As the crowning point of the celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of Chopard Manufacture, Chopard launched its first ever minute repeater: the L.U.C. Full Strike, featuring a number of world première features. 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. If you’ve never heard the chime, you can do so online at menspassion-online.com – look for this month’s L.U.C. Full Strike feature. 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.
Click on the images below for a close-up view of this remarkable piece: