Insider: Chopard L.U.C. Full Strike. Hands-on with the Grand Prize Winner at the 2017 Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève.

Available with or without diamonds on its bezel, the Chopard L.U.C. Full Strike was just awarded the Grand Prize 'Aiguille d'Or' at the 2017 GPHG —Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève. As usual, we have live pictures of the winner for your viewing pleasure. With a crystal clear sound, featuring a number of world première features the Chopard L.U.C. Full Strike strikes the hours, quarters and minutes on sapphire gongs. Yes, sapphire gongs, you read that right and its not a typo.

For their 20th anniversary, the manufacture worked for more than six years on its most sophisticated chiming watch to date. While 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. This incredible watch with a case measuring 42.5 mm in diameter in Fairmined 18K rose gold features an openworked dial housing a substantial number of advancements making it one of the most innovative minute repeaters in the market.

The Dial & Gongs

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 crystal, 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.

With its highly polished hammers between 9 and 11 o'clock, the 'glassy' sound of the Chopard L.U.C. is very unique and unconventional. Behind this acoustic result lies one of the most sophisticated and inventive movements ever created by the 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. 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 with the sapphire crystal protecting the dial. 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.

The gongs and watch crystal 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. 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.

A running seconds subdial at 6 o'clock and a double power-reserve indicator positioned at 2 o’clock complete the dial with Roman numerals chapter ring. The double-power reserve indicator featuring two superimposed hands indicates the striking-mechanism reserve and the movement’s autonomy. The first gilded one indicates the movement power reserve, while the longer blue one indicates the number of chimes still left.

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 Crown & Winding Mechanism

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 in a row. As impressive is the fact that this minute repeater lacks of a case band lever actuator, instead, the true strength of the L.U.C Full Strike resides in the fact that by pressing the crown-integrated pusher the watch marks the time on demand.

The Movement

Powering the Chopard L.U.C. Full Strike is the manual wound 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. 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.

Additionally, Chopard has 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.

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 co-axially 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.

On the Wrist & Pricing

The Chopard L.U.C Full Strike is a supremely elegant watch that wears true to its size. Measuring 42.5 mm in diameter and 11.5 mm thick, this reasonably sized case is graced with beautifully balanced lines. The watch is fitted with a double-sided, hand-sewn and plant-dyed CITES-certified alligator leather strap. Honored to have been able to peruse and review this incredible watch that is the proud recipient of the 'Aiguille d'Or' Grand Prize at the 2017 Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève. Well deserved and congrats to everyone at Chopard.

Sticker Price $250,000 USD. For more info on Chopard click here.