Register and benefit from the watches coverage of International Watch Middle East magazine.
Chopard strikes again
Research and development has a special meaning at Chopard, as the Swiss Fine Watchmaking brand once again shows remarkable skills and expertise of true Haute Horlogerie. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Manufacture, Chopard launches its first ever minute repeater: the L.U.C. Full Strike, including a number of world première features, to mark this special moment. Striking the hours, quarters and minutes on sapphire gongs, this standout model is in a league of its own thanks to its original construction, the excellence of its Poinçon de Genève finishing, and above all its extraordinary sound. This refined and easy-wear model epitomises the best of the Chopard Manufacture expertise, inventiveness and quality.
The accomplished, expert and versatile Chopard Manufacture has been working for more than six years on its most sophisticated chiming watch to date. The L.U.C collection already included the L.U.C Strike One model launched in 2006, which chimes each striking hour. The collection now welcomes a minute repeater entirely developed, produced and assembled by Chopard: the L.U.C Full Strike. This distinguished 42.5 mm-diameter watch in Fairmined rose gold with an openworked dial houses a substantial number of technical solutions that make it one of the most innovative minute repeaters on the market.
The L.U.C Full Strike is an exceptional watch that chimes the hours, quarters and minutes on transparent crystal gongs. These sapphire rings are an integral part of the watch glass, which creates a perfect loudspeaker faithfully to diffuse the chimes of the hammers striking the sapphire. This is a unique technical solution which is visible at 10 o’clock and results in a tone of matchless purity that is rich and full, powerful and resonant. The traditional metaphorical description of a sound as “crystal-clear” takes on a very literal meaning here. The L.U.C Full Strike chimes as a silver knife were delicately tapping a Bohemian crystal glass placed on the table of a gourmet restaurant.
Chopard’s watchmaking creativity
Behind this acoustic result lies one of the most sophisticated and inventive movements ever created by Chopard Manufacture. Almost 17,000 hours of development have been lavished on the development of calibre 08.01-L, which is subjected to three pending patents. Chopard has found all-new in-house responses to historical issues relating to the nature of the gongs, as well as to the operation and ergonomics of the striking system as a whole.
In particular, this movement comprises a series of security systems that protect it from all the inappropriate handling operations that can damage minute repeaters. Its crown serves to wind the movement in one direction, and its striking mechanism in the other. The L.U.C Full Strike thus accumulates enough energy to strike 12:59 – the longest time in the minute repeater repertoire – 12 times. It is equipped with a double power-reserve indicator positioned at 2 o’clock and featuring two superimposed hands respectively indicating the striking-mechanism reserve and the movement’s autonomy.
The true strength of the L.U.C Full Strike resides in the fact that this impressive array of technical prowess goes discreetly unnoticed on the wrist, thanks to a thoroughly refined watch bearing the Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark. Pressing the crown-integrated pusher causes it to chime the hours, quarters and minutes, to the delight of its owner and those around him.
Sapphire endowed with exceptional properties
Transparent sapphire crystal is the material traditionally used for scratch-resistant watch glasses. This very hard and homogenous material also boasts amazing acoustical properties that Chopard has succeeded in leveraging: typical minute repeater gongs are made of steel or gold segments which vibrate when struck, producing their characteristic sound. The L.U.C Full Strike is unique in that it is equipped with sapphire gongs. Moreover, Chopard has opted to step things up a notch, since these gongs form part of a coherent set.
The gongs and watch glass are in fact machined together from a single sapphire block. They thus form a single welding-, glue- and screw-free entity: a construction that is totally unique in watchmaking history and for which a patent has been filed. In the watch industry, just as in the hi-fi field, breaks in material are detrimental to the transmission of acoustic waves. The perfect physical integrity between the gongs and the watch glass transmits the sound directly outside the watch, with all its strength and its singular personality.
Another proof of sapphire’s versatility is its perfect robustness. Even after tests in which it undergoes one and half million impacts with steel hammers, it does not break. The corollary of this hardness is the extreme difficulty involved in working with it. Machining such a tiny set of parts in such a resistant material, without breaking the connection between the gongs and the watch glass, called for tools that are both powerful and accurate. Machining the gongs/glass set alone required more than three years of development, representing a major technical and human feat.
The strength and purity of sound
The L.U.C Full Strike has its own unique sound signature. The sound it produces is not metallic, cold or abrupt, but instead full-bodied and truly crystal-clear. The gongs are tuned to two notes: C and F. Their chime lingers pleasingly, with a very low sound-deadening factor. The tonal richness boasts unprecedented amplitude, since this is the first time that sapphire is used as a generator. Sapphire also plays the role of acoustic amplifier.
Finally, the L.U.C Full Strike astonishes by the intensity of its chime. This is not a goal in itself for Chopard, which would never seek to achieve it to the detriment of sound quality. Throughout the 16 seconds that the watch takes to strike 12:59, it chimes in a uniform manner, a result that is extremely hard to achieve and in itself represents an important horological accomplishment.
In music, silence is as important as the notes themselves. For a minute repeater, silence is equally important and Chopard has developed the L.U.C Full Strike with this in mind. The rotations of the strike governor – the component that gives the striking mechanism its rhythm – are visible at 8 o’clock. While this part may sometimes emit a humming sound, that of calibre L.U.C 08.01-L is entirely inaudible. While components used for the striking mechanism sometimes make a clicking sound at the end of the tune, the L.U.C Full Strike does no such thing. Finally, it resolves one of the most disturbing problems faced by a minute repeater: the silence between the last hours stroke and the first quarters stroke, which may vary according to the specific quarter-hour to be struck.
In simple terms, the minute repeater sequence comprises one time-window for the hours, another for the quarter-hours and a third for the minutes. A chime is thus generally punctuated by long silences, during which the watch owner must wait and may in fact wonder whether the watch is still working. The structure of calibre L.U.C 08.01-L enables it to skip these silences automatically. Its hours, quarters and minutes gear trains are superimposed and mutually drive each other. When one has completed its task, it automatically triggers the next, maintaining a constant cadence however many strokes are to be chimed subsequently.
The art of composition
Calibre 08.01-L is based on an exceptional construction. A traditional minute repeater is all about levels, with one layer measuring the time and another transforming this time into notes. The extremely thin new L.U.C calibre enables the L.U.C Full Strike to measures just 11.5 mm thick in all, a modest figure for a watch with an over 500-part movement.
On one side of the calibre, the barrel, going train and regulating organ form a timekeeping ensemble with a 60-hour power reserve certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). In this respect, the L.U.C Full Strike meets the demands imposed by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard, who wanted the L.U.C collection to comprise Haute Horlogerie watches with certified precision. Contrary to tradition, the minute repeater mechanism is placed on the dial side and is thus entirely visible.
The L.U.C Full Strike steel hammers feature an individually modifiable striking force, thus making it possible for the watchmaker to perform fine adjustment of the acoustic intensity.
An original power-reserve indication system
For wind instrument musicians, breath is the basic tool that must be mastered even before the instrument itself. In a minute repeater, endurance is also a decisive factor. The L.U.C Full Strike is equipped with two barrels. Both are equipped with a slipping spring, as used in self-winding movements, in order to ensure that winding operations are not impeded by an overwound spring, and thereby protecting them against any risk of snapping. One stores up the energy required for time measurement, and the other that needed for the minute repeater. The L.U.C Full Strike therefore does not draw the energy required for the chime from a winding lever such as is generally found on the caseband. The energy is instead stored in a dedicated barrel enabling the movement to chime “the longest time” (12:59) 12 times in a row. The barrels are recharged by means of a large-diameter rose gold crown coupled with a differential gear, which transmits the force imparted by the hand towards the appropriate barrel, according to the direction in which the crown is wound.
The L.U.C Full Strike is equipped with a special system for indicating the twin power reserves, composed of two coaxially fitted hands. The first gilded one indicates the movement power reserve, while the other blue one indicates the number of chimes that can be activated. The latter indication is not there for information purposes only, since it also serves as a basis for one of the many security systems protecting the watch.
Securing the movement
A minute repeater mechanism is a system of interactions that is unparalleled in watchmaking. Numerous movement parts are in motion and this implies equally numerous risks of breakage. Chopard has therefore equipped Calibre 08.01-L with three security devices protecting it from any handling mistakes. The striking mechanism power reserve is coupled with a semi-toothed wheel. When the reserve drops too low, it deactivates the minute repeater chime, thus ensuring that the watch cannot sound fully, due to the lack of energy.
Moreover, in order to maximise the striking mechanism power reserve, an ingenious patented device has been incorporated into the coupling-clutch of Calibre 08.01-L. During coupling and uncoupling, the regulator does not rotate, and only when everything is in its appointed place does the striking mechanism actually consume energy.
During the chime itself, the crown is disconnected from the movement, thereby making it impossible to perform any time-setting that could damage the movement. The activating pusher built into the crown is also deactivated at this time, since a second attempt to trigger the mechanism might otherwise force the striking mechanism coupling-clutch.
Securing the sound
Breakage is not the only kind of risk facing a minute repeater movement, which may also chime imperfectly. Chopard has therefore created additional security devices guaranteeing the regularity of each sound indication. Information is picked up from the snails via the beaks on each rack, but the information is not directly transmitted via these racks as is traditionally the case, but instead via ratchet-wheels that activate gathering-pallets. This principle results in a gear ratio serving to increase security and thus ensure a regular tempo. This arrangement generally used for the hours has been extended to the quarters and minutes in this calibre.
Chopard has also resolved the issue of irregular sound intensity. To avoid the last strikes being too weak, the ratchet-wheels are coaxially arranged so as to ensure the hammers are smoothly and consistently raised and thus maintain their constant striking force on the gongs. Moreover, a flexible link between the hours and quarters ratchet-wheels guarantees a constant tempo between the last hours stroke chimed and the first quarters stroke, however many quarters need to be sounded.
With a total of seven security devices, the L.U.C Full Strike achieves a high degree of sophistication. The watch is preserved from risks of breakage. This omnipresent concern for durability and quality is the unmistakable signature of Chopard Manufacture.
The aura of distinction radiated by L.U.C timepieces
Alongside its inherent horological richness, the L.U.C Full Strike is a supremely elegant watch. In keeping with the L.U.C watch design codes, it features a vertical satin-brushed caseband creating a striking contrast with the polished bezel and case-back. All the inscriptions on the latter are hand-engraved and the case is made from 18-carat Fairmined rose gold. This label guarantees that Chopard has sourced this gold from a cooperative whose operations are certified as ethical, fair and sustainable.
Measuring 42.5 mm in diameter and 11.5 mm thick, this reasonably sized case is graced with beautifully balanced lines. Minute repeaters are generally fitted with a winding lever that supplies the necessary energy to the striking mechanism. The minute repeater of the L.U.C Full Strike is triggered by pressing a pusher coaxial with the crown. The watch is fitted with a double-sided, hand-sewn and plant-dyed CITES-certified alligator leather strap. This means that whether one is admiring the watch from the dial or the movement side, it always appears attired in the same precious leather.
A sense of detail
This close attention devoted to details applies to the entire L.U.C Full Strike, since both its movement and case bear the Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark. This particularly demanding certification implies technical and aesthetic choices that further increase the complexity of the construction and production of the components making up Calibre 08.01-L. For example, it stipulates that springs must not be wires and must have a heel, as well as being decorated. This must be achieved even on those holding the regulator inertia-blocks and measuring just 7/100ths of a millimetre thick.
All the components of Calibre 08.01-L are meticulously finished, be it with circular graining, straight graining or a Côtes de Genève motif. They are all meticulously hand-chamfered. The mainplate and bridges are made from nickel silver, a noble metal that can tolerate no scratches or workmanship errors. This material is non-treated and appears in all its natural subtly golden grey beauty through the the sapphire case-back of the L.U.C Full Strike.
By combining beautiful details and extremely meticulous finishing with a full-bodied, crystal-clear sound, the L.U.C Full Strike single-handedly embodies the full scope of Chopard’s watchmaking competencies. Twenty years after the creation of Chopard Manufacture, it offers an outstanding interpretation of the minute repeater watch that is ideally suited to daily wear and only reveals the full extent of its refinement to an attentive and expert ear – that of a modern gentleman with a penchant for exceptional objects.
20-piece limited edition
Ref. 161947-5001 – In 18-carat “Fairmined” rose gold
COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS FROM OUR READERS
DUBAI WATCH WEEK 2017
16th-20th NOVEMBER, 2017
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Maxwell Wears BOVET 1822 Timepiece on the Red Carpet at the Met Gala
May 3, 2017
Atom Moore is a professional photographer who specializes in watch photography. He is the resident photographer for the Red Bar Crew in NYC and the man behind the camera at analog/shift.
Jan Tegler is a writer/author with his work appearing in a variety of international publications on subjects ranging from military affairs and aviation to business and finance, motorsports, wristwatches and automotive reviews.
Nancy Olson has been writing about watches, jewelry and writing instruments for the last twenty years and has contributed to a variety of international magazines on these topics. She has a particular interest and expertise in women and mechanical watches.
Angus Davies is a self-confessed horological addict with his passion leading him to the launch of his own website, Escapement. He now regularly writes articles for other websites and magazines.