One of the purest forms that a travel timepiece can take is the GMT watch. First created for pilots back in the 1950s, the GMT watch confers more information than a simple dual-time watch and is more streamlined than a worldtimer. To be a true GMT timepiece, a watch just needs to have a 24-hour scale and a second hour hand that runs half as fast as the other regular hour hand that it is anchored to. Back in 2016, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of its Fleurier manufacture, Chopard introduced the L.U.C GMT One in stainless steel, the first watch with the GMT complication in the hallowed L.U.C collection.
Chopard L.U.C GMT One Black
Fast forward to 2021, Chopard has released a new variation of the L.U.C GMT One. While the piece is functionally equivalent to the original stainless steel debutant, it speaks a vastly different design language, with new material, colour scheme and surface finishes. Here, we bring you the low-down and our thoughts on the new Chopard L.U.C GMT One Black.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The new L.U.C GMT One Black retains the case design and dimensions of its stainless steel predecessor. Still measuring a contemporary 42.00 x 11.71 mm, the case is fitted with two crowns on the flank – one, at 2 o’clock, to adjust the date and time, and the other, at 4 o’clock to adjust the 24-hour ring. What’s vastly different in this new variant is the case material. Along with the L.U.C Time Traveler One Black that was co-presented at Watches & Wonders 2021, the GMT One Black is the world’s first travel watch to have a case crafted in ceramised titanium. Ceramised grade 5 titanium is created by subjecting the surface layer of titanium to extreme temperatures, effectively oxidising it. This treatment results in greater corrosion resistance and increased hardness for the famously lightweight metal.
The clean dial layout of the L.U.C GMT One Black remains unchanged from before but the vibe it emanates now is completely distinct. Matching the hue of the case perfectly, the dial features a monochromatic theme that isn’t just suave, but also allows the displays and indications to be supremely legible. On the periphery of the dial is the 24-hour ring that marks the hours in the second time zone; the light-grey half of the ring represents daytime, the black half, nighttime. Moving inwards, there is the local time scale marked by white Arabic numerals and arrowhead indices. It is rendered in grey and adorned with fine concentric guilloche that interacts with light playfully. The centre medallion is also in grey – albeit in a different shade – and houses the four hands of the watch: the hour, minute and second hands for the local time, as well as the hour hand for the second time zone (also known as the GMT hand). Thanks to the white Super-Luminova coating on the hands and hour markers, the time is visible even under low- or no-light conditions. Last but not least, the date window is located at the 6 o’clock position of the dial, discreetly and tactfully integrated into the local time scale.
Driving the L.U.C GMT One Black is the 262-part, 31-jewel Calibre L.U.C 01.10-L. The automatic movement has a power reserve of 60 hours and operates at a modern 4 Hz frequency. As with all other L.U.C movements, it is COSC chronometer-certified for accuracy.
To match the aesthetic of the case and dial, the movement itself is rendered in an anthracite grey hue. While not a Hallmark of Geneva certified movement like some of its siblings from the L.U.C collection, the Calibre L.U.C 01.10-L is still beautifully finished, with Geneva Waves across the bridges and winding rotor, polished screw heads, beveled and polished edges, and circular grained mainplate.
The Competitive Landscape
GMT watches, even after you exclude the wannabes that don’t come with a 24-hour scale, are a dime a dozen today. The complication has indeed taken off ever since Pan Am commissioned Rolex in the 1950s to develop the first GMT watch ever for its pilots. That said, while the GMT watch is common, only a certain number of watchmakers manufacture them to “fine watchmaking” standards. Chopard, of course, is one of them. The L.U.C GMT One Black stands out not just because it is one of the more immaculately crafted, true GMT watches around, it is also made of avant-garde ceramised titanium which hasn’t been done in a travel watch until now. The watch, which comes with an embossed black rubber strap, is priced at CHF11,500.
No discussion about GMT watches is ever complete without touching on Rolex. The GMT-Master is not only one of the most iconic watches in Rolex’s stable, but also in the history of watches in general. The GMT-Master II Ref. 116710, with its unmissable black and blue bezel, first debuted in 2013. Dubbed the “Batman”, the watch was given a makeover in 2019 with a Jubilee bracelet and an updated movement. The watch comes with a retail price tag of CHF8,800, but as anyone in the watch space who’s been around for long enough would know, it is next to impossible to buy one at retail in most places.
For a more accessible alternative, look no further than the Bell & Ross BR 03-93 GMT. Released this year, the watch has a true GMT display, with a red and black GMT bezel, and a red arrowhead-tipped 24-hour hand. The square case of the watch is inspired from instrument panels in aircraft, which makes the pairing with the GMT complication all the more poetic. The Calibre BR-CAL.303 that beats within is derived from the ETA 2893-2 movement. Gorgeous on the outside with a reliable engine, the BR 03-93 GMT is priced at a fair USD4,200.
The L.U.C GMT One Black is made for the modern-day traveler. It is clean, intuitive to read, rainproof, scratch resistant and lightweight – all the traits a sojourner could demand. Of course, there’s also the added perk of a handsome design, as well as the fine craftsmanship and finissage that is expected of all L.U.C timepieces. While the L.U.C GMT One Black doesn’t shift any watchmaking paradigms, it is also far from being just another generic GMT watch. Full credit to Chopard for trying out a new design language and an exotic case material.