, is finished and functions in accordance to exacting standards. Indeed, a peek through the sapphire crystal back reveals all: beveled and polished edges, Geneva waves across the bridges, perlage on the mainplate, and mirror-polished screw heads and swan neck regulator, among others.
The Competitive Landscape
The salmon dial-white metal pairing enjoys a cult-like status amongst watch enthusiasts and collectors. When executed to the high standards of something like the L.U.C collection, you’ll have yourself an instant hit. And that’s exactly what the L.U.C 1860 in Lucent Steel is – a winner. Sure, it’s not exactly the most innovative novelty released by Chopard, but the brand knows better than to implement wholesale changes to the recipe of one the greatest time-only watches of the past 30 years. Instead, alterations were kept to a minimum and only made where improvements could be had – the removal of the date display, for instance. Interestingly, the L.U.C 1860 in Lucent Steel with salmon dial is not a limited edition timepiece, which is good news for fans of the model. Priced at USD23,200 or SGD33,600, the watch isn’t exactly bargain bin material, especially for a steel watch, but it is around what you’d expect to pay for an haute horlogerie time-only watch these days.
Speaking of time-only fine watches with salmon dial, you can’t really miss the decadent Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra Thin in white gold from 2019. Okay, this one has date function, but at least it is designed to be utmost discreet. Replacing the 3 o’clock marker and possessing a similar colour to the salmon dial, the date display blends in effortlessly and does not stick out like a sore thumb. The Royal Oak, though, is a limited edition piece – only 75 made and almost certainly all accounted for. It was priced at USD55,400 back in 2019 if you were invited to buy one from the Audemars Piguet boutique.
Indeed, prices for quality timepieces have gone off the charts lately. Fortunately, there are still some relatively hidden gems available for consideration that won’t break the bank; the Austrian-made Habring² Foudroyante-Felix is one great example. Measuring just 38.5 mm in diameter – just 2 mm bigger than the L.U.C 1860 – the case is crafted in stainless steel and houses a salmon-coloured dial. Time aside, the watch also has a foudroyante function which is always cool to see. The Calibre A11F that drives the watch may not be nearly as stunning as the movement within the L.U.C 1860 but it is attractive and still features hand-finished elements such as perlage and polished bevels. Priced at around EUR6,550, the watch offers excellent value to those looking for an enthusiast salmon-dialed timepiece.
The Chopard L.U.C 1860 in Lucent Steel sits amongst the greatest time-only watches made in the modern age. It is right up there mingling with the Dufour Simplicity watches and the best Calatravas from Patek. It is a shame that the L.U.C 1860 lacks the fame of Dufour or Patek Philippe watches, because it absolutely deserves widespread recognition. The silver lining is that this keeps the pricing in check, which is great news for those looking to add the L.U.C 1860 to their collection.