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A Closer Look: Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Trilogy – The First Sapphire Crystal Watch to Bear the Geneva Seal

A Closer Look: Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Trilogy – The First Sapphire Crystal Watch to Bear the Geneva Seal

20. June 2022

A manufacturer of Swiss watches, leather goods and jewellery, Chopard enjoys a reputation for its elegant products. However, a certain game-changer elevated the company to new heights of watchmaking in 2016 with the introduction of Chopard’s very first minute repeater. It was the crystal-clear Full Strike, marking the 20th anniversary of the manufacture.

First appearing in rose-gold (then a white-gold version two years later), the first edition made its mark when it won the Aiguille d’Or best-in-show award at the 2017 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. The primary reason behind this achievement was the inclusion of Chopard’s patented minute repeater system, whereby monobloc sapphire gongs strike the hours, quarters and minutes.

Chopard’s L.U.C Full Strike Trilogy © Federal Studio

As the manufacture now passes over its 25-year mark, Chopard has a new trilogy of three rather differing Full Strike models. The trio is drawing widespread interest since its introduction at Watches & Wonders 2022. The trio make up a part of Chopard’s current L.U.C collection, which often serves as a platform for its more complicated pieces. The trilogy consists of the L.U.C Strike One, L.U.C Full Strike Tourbillon, and L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire – and we going to take you through each model in detail.

What is a minute repeater?

Before delving into the details of the trilogy, let’s revisit the mechanics behind a minute repeater. First introduced under master watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet, this complication relays the time using a independent chiming mechanism involving two hammers. These produce tones at different pitches that can indicate hours, quarter hours, and minutes. The wearer activates the minute repeater using either a push-piece or slide lever that winds the mechanism’s mainspring. Similar to a Grande Sonnerie, however, Chopard’s Full Strike editions integrate the pusher into the crown, using a second spring barrel to power the repeater and thus the chimes. During the chimes, the crown is disconnected from the movement, thereby making it impossible to perform any time-setting that could damage the movement.

The Chopard L.U.C Sapphire Crystal Full Strike

Over the last two centuries, the traditional structure of a minute repeater has remained pretty much unchanged – although many manufactures do focus on creating as clear and pure a sound as possible. Alongside the hammers and gong, the structure of a minute repeater integrates a mainspring, gear wheels, and an escapement. What makes this minute repeater by Chopard different is that the gongs are not only sapphire crystal as opposed to steel, but also carved from of one block of crystal; no screws or glue in sight. Chopard’s complication chimes out the notes C sharp and F – and the signature clarity and tonality of the sound this produces is incomparable to that of a steel minute repeater mechanism. The sapphire crystal minute repeater is unique, with Chopard remaining the only Swiss watch manufacture to use the material as an acoustic generator and amplifier.

The L.U.C Full Strike Tourbillon © Federal Studio

Minute repeaters and materials

As the producer of possibly the most coveted minute repeaters out there, it is well worth mentioning Patek Philippe’s watches. Having long concentrated on quality of sound in its striking complications, the manufacture also experiments with materials. As its name suggests, Patek’s 2021 ‘Fortissimo’ minute repeater, for example, is all about volume. Like Chopard’s new creation, Patek worked with sapphire crystal, in this case for its thin oscillating glass plate serving to amplify the vibrations created by its platinum hammers. Platinum is beneficial as it likewise improves the quality of the sound.

The Patek Philippe ‘Fortissimo’ minute repeater can be heard up to 60 m away

With the help of four tiny sound outlets on the watch case, these factors allowed Patek’s ‘Fortissimo’ watch to be heard up to 60 m away. This contrasts with an average minute repeater’s sound, which resonates up to approximately 10 m away. What this example demonstrates is the array of different qualities watchmakers can focus upon with the minute repeater complication – not to mention the diverse techniques that can be used in the quest for the ‘perfect’ sound.

Patek Philippe ‘Fortissimo’ minute repeater

L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire

Let’s talk material

The piece to draw the most attention is undoubtedly the L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire, a five-piece limited edition consisting largely of sapphire crystal. The watch uses sapphire crystal for the case, crown, bezel, caseband, dial, and minute repeater’s gongs. This means that the wearer can enjoy a 360-degree view of the watch. The material, grown for Chopard in a lab using a special powder, is notably scratch-resistant, not to mention close to rivalling diamonds in terms of hardness.

Work in progress: Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire

Practicality and aesthetics are not the reasons for the watch’s material, though – of course not. It’s all about the sound. The combination of the sapphire crystal gongs and case allow the minute repeater to really resonate with the richest possible sound, as opposed to a tinkling chime. These qualities are highly important for Chopard, with the company describing their minute repeater as a ‘horological musical instrument’ – but more on that later.

© Federal-Studio

The architecture

As for the facts and figures: like the rose-gold original, the case of the Full Strike Sapphire measures 42.5 mm x 11.55 mm. With so much going on within the open worked dial, it can’t afford to be smaller. On the other hand, much larger would run the risk of making the watch too ostentatious (something that is neither Chopard’s, let alone the L.U.C collection’s style). The size works well, allowing the watch to sit well on the wrist while remaining fairly legible with the help of two simple dauphine hands. Of course, this watch’s number one priority is not readability, in any case. A white-gold logo at 3 o’clock adds a touch of edge to this otherwise luxurious limited edition.

Meanwhile, the sapphire crown features an integrated pusher that activates the minute repeater. From an aesthetic point of view, the crown seems fairly large in size, arguably not quite matching to the 42.5 mm case proportions – but no doubt making the complicated timepiece easy to use. In comparison to the precious metal versions, an illusion seems to make the sapphire crystal crown look a little chunkier. However, for the amount of action going on within this wristwatch, we can forgive the need for what feels to me like a very slightly oversized crown.

The movement

The transparent caseback allows for a view of the movement, the patented calibre L.U.C 08.01-L. Running at a frequency of 4 Hz, it has a solid 60-hour power reserve. Interestingly, the energy required for the calibre’s minute repeater function comes from a separate barrel, which the wearer winds via the crown.

The highly complex L.U.C 08.01-L

Another unusual fact about the L.U.C 08.01-L lies in its regulating of energy when the minute repeater mechanism is in use. Naturally, the complication needs the most energy to function when it reaches 12 hours and 59 minutes –  the longest time within the minute repeater repertoire. At this point, it can strike up to 12 times. The design of Chopard’s clutch-lever mechanism means that when the barrel is running low on energy, making it unable to power the minute repeater, a safety mechanism blocks the strikework’s release.

Role within the industry

An important watch for several reasons, the Full Strike Sapphire is the first ‘non-metallic timepiece’ to bear the prestigious Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark, thanks to its design and finishing across the case and movement. Sapphire crystal watches are currently a hot – yet still rare – phenomenon within the luxury Swiss watch industry. We’ve seen watches using the same material from the likes of Hublot (e.g. this year’s Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Purple Sapphire) and Zenith’s DEFY 21 Double Tourbillon model. That said, these pieces all contrast hugely in terms of style, architecture, and complication. What can be agreed on is that within the watch industry, sapphire crystal is regarded as a decidedly modern choice of material in terms of aesthetics and technology.

Sapphire crystal watches are proving a hot topic in the Swiss watch industry

On that note: what makes the Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire stand out is its ability to take an ostentatious material and complex movement, yet still create something well-balanced. The matching grey alligator leather strap with stitching certainly also helps in this regard, thanks to it being an achromatic colour.

The richly textured alligator leather strap is a reminder of Chopard’s
expertise in the field of luxury leather goods

Secondly, there’s the quality of sound this Full Strike offers, taking the sapphire crystal watch game to unparalleled heights within the industry. The clarity is not so much something you can explain as hear for yourself – but it is a pure, single and resonant sound. You can experience a recorded version of the minute repeater by watching the video at the end of this article.

For horology enthusiasts, hearing a minute repeater is always a special experience. The work that went into this particular complication by Chopard highlights just how mind-blowing the techniques required to create a complex mechanism through traditional means really are.

Price: 450,000 Swiss francs – limited to 5 pieces

L.U.C Full Strike Tourbillon

While there are only five pieces of the sapphire crystal L.U.C Full Strike, Chopard created 20 pieces of its rose-gold Full Strike Tourbillon model. As the name indicates, it comes with not only a minute repeater but also a tourbillon. Again, this is a first for the Chopard watch manufacture.

L.U.C Full Strike Tourbillon

Despite fitting even more into one watch (while keeping the same diameter as its sibling), this watch is very different in terms of style. The model keeps things minimalist by giving the model three main focus points: a strikework power reserve (2 o’clock), open-worked tourbillon (6 o’clock), and view of the hammers (9 to 11 o’clock). Therefore, the dial marks a slight policy change for the model, given that until now, Full Strike watches have revealed the complicated movements pretty much in their entirety.

The result is that what first strikes someone seeing this watch in person is not the mechanisms on display, but rather the finishing of the dial. The grey dial’s hand-guilloché floral pattern is exquisite and really makes this piece exude a high-end, classic feel. This makes sense if we bear in mind that L.U.C. watches are first and foremost supposed to cater for the ‘contemporary gentleman’. The grey dial, which uses a solid gold baseplate, matches to the rather chunky rose-gold Roman numeral hour markers.

Calibre L.U.C 08.02-L

There is one crucial novelty in this particular Chopard Full Strike calibre: the tourbillon. Once upon a time, back in the days of Breguet and pocket watches, tourbillons were used to improve precision. Often, they were not even visible to the wearer but rather hidden from view. These days, however, tourbillons tend to first and foremost showcase levels of craftsmanship at a manufacture. It’s unsurprising, then, that there is also a story behind this Full Strike’s tourbillon. Viewing the typical Chopard spiral tourbillon, observers will note that its cross-through bridge is sapphire crystal. This is not so much a technically motivated element, but rather a nod to the patented monobloc sapphire technology inherent across the Full Strike series.

Calibre L.U.C 08.02-L’s tourbillon complication integrates a
cross-through bridge made of sapphire crystal

The calibre L.U.C 08.02-L is visible via the caseback. What is particularly pleasing is that while the dial reveals only two elements of the movement, the wide diameter of the caseback means one can admire the calibre in its entirety. This consists primarily of an untreated nickel mainplate, bridges with a Côtes de Genève motif, and 61 jewels. Thanks in part to the decoration, the model holds the Poinçin de Genève quality hallmark. Notably, likely as a result of its extra complication, the L.U.C 08.02-L offers ten hours less power reserve than its sapphire crystal counterpart’s calibre. Nevertheless, it still has a more than respectable 50-hour power reserve and beats at a frequency of 4 Hz.

Price: upon request – limited to 20 pieces

L.U.C Strike One

Despite the visual qualities and horological complexities offered up by the two Full Strike models we have looked at already, the quietly beautiful L.U.C Strike One has to be my favourite of the trilogy. Featuring only a glimpse of the monobloc crystal gong system that is so integral to this collection (it reveals only a steel hammer), the Strike One is all about understatement. Smaller than its siblings, the 40 mm watch has a different framework. It chimes once an hour and the wearer can switch to silent mode using a pusher on the crown. 25 pieces are available.

The subtle and refined L.U.C Strike One ©Federal-Studio

The dial

The part of this watch that most entices its audience can be found on the centre of the grey dial, in the form of a honeycomb motif. We’ve seen this decoration many a time at Chopard over the years; the symbol of the bee is meaningful to the manufacture.

© Federal-Studio

With the emblem of the beehive important to founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard, this pattern is a ‘reference to the industrious, honest and modest nature of bees: all essential virtues contributing to an overall achievement enabled by cooperation and hard work’. This makes sense for a trilogy of watches that has broken records at not only its own manufacture, but across the entire watch world. Speaking of similar designs, 2022 also saw the release of the L.U.C XPS 1860 Officer with a honeycomb dial and exquisite honeycomb opening caseback, plus we’ve also seen the motif on the L.U.C Flying Twin and even on Chopard cufflinks.

Chopard’s 2022 L.U.C XPS 1860 Officer watch with special caseback © Patrick Csajko

What makes the motif work well on this dial, which is obtained by galvanic treatment, is not only the distinctively ‘Chopard’ look but also its combination with a warm rose-gold case, indices and hands. Aesthetically, the decoration and precious metal combination on this watch prove to be the perfect match. A snailed outer ring around the simplistic hour markers, as well as a snailed subdial for the small seconds at 6 o’clock, make the Strike One a very legible and measured timepiece. In addition, a miniature aperture at 12 o’clock indicates whether the watch is in ‘silent’ or ‘chime’ mode.

A small circular aperture at 12 o’clock indicates whether the watch is in ‘silent’ or ‘chime’ mode

The calibre L.U.C 96.32-L 

The calibre L.U.C 96.32-L features the typical architecture of L.U.C calibres, with its automatic winding via a micro-rotor in engraved ethical 22-carat gold. In addition, the Chopard Twin technology with its double barrel ensures a 65-hour power reserve – even when the chiming mode is in use. Once again, the watch does well in the calibre decoration department, adorning its bridges with the Côtes de Genève motif. Unsurprisingly, this Full Strike also holds the Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark.

The decorated calibre L.U.C 96.32-L

Price: 63,000 Swiss francs – limited to 25 pieces

Representing the watches through music

Brothers Gautier and Renaud Capuçon are first and foremost musicians. Gautier is one of the most famous cellists of his time, while Renaud is a world-renowned violinist. The pair are known not only for their talent, but also their compassion. Gautier, for example, recently journeyed to Lviv in war-torn Ukraine to perform for locals. Now, the high-profile siblings join Chopard’s ranks as representatives of this melodic trio of Chopard Full Strike watches.

Legends of the classical music world: Soloists Gautier [left] and Renaud [right] Capuçon

It makes a lot of sense for Chopard to collaborate with the pair, who naturally have an ear for sound, resonance, tone and clarity. It was actually when attending a concert by Renaud Capuçon that Co-President of Chopard, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, decided that his manufacture’s minute repeater should be like a musical instrument. In particular, he hoped that his minute repeater could also inspire emotion. Thus, he decided to seek the help of the two musicians, who now are ambassadors of the Chopard Full Strike watches.

The musicians with Chopard Co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele [centre]

In making the watches, Scheufele and the Capuçon brothers joined forces with Professor Romain Boulandet, the Head of the Applied Acoustics Laboratory at Geneva’s HEPIA engineering school. Boulandet’s work in an anechoic chamber that is perfectly isolated from noise pollution helped to ensure that the sound of Chopard’s minute repeater watches was powerful, harmonious and crystal clear. 

Chopard Full Strike: Closing thoughts on the trilogy

Luxury watches are ever-more popular, with many forecasting demand to grow at least 3.25 % in the next half decade. As a result, it is no surprise that many traditional houses are experimenting with achieving a fine balance between classic and contemporary, as well as traditional and modern technology. Along with other rising stars such as Parmigiani’s Tonda PF, Patek Philippe’s Calatrava Annual Calendar Travel Time, or Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Polaris Perpetual Calendar, Chopard is responding to this 21st-century-meets-tradition demand through its latest Full Strike models – and they couldn’t have responded better. From the clever and contemporary choice of grey, to the technological feats of its experimentation with sapphire crystal complications, the manufacture is setting itself up for success in the future of the industry, with these three models serving as proof that Chopard is well and truly a player at the top of the watch game.

© Federal-Studio

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