The year was 1996, and Chopard had just inaugurated its own manufactory in Fleurier. The Chopard Manufacture was dedicated to crafting so-called “L.U.C” movements entirely decorated by hand. Today, over a quarter of a century on and dozens of models later, the L.U.C collection has grown into Chopard’s most prestigious line, with plenty of awards under its belt. While the collection is home to the brand’s most complicated timepieces, it also features simple time-only watches, many of which come with design twists. One such model is the L.U.C XP Skeletec, first introduced in 2012. On its debut, the L.U.C XP Skeletec was among the world’s thinnest self-winding skeleton watches, showcasing the capabilities of the Chopard Manufacture.
Chopard L.U.C XP Skeletec
Last year, in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Chopard Manufacture, Chopard gave the decade-old model a minor but impactful redesign. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the new 2021 L.U.C XP Skeletec, now more open and sleek than ever.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
One of the most palpable traits of the L.U.C XP Skeletec is just how thin it is. Measuring 40 mm in diameter and just 7.2 mm in thickness, the watch is delightfully slender and wears elegantly on the wrist. In line with Chopards commitment to using 100% ethically produced gold in all its jewellery and watches, the case of the 2021 L.U.C XP Skeletec is crafted in ethical 18-carat white gold. Its design is simple but striking enough, with vertical satin-brushed finish on the flanks and mirror polishing on the lugs and bezel.
Where the Skeletec starts to distinguish itself from other L.U.C pieces is in the dial, or rather, a lack thereof. In the 2021 edition of the model, four main changes have been made relative to the original version: 1) more of the dial has been cut out to reveal an even greater portion of the movement, 2) instead of baton indices, arrowheads (overhanging from the edge of what remains of the dial) are used now to mark the hours, 3) the hands have been changed from classic dauphine to contemporary, Chopard-style dauphine hands, and 4) a minute scale has been added along the perimeter. All in all, these design updates have brought about a much improved appearance for the L.U.C XP Skeletec. The idea of the Skeletec has always been to highlight the skeletonisation of the dial and movement behind it. The more open design of the 2021 version certainly helps achieve this purpose. The changes have also thoroughly modernised the model, thus extending its longevity in the market.
Driving the new L.U.C XP Skeletec is the familiar 167-part, 29-jewel Calibre L.U.C 96.17-S that also powered the previous version of the watch from 2012. While it would’ve been nice to see an update or upgrade on the movement, the Calibre L.U.C 96.17-S still exceeds current standards from a technical standpoint. It has a respectable power reserve (for an automatic movement) of 65 hours thanks to twin coaxial barrels and operates at a modern 4 Hz frequency. To ensure movement thinness, Chopard opts for a 22-carat gold micro-rotor that sits flush with the bridges.
The highlight of the Calibre L.U.C 96.17-S is in the openworking, featuring plates and bridges artfully hollowed out to reveal the beauty of the inner workings. Of course, all this is meticulously carried out by hand at the Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier. The skeletonised parts are dominated by rounded angles but also showcase some sharp outward and inward angles. On the dial side, a Côtes de Genève finish ripples across the skeletonised mainplate. The mainplate and bridges are black rhodium-plated to let the gilded gear wheels and stamped micro-rotor stand out even more.
The Competitive Landscape
There are times when we just want to be able to look at our watch and tell the time instantaneously courtesy of a clean dial and legible display. For other times, there are skeleton watches. While they sometimes feel gimmicky, luxury skeleton watches never go out of fashion simply because many people who buy watches happen to also be watch enthusiasts who care about watch movements and craftsmanship. The Chopard L.U.C XP Skeletec is the prototypical luxury high-end skeleton watch. It offers excellent visibility of the movement through both sapphire crystals and a generous degree of skeletonisation that is sure to entice the watch geeks among us. Limited to only 50 pieces in white gold, the new L.U.C XP Skeletec retails for a fair CHF26,300.
For something a touch sportier, look no further than the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic Blue. The absolutely airy design of the timepiece is thanks to its highly skeletonised movement, openworked dial, and tasteful use of sapphire crystal. There are plenty of blue accents on the watch, as its name would suggest, ranging from the hands and screws to the fabric strap. It is worth mentioning as well that the case is made of zirconium oxide ceramic, ensuring that the Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic Blue is featherweight not just in looks but also to the touch. Priced similarly to the Chopard L.U.C XP Skeletec at CHF24,300 (2019 pricing), the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic Blue is a worthy – albeit sportier – alternative.
If you have a bit more (or a lot more) to spend, why not go for the king of skeleton watches, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Ceramic. Of the three watches mentioned here, the Royal Oak definitely boasts the highest level of finishing and the most evocative skeletonisation. Apart from having two balances for better timekeeping, the watch also features an all-ceramic body that makes it supremely light and scratch-resistant. The Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Ceramic is a prime specimen of haute horlorgerie – the catch is, it costs USD84,300 (more than three times the Chopard L.U.C XP Skeletec). And even with the funds, you probably can’t buy one in-stores without proper connections or a solid purchase history; this is, after all, one of the most coveted Audemars Piguet timepieces in recent times.
The new L.U.C XP Skeletec comes with improved looks while largely retaining its original identity. As it stands, this is the only skeletonised model that the L.U.C collection has. With the amount of talent available at the Chopard Manufacture, it would be unsurprising if more skeletonised models or skeletonised variations of pre-existing models were to surface in the years to come. Elegance is the core of the L.U.C collection, and if anyone knows how to craft an elegant skeleton watch, it’d be Chopard, as they have shown with the L.U.C XP Skeletec.