L.U.C Full Strike
June 05, 2018
Winner of the Aiguille d’Or (Best in Show) prize at the 2017 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, the L.U.C. Full Strike is adopting a new colour. This fresh interpretation clothes Chopard’s first minute repeater watch in handsome shades of grey, whilst not losing its technically revolutionary character, notably expressed by striking the hours, quarters and minutes on sapphire gongs. Its original construction, its case in “Fairmined” 18-carat white gold, the excellence of its Poinçon de Genève finishing, and above all its extraordinary sound, contribute to the exceptional nature of a watch in a league of its own. 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 was subsequently enriched with a minute repeater, entirely developed, produced and assembled by Chopard: the L.U.C Full Strike in “Fairmined” 18-carat rose gold. This exceptional watch now appears in a new set of colours with a case in “Fairmined” non rhodium-plated 18-carat white gold, framing a silver-coloured dial. It continues to house 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 accomplishment 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, similar to the world of hi-fi audio, 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 11.55 mm thick in all, a modest figure for a watch with an over 500-part movement.
On one side of the calibre, the barrel 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 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 18-carat white 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 rhodium-plated one indicates the movement power reserve, while the other blued 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 “Fairmined” 18-carat white gold. This label guarantees that Chopard has sourced this gold from a cooperative whose operations are certified as ethical, fair and sustainable.
In addition to this certification, Chopard once again demonstrates its ability to shake up watchmaking customs. The white gold used in this instance is non rhodium-plated. Its glow is guaranteed by the strong presence of palladium in the alloy. Above all, this colour remains perfectly stable over the years.
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.
The dial of the L.U.C Full Strike is significantly openworked and thus calls for all the more meticulous care. It is entirely made of solid gold, including the small seconds at 6 o’clock. Its railway-type minute track is engraved beneath the surface of the glass ensemble. Finally, this gold has been given a silver galvanic finishing treatment in order to match the grey shades of the case.
A sense of detail
This close attention devoted to detail applies to the entire L.U.C Full Strike, since both its movement and its 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 subtly golden grey beauty through 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.
Chopard’s in-house approach to watch manufacturing
Chopard is a family Maison with a strongly ingrained philosophy of independence. The steps involved in making L.U.C watches are all performed in-house at the group's Meyrin and Fleurier production sites. Movement development, finished product design, gold smelting, stamping and machining of cases, movement parts and bracelets; as well as traditional hand-crafted finishes, surface treatments, polishing, assembly, adjustments and quality controls: such is the comprehensive range of watch production operations fully mastered by Chopard and applied to the making of each watch in the L.U.C collection.