The L.U.C Full Strike is one of, if not the most amazing mechanical watch ever conceived by Chopard. When it was introduced seven years ago in 2016, it was the brand’s very first minute repeater timepiece. Hiccups are normally part and parcel of firsts, but not at Chopard, apparently. Because in the following year, the L.U.C Full Strike deservedly won the Aiguille d’Or – the most prestigious prize in watchmaking – at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2017. Since then, a handful of variants have arisen, including one in white gold and – more recently – one with a colourless sapphire crystal case.
Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Blue Sapphire
This year, Chopard takes it further by presenting a sapphire crystal variant that is coloured, the first of its kind for the brand. Such an endeavour is something you usually see from manufactures that specialise in contemporary watches and materials – that’s not going to stop Chopard though. Here, we bring you the details and our honest opinion on Chopard’s latest L.U.C Full Strike, this time in blue sapphire.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case is where the new L.U.C Full Strike Blue Sapphire distinguishes itself from other iterations of the model. Its modern 42.5 x 11.55 mm dimensions is ever-unchanging but this time the case is rendered in blue sapphire. This includes the bezel, crown, case band, case back and rear glass. Manipulating transparent sapphire is challenging enough as is, but throwing colour into the equation takes it up a notch. Obtaining the intense blue colour you see in the sapphire involves adding chromium and rare earth elements to the usual composition of corundum in subtle chemical dosage. Utmost care is mandatory to guarantee not only homogenous colour, but also uniform structure, free of bubbles and opacity.
Complementing the case is, of course, a sapphire crystal dial, distinctively cut to accommodate elements that move or are read. The railway-style minute track is engraved into the crystal and painted. It contrasts well with the more classical rhodium-plated appliques that serve as hour markers. The power reserve indicator, located at the 2 o’clock position is also displayed on sapphire crystal. It has two hands, one indicating the energy remaining in the spring powering the minute repeater, the other for the spring driving the rest of the movement. The other hands on the see-through dial are for time-telling – two central hands for the hours and minutes, and a small seconds hand at 6 o’clock.
Driving the L.U.C Full Strike is the 63-jewel, 533-part Calibre L.U.C 08.01-L, the same movement powering previous versions of the model. It still stars Chopard’s patented ‘resonant sapphire structure’, referring to the fact that the repeater gongs and the front crystal are crafted from the same crystal monobloc whereby the latter serves as a resonator. As implied by the two-handed power reserve indicator, the energy for the repeater mechanism comes from a separate, dedicated barrel wound by the crown. If the barrel has insufficient force to power the complication, a safety mechanism kicks in to disengage the system. A different safety mechanism also disengages the pusher as soon as the repeater is activated, preventing accidental re-activation and consequent damage to the repeater. The rest of the movement has 60-hours of autonomy while operating at a modern 4 Hz frequency. The Calibre L.U.C 08.01-L is chronometre-certified by the COSC.
Assembled in Geneva to exacting standards, the calibre is also a bearer of the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva. Thus, one can expect the movement to be exceptionally crafted and finished. The mainplate and bridges are made of untreated nickel silver with the latter adorned with Geneva waves. The edges of these bridges – as well as the majority of other components – are beveled and polished. The hammers of the minute repeater are spectacularly black polished and further adorned with polished bevels and sharp angles. Put simply, this is a movement you’d be proud to see and show-off through the sapphire crystal dial.
The Competitive Landscape
Minute repeater watches are uncommon enough as is, but one that is as avant-garde and well-crafted as the L.U.C Full Strike Blue Sapphire? They are unicorns. The L.U.C Full Strike Blue Sapphire brings together the best of the old and new worlds. It is a watch with a classically finished movement, featuring a traditional complication in the form of a minute repeater that is housed and amplified by modern-day sapphire crystal. Like the colourless sapphire model before it, the L.U.C Full Strike Blue Sapphire is a limited edition of only 5 pieces. Pricing is available only upon request but expect it to be over half a million Singapore dollars.
Before the L.U.C Full Strike, there was the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Minute Repeater. Almost 20 years ago, the Le Sentier brand attached the gongs of their new minute repeater watch to the front sapphire crystal and brought forth watchmaking’s first “crystal gong”. Much like the Full Strike, the front sapphire crystal would serve as a resonator. This made the Master Minute Repeater and its descendants (photographed below) some of the loudest minute repeaters in the market, even today. The gongs weren’t made of crystal like in the Chopard, but this was back in 2005 when nothing apart from front and back crystals was sapphire.
Then you have something like the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Minute Repeater Supersonnerie, or any Supersonnerie watch for that matter. It all started with the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie where instead of having repeater gongs attached to the mainplate as per tradition, they are attached to an inner case back that serves as a sound board (much like the front sapphire crystal for the Chopard and Jaeger-LeCoultre). This amplifies the chimes, and the sound waves are allowed to travel out of the apertures in the outer case back. The result is loud chimes of exceptional clarity. The Supersonnerie concept has since been applied in different Audemars Piguet collections and even to chiming complications beyond the minute repeater like the grande et petite sonnerie.
The new L.U.C Full Strike Blue Sapphire will ruffle some feathers with its aggressive aesthetics, but at the same time, it is an exhibition of Chopard’s firepower. With just one watch, the brand has shown that it is capable of everything under the horological sun, from complicated fine watchmaking to materials engineering. It’ll be exciting to see what Chopard tries next. The obvious leap to take would be to translate their patented crystal chiming mechanism to other chiming complications. Is an L.U.C sonnerie watch in the pipeline? Or perhaps a simpler, hour strike watch? Only time will tell.