Chopard Got Back – Introducing the new Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin for 2020
I like big dates and I cannot lie. You other watch enthusiasts can’t deny; That when a watch comes up with the opposite of an ill-placed itty bitty date window; You get more sprung than a Breguet balance-spring, want to pull up tough. Now as much as the new Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin watches for 2020 have nothing to do with Sir Mix-a-Lot’s 1992 Hip-Hop/Rap masterpiece Baby Got Back, I still feel in the rhythm of things suitable to acknowledge Chopard’s getting back to what they do best, that is enticing us with their impeccablement finnisage L.U.C collection movements.
And as you would have guessed, aesthetically the star of the show for me is the pulchritudinous big date window at 12’o clock, whose execution on two separate discs is simply étourdissant.
L.U.C is Chopard’s higher-end collection, a sort of tour de force for the Maison if you must. It’s named after the original founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard and has since been reserved for timepieces that challenge the very best in the horology world. Currently, they have 36 members in the L.U.C family, with one of the more popular ones being the Perpetual Twin series of watches. My personal favourite out of the L.U.C lineup are L.U.C GMT ONE watches. In terms of simple GMT complication watches, I think these are one of the best executed models available in the Swiss industry today. But I digress.
Coming back to the Perpetual Twin series, their standout feature is that these feature a beautifully finished classic complication at decent prices.
I know what you are thinking – a watch that costs 36’100 AUD (for the stainless steel model) hardly sounds like a decently priced entry-level watch. Well let me tell you, not only is it decently priced, but for a ‘perpetual calendar’ watch it’s entry-level too. That’s right, over 35k AUD for an entry-level watch. For those of you who don’t know what a perpetual calendar watch is, and why is it so expensive, let me briefly explain what it is.
A normal calendar watch, in other words, a watch with a simple date complication, is the cheapest form of buying a calendar watch. This is because its mechanism can’t distinguish between 30 and 31 days of different months. The mechanism only features a date disc with 31 days. So every time when there is a month that contains 30 days, say June, at the end of the month the watch will show 31 in the date window, even though it should be 1 July. So the wearer has to physically change the date. Next up are the Annual Calendar watches. Pricing wise they sit somewhat in between normal calendar and perpetual calendar watches. The Annual calendar watch takes into account the 30 and 31 days cycle automatically as long as the watch is wound up. So the wearer doesn’t have to worry about changing the date every alternate month. That said, it can’t handle February, given the 28 or 29-day cycle. So once a year or annually, the wearer has to change the date physically once at the end of February, hence the name annual calendar. Now comes the last one in our discussion, and as the name suggests, this watch’s calendar keeps going on ‘perpetually’. It’s designed to take into account not only the date change in February automatically, but it also can handle leap year date changes automatically too. Not only that, often on the dial face they would display the date, day, month, week, year, and sometimes even the moon-phases. Therefore a perpetual calendar watch theoretically if its kept wound up and is working properly, will not need a physical intervention by the wearer until the year 2100, as according to the Gregorian calendar, the year 2100 is a special year that will not be a leap year.
And all this is achieved mechanically, often by parts made by hands, without computers assisting. You buy a cellphone these days and it doesn’t work properly after a couple of years. A perpetual calendar watch will not only work (when maintained obviously) for you but also for your descendants. And when it comes to the world of horology and heirlooms, it rarely gets better than this. So you can imagine how impressive the mechanical watchmaking here is, and hence why the costs are high. Also, when you have such a mechanism at work, you would love for the world to see it, and more often than not Perpetual calendar watches have exhibition case-backs where the movements have been nicely decorated, and that further adds to the cost.
So yes, while, 35K AUD may sound exorbitant at first, but once you realise what goes on behind making one of these watches, you can better appreciate the high costs and entry-level watch meaning takes a new form. To put the cost of the new Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin into context, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Ultra-thin ref. 26586IP.OO.1240IP.01 retails for more than 140’000 CHF. Or the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Twin Perpetual Calendar goes for about 210’000 CHF. More in the ballpark of the cost of the Chopard version is the IWC ref. IW503001 the Big Pilot’s Perpetual Calendar Edition ‘Rodeo Drive’ that comes in around 33’000 CHF. That’s still more expensive. There are of course a couple of slightly cheaper offerings from Montblanc and Frederique Constant, but given Chopard is competing in the world of Pateks and APs, it’s almost like comparing apples and oranges when it comes to the cheaper offerings.
The only one I would feel right comparing this with is the JLC Master Ultra Thin Perpetual ref. 130842J in stainless steel retailing for 32’500 AUD. Inside a smaller 39mm x 9.2mm case it features the complications of year, perpetual calendar, date, month, and moon phases.
Long story short, when it comes to timepieces with haute horlogerie complications, the Chopard watch breaks norms and presents itself as a very exceptional product attached to a decent price tag.
The New Iterations
Anyway, coming back to the new Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin and moving beyond the price point, previously when in 2016 Chopard introduced this complication, it was only available in stainless steel with a silver dial, the reference 168561-3001. Now four years after the launch of the first L.U.C Perpetual Twin — that coincided with the 20th anniversary of Chopard Manufacture — the Maison is now expanding this range by adding two stand-out versions in 18-carat rose gold — with a subtle grey dial — and stainless steel. It only makes viable sense to release these now, as 2020 is also a leap year like 2016 was when they first released these watches.
What’s more, if my information is correct, the stainless steel version of the new Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin still remains the only chronometer-certified perpetual calendar in non-precious materials currently in the haute horlogerie market.
The new Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin is even more impressive than many of its competitions given everything about its movement is in-house.
In terms of making their own movements, Chopard has two branches: Fleurier Ebauches that makes movements for watches like Mille Miglia GTS Power Control and Chopard Manufacture. The COSC certified movement can be admired in all its glory through an exhibition case-back. While connoisseurs will appreciate that the hand-made calibre L.U.C 96.22-L — present in the new Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin — features meticulously finished bridges adorned with a Côtes de Genève motif and a 22-carat micro-rotor, the traditionalists will marvel over the fact that the movement construction, product design, gold smelting, case stamping and machining, movement components, traditional hand-crafted decorations, surface treatments, polishing, assembly, movement adjustment and quality control are all performed in-house by Chopard Manufacture.
Talking about the movement itself, the 33mm diameter and 6mm thick calibre — L.U.C 96.22-L — used is a self-winding manufacture movement comprising of 29 jewels, beating at the frequency of 4Hz (28’000 A/h) and allowing for an impressive 65-hour power reserve thanks to the Chopard Twin Technology that employs dual barrels to deliver an extended power reserve. Not only the two barrels help with an extended power-reserve, they also aide in improving, or rather, maintaining the accuracy of the timepiece. The way this works is that if the movement only had one big barrel, it would mean it only had one mainspring too. So as the watch is wound and force from only one mainspring is released, over the course of the hours, it will begin to diminish. This, in turn, will affect the amplitude of the balance, and this, in turn, will affect the accuracy. But given there are two barrels here, it means that the force from the mainsprings will diminish slower, thereby making the timepiece more accurate, or rather help it maintain its precision for longer.
The L.U.C 96.22-L varies from the previous movement used in the Perpetual Twin series of L.U.C watches ever so slightly. The version prior to the 2020 releases featured the calibre L.U.C 96.51-L that had the same size and frequency, but comprised on fewer jewels — 27 — and provided for a lesser power reserve (58 hours).
Coming back to being impressed by the execution of the in-house movement, and the subsequent justification of the costs of perpetual calendar watches as discussed above in the ‘Context’ section, let’s look at the movement in a bit more detail.
Oh, That Movement!
The most striking feature in terms of finishing is the execution of the Geneva Stripes on the bevelled-edged bridges, the detailing of the immaculately placed perlage on the mainplate, and the jewel/screw countersinks being neatly formed and polished. Another feature I like is the absence of an oscillating weight and the inclusion of a micro-rotor in its place. Decently decorated and featuring the branding, it sits flush with the bridges — ensuring the slim case height of 11.47mm — and allows for a better view of the movement at large that would have otherwise been obstructed by an oscillating weight. That said, I wish the micro-rotor was in rose or yellow gold, instead if being in 22K white gold; that way it would have provided for better visual contrast on the movement and aesthetically would have matched the present of Patek’s or Breguet’s iconic branded oscillating weights. While I am nitpicking this exceptionally finished movement, I also note the presence of too much text on the bridges and note the absence of the ‘swan neck’ regulator from the free-sprung balance wheel that is present on higher-end L.U.C movements.
The beautiful movement and emotive blue dial are presented inside a 43mm diameter and 11.47mm thick stainless steel (or 18-carat rose gold) case with a polished bezel with either a stainless steel crown or an 18-carat rose gold crown with L.U.C logo at 3’o clock. The case itself is handsomely finished, with both polished and satin-brushed (vertical satin-brushed case middle) surfaces.
The reference 168561-3003 (stainless steel version) or the ref. 161976-5003 in 18-carat rose gold come on either hand-sewn blue or brown alligator leather straps with cognac alligator leather lining respectively. Completing the elegant look are the polished and satin-brushed stainless steel or 18-carat rose gold pin buckles.
For my pick out of the two, I would choose the steel version. To me, it’s more of a regular wear watch between the two, and personally I am someone who doesn’t like objects sitting in safes ticking away into useless oblivion. I like watches because they tick, and for them to tick on me, I need to be wearing them. The blue-coloured (or ruthenium grey-colour for the gold version) dial has a sunburst satin-brushed motif that is uniquely focused on the big date. Just like the engine is slightly different in the new 2020 models, aesthetically they are different too.
The previous model — reference 168561-3001 — featured a silver-toned dial with sunburst satin-brushed motif that was focused on the calendar and radiated from the L.U.CHOPARD logo. The dial also featured rhodium Roman numerals which frankly I preferred over the newer reference’s applied hour markers. I realise they are more minimalist but personally I associate L.U.C range with extra fine finishings and oversized-yet-compressed-and-mirrored Roman numerals. That’s just me though, I am sure lots of our readers will appreciate the fact that the dial becomes a bit more clean owing to the sharp and pointed hour markers instead of Roman numerals.
Coming back to the new reference 168561-3003, its beautiful blue dial shows the functions of central hours and minutes, small seconds display at 6’o clock, day of the week and month displays at 9 and 3’o clock respectively, offset leap-year display between 2 and 3’o clock, and my favourite complication of the lot present, the twin-aperture date display at 12’o clock.
The dial of the new Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin is somewhat busy and cluttered despite the exclusion of Roman numerals, which is expected in a perpetual calendar watch, but unifying its various elements are the concentric circles present in various places: the peripheral track in blue, the counter at 6’o clock in blue, the outer layers of the counters at 3 and 9’o clock in grey, and the leap-year display in grey. Personally I would have preferred if the big date background discs were also in grey instead of white, thereby adding more coherency to the colour scheme.
The rhodium-plated (or gilded for gold version) Dauphine-type hour and minute hands contrast well with the blue dial and complement the grey of the counters. They also go well with the baton-type hands of the small seconds, day and month indications, and overall work in harmony with the facetted rhodium-plated (or gilded) hour-markers.
The only aspect that sticks out is the black-tipped triangular leap-year hand that somehow doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the crowd. In the previous reference 168561-3001, this was red-tipped instead and complemented the ‘4th’ leap year marking in red better.
Watch Ya Gonna Do About It
There is a quote by George Bernard Shaw that goes: “Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world”. I have already established my love for watches with big date windows. In the spirit of the above quote, I would even go on to say that the big date window on the new Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin allows one to see the world of haute horlogerie as a true connoisseur would love to see it.
I think its time Chopard’s name — at least the L.U.C models — is taken in the same breath as that of the Pateks, Langes, JLCs or APs of this universe. They did start off as a watch brand and then got diversified into jewellery, and while many may associate them with the latter, truth is that founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard’s timepieces were exceptional for the time. So from a legacy point of view, and even from the finishings and price worthiness point of view, the horology world needs to give Chopard more credit.
The L.U.C Perpetual Twin as the brand likes to put it themselves, is in every way the ‘watch of the modern gentleman; a quietly sophisticated statement of culture and elegance’.
Let’s wrap this up where we began, at me marvelling over the finnisage and the beauty of the big date aperture. Like I said, I like big dates and I cannot lie. It’s true. Aesthetically, one of the most pleasing aspects of a dial for me is the presence of a big date window. In fact, a big part of my interest in Lange’s watches is due to the presence of big date windows. Is it superficial of me to appreciate that more than the beautifully finished movements that A. Lange & Sohne watches have? Maybe. But once worn on the wrists, the movements hide and the dial aesthetics take centre stage. This is where for me both Lange and Chopard L.U.C shine. So yes, even if the new Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin didn’t feature an amazingly finished movement, I would have still liked it. The fact that it does, only adds more to the timepiece.
Even though I like this timepiece, the blue steel versions especially, I do realise that it may not be to everyone’s liking. If I was to venture an educated guess, I would say that people would critique the watch dimensions the most about this piece. And when compared to the JLC Master Ultra Thin Perpetual ref. 130842J, perhaps also the price. I have already spoken about the price before, and it really boils down to individual preference when it comes down to choosing which of these watches at that price point. Not saying JLC’s offering ain’t great, but I would recommend going and checking out the Chopard versions in person. In terms of the size, yes, you would be right, it is a big watch, that even though it has small lugs that taper on the underside to provide a sense of ergonomics to the wrist, somehow ends up wearing big. At thickness more than 10mm and diameter more than 40mm, there is no way of not addressing the elephant in the room; it’s a larger watch that if it had been 40mm, would have been the best option around. But there are lots of options for people who like their watches more traditional, and not many higher-end Maisons produce larger perpetual calendar watches. So the new Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin does have its place and reliance within the luxury watch industry, especially within the haute horlogerie world.
From our website’s reviewing parameter perspective, the watch aces too. Anyone who has read our reviews will know that we emphasise on the multiple functionality or usefulness of a watch, and the 65-hour power reserve is worth commending. It simply means that the watch can be left untouched for the weekend and put back on for the week without hassle.
Last but not the least is simply the irresistibility of the overall package – combine all the features I have listed above and what you get is one helluva perpetual calendar watch.
Since I started with a song/pop culture reference, let me finish with one too. There is a quote by Bob Dylan that goes: “Art is the perpetual motion of illusion. The highest purpose of art is to inspire. What else can you do? What else can you do for any one but inspire them?”. The new Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin is anything but a perpetual motion of illusion; it is the real deal. And it certainly does act as an inspiration for other luxury watch brands to come up with their own versions of a price worthy perpetual calendar watch.
To find out more about the new Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin and other watches from the Maison, please head to their website here. All images unless stated otherwise are courtesy Copyright © Chopard, All rights reserved. If you like this review please keep a lookout for our hands-on video review of this watch releasing soon.