While it pains me to say this, it is nevertheless true: increasingly tough market situations have forced watch brands to ease back on releasing new super complicated watches. We have become used to seeing a handful of these so-called “halo watch” novelties every single year, but that no longer is the case as R&D budgets are cut and the financial sustainability is questionable for such eye-wateringly expensive projects. Worry not, though, as the all-new Chopard L.U.C Full Strike is here and, frankly, it has everything going for it to become any real watch lover’s wet dream. Let’s see how it looks, works, and sounds, hands-on.
A Birthday Present From Chopard, To Chopard
First, some context – and I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible. In 2016, Chopard is proudly celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Chopard Manufacture, a highly capable manufacture in Fleurier, Switzerland, that has been producing both some great looking in-house (not-so-)base movements like in the Mille Miglia 2016 XL (reviewed here), as well as even more refined, top grade Chopard L.U.C watches and their wholly in-house calibers. The Chopard L.U.C Full Strike is the first minute repeater ever made by Chopard, and they say it took them six years to develop it – a commendable effort, because, like so many others, they too totally could have sourced a base minute repeater from one of the numerous suppliers… but they didn’t.
I’ll go out on a limb and say this: over the last few years, Chopard’s high-end, in-house L.U.C division has grown to be one of the most impressive suppliers of beautifully finished, uniquely and thoughtfully engineered and, last but not least, useful-feature-laden timepieces. Yet, Chopard to this day remains sort of an underdog, and while there is no doubt to Chopard L.U.C slowly but surely earning the reputation it deserves, a serious halo-piece like, you know, a kick-ass minute repeater might expedite the process.
Part of Chopard L.U.C’s appeal, in my mind, comes not from them trying to first copy what others have done and being comparably good at the same game. No, instead they more often than not dare to think a bit out of the box, apparently with an approach of “if we are making something in-house and from scratch, we might as well make something new.” Look at the Quattro (reviewed here) for one of the thinnest, most elegant and technically impressive long power reserve movements, the new Time Traveler (hands-on) for some (finally!) 21st-century-looking luxury world time watches, or the XPS 1860 (hands-on here) for a high-end dress watch with an in-house micro-rotor movement for under $10k. This trend of engineered sensibility is now broken by one insane minute repeater.
533 Movement Parts & One Patented Component…
Chopard appears to have let loose a bit (quite a bit) and created something that would at last show off the full range of in-house capabilities of the Louis-Ulysse Chopard (L.U.C) manufacture: the brand’s first minute repeater, the Chopard L.U.C Full Strike, an all new, 533-component, 60-hour power reserve, Geneva Seal-certified chiming watch, set inside an 18k “Fairmined” rose gold case.
Let’s get straight to the point now, the L.U.C 08.01-L movement – because case design and wearability, we’ll talk later. The hand-wound movement is a case-bulging 37.20mm wide and 7.97mm thick, it runs at 4Hz (no 3Hz “traditionalist” slouch here) and has a power reserve of 60 hours thanks to its two barrels, both equipped with slipping springs to ensure that they cannot be over-wound and snapped.
The two barrels don’t work in your typical fashion, though: one stores the energy for the time indications, while the other is for the minute repeater. You see, 99% of other modern minute repeaters are wound when the function is initiated by the wearer either by operating a slider or pressing on a button set into the case. By doing so, traditional minute repeaters achieve one chime’s worth of energy that is gone by the end of the chime. With the Chopard L.U.C Full Strike, the repeater function is started through the more rare way of pressing a pushpiece which, in this instance, is integrated into the crown – but, again, this pusher does not power the repeater.
To replenish the barrels of the hand-wound movement, all you need to do is turn the crown in one direction to power up the normal barrel, and the opposite direction to get some more go-juice into the minute repeater. Chopard says that the energy stored in the repeater’s barrel is enough to chime the “longest time” – that is 12 chimes for the hours, 3 chimes for 3 quarters, and 14 chimes for the minutes (to make up for 11:59), twelve times over. Better still, the double power reserve indicator at the dial’s two o’clock position will let you know when your Chopard L.U.C Full Strike needs to be shown some love.
Movement, case, and dial finishing is absolutely stellar – as is expected both from Chopard, and also from any new watch that complies with the Geneva Seal’s updated, more comprehensive, and more stringent requirements. The case-back side of the movement features large plates with numerous curves, openings and negative spaces, as well as enough text to have made Leo Tolstoy Super-LumiNova green with envy.
The large bridges and plates have all been covered with Côtes de Genève striping diagonally – it looks cool, but surely does not help make the back look any more tidy. Edges are chamfered and polished, so are the countersinks for the jewels and the heads for the screws. The Seal now concerns the quality of the case as well, but we’ll talk about that a bit later.
The real show happens on the dial side of the movement, though, where so much of the solid gold dial has been removed. Press the crown’s pusher and you hear a solid click, followed by the so-called governor at the 8 o’clock position spinning frantically as the two huge steel hammers start striking out the time. Each hammer is absolutely massive when compared to other repeaters and also proportionally to the dial’s other elements, with their exquisite mirror finish further reinforcing the visual effect of their size. Furthermore, each hammer has an individually modifiable striking force where the watchmaker can fine-adjust their movement and, with that, the resulting acoustic intensity.