Up until very recently if I were to say the name Chopard to you chances were you’d be more likely to think high-end jeweller as opposed to high-end watchmaker. Fact is, despite producing some very cool timepieces – such as the Mille Miglia series – the brand has become more broadly known for its gorgeous jewellery.
This is due in a part to a conscious strategic change in the direction made by the brand’s management almost half-a-century ago and also the fact that Chopard just makes really beautiful jewellery. Just to be clear here, I consider the brand’s highly popular Happy Diamonds ladies watches to also fall into the jewellery category, even though they are technically watches.
Whatever the reason, being one of the most desirable jewellers in the world is certainly not a bad place to be, however for Chopard it simply is not enough. You see, the brand can trace its roots in watchmaking back much further than most people suppose, all the way back to 1860 in fact, when Louis-Ulysse Chopard established his first workshop in Sonvilier, Switzerland. Mr Chopard enjoyed a great deal of success with his early watches and the company continued to flourish, eventually relocating to Geneva.
In 1963 the company changed hands, with the present-day owners – the Scheufele family – taking charge and reinvigorating the Chopard brand. Over the last fifty years or so they have enjoyed a great deal of success however somewhere along the way much of the watch-making aspects of the business were effectively outsourced – a not uncommon occurrence in the Swiss watch industry – which meant that the brand lost that expertise to a degree.
Now though they are very much intent on getting it back, continuing to invest heavily in the watch Manufacture they founded in the Swiss Jura in 1996, which specializes in the development and manufacture of L.U.C movements. When it first opened its doors this facility boasted just 3 employees, today that number has ballooned to 136, with the Manufacture growing in size accordingly.
Not surprisingly this additional investment is reflected in the growing sophistication of the brand’s L.U.C collection, which conveniently brings us to today’s subject; the L.U.C 1963 Chronograph. A limited edition of just 50 pieces, the L.U.C 1963 Chronograph was created to pay tribute to the Scheufele family’s 50 years at the helm of Chopard, showcasing both the brand’s technical and aesthetic expertise.
The Chopard L.U.C 1963 Chronograph
I loved the L.U.C 1963 Chronograph as soon as I laid my eyes on it, before it had even been lifted out of its display case and placed in my greedy little hands. The style is very classic, with an almost Cartier-esque feel to it only slightly more masculine and refined. As you might expect the 42mm 18-carat rose gold case has a decent weight to it however its relatively slim profile – the case is just 11.50 mm thick – means that it still sits nicely on the wrist, sliding away comfortably under your cuff when not needed.
As you can see the silver sunburst dial with black Roman numerals is easy to read and even more enjoyable to look at. In addition to displaying the time and date – with small seconds shown on a sub-dial at six o-clock – the watch also features a chronograph completely with fly-back functionality. For those not familiar with the term ‘fly-back’ in the context of watch-making it essentially means that the chronograph hands instantly fly back to their starting positions when the reset pushes is activated. It’s not ground-breaking by any stretch but it certainly is nice to watch in action.
To aide with legibility Chopard has helpfully made the hands of the various chronograph indicators red. This is a subtle touch, which is exactly what I like about it. The red contrasts nicely against the silver and black color scheme of the dial, but doesn’t seem at all out of place. More importantly though I think if the designers had made the decision to make the chronograph hands the same as the hour and minute hands it would have made things a little confusing, plus I don’t think the dial would be as visually striking as it is.
The real beauty of this timepiece however is only made apparent when you turn it over. A sapphire caseback reveals the beautifully decorated L.U.C 03.07-L calibre, an in-house manually wound movement (offering 60 hours of power in reserve when fully wound) that is not only a COSC-certified chronometer but also bears the Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark (also known as the Geneva Seal), the highest mark of movement quality and finishing in Swiss watch making. Comprised of some 300 components, the movement features nickel silver bridges and mainplate as well as a grained motif on the bridges, among many other fine touches. In other words, it looks absolutely breathtaking.
Completing the look is a hand-sewn alligator strap with matching rose gold pin buckle, making the L.U.C 1963 Chronograph perfect for those special occasions when you really want to stand out from the crowd but don’t want to strap something super-complicated to your wrist. Pricing is very reasonable at US$44,400 especially when you consider that you are getting a fully in-house manufactured, COSC-certified movement wrapped up in a fairly healthy amount of 18-carat rose gold. With only 50 pieces available however don’t expect this will an easy watch to get your hands on as I am betting demand will be high.