February 9, 2021
by Matt Reudink
The Chopard L.U.C. Skull One offers an eye-catching juxtaposition of formal and playful in a surprisingly versatile package. The lines of the case, the extremely thin height, and the impeccably finished gold hands and numbers clearly belong to Chopard’s L.U.C. line of elegant dress watches. But what immediately catches your eye is the smiling skull taking center stage. Chopard has long played with dials on the L.U.C. line, combining art and horology, but the Skull One may just be the most fun. Sure, it might sound odd to describe a skeletal motif as fun, but the calavera, or skull, on the Skull One is anything but morbid as it celebrates one of the most festive holidays on the Mexican calendar – Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Though the early roots remain obscure (and rather controversial in academic circles), the contemporary form of this annual celebration is held in remembrance of loved ones who have died – a celebration of both death and life. Toys are left on the graves of children, food and drink for the adults. The Día de los Muertos, in other words, is a short, albeit sweet, reunion between the living and the dead and, indeed, cause for celebration.
If there’s one image that best captures the spirit of Día de los Muertos, it’s undoubtedly the calavera. Whether portrayed in art (e.g., Jose Guadalupe Posada’s famous etching of La Calavera Catrina), candy sugar skulls, or painted on faces, the colorful and extravagant skulls are inextricably linked to the festival. This isn’t the first time that Chopard has looked to the holiday for inspiration – with the L.U.C. Perpetual T, Chopard went all-in with the Día de los Muertos theme. The watch featured a fully engraved 18k gold case and dial with calaveras, marigolds, and other adornments celebrating the holiday, not to mention a perpetual calendar, tourbillon, and nine-day power reserve. While the L.U.C. Perpetual T was nothing if not extravagant, the L.U.C. Skull One is, at once, restrained and playful, resulting in a watch that’s surprisingly versatile.
The first word to come to mind when describing skull-dial may not be “versatile,” but Chopard’s superb execution, subdued color scheme, and gold accents make this a watch that can be worn in a surprising number of situations, so long as you have the style and personality to match.
The Skull One is housed in a 40mm stainless steel beadblasted case that’s been DLC-coated to a deep anthracite. Chopard also manages to keep the watch extremely thin, at only 7.2mm, thanks in large part to the automatic L.U.C. 96.53-L caliber powering the watch. Though the diameter edges towards the larger end of the spectrum for dress watches, the dark tones of the case and dial and slim dimensions reduce the visual heft. Besides, if you’re going to wear a watch with a skull adorning the dial, you want to see that skull center stage. Any larger and the watch would lose its dressy versatility, any smaller and you lose the visual impact. In other words, the sizing is spot on.
The black and grey lacquered dial is absolutely the star of the show. The skull displays a fun twist on the traditional calavera (which are typically female) by adding in a mischievous gap-toothed grin and an impressive handlebar mustache. (I’m a bit jealous I can’t pull that off myself.) A sunray pattern radiates out from the skull, providing a three-dimensional effect and serving double-duty as minute markers. It’s hard not to smile when checking the time, though I’m sure not everyone will want a constant reminder of their own mortality. But for those who are enamored by the connection to Día de los Muertos, it’s hard to find a better execution of the motif.
Let’s move on to the movement. The Skull One is powered by Chopard’s L.U.C. 96.53-L in-house automatic movement. The L.U.C. 96.53 powers hour and minute hands (you won’t find a date or running seconds hand here), beats at 28.8kbph, and features an impressive 58-hour power reserve made possible by the two co-axial barrels. Keeping the mainspring wound is a micro-rotor — a nifty trick that allows Chopard to keep the movement extremely thin at only 3.3mm. With the Skull One, you don’t get the Poincon de Geneve or Qulite Fleurier seal that comes on their movements with the absolute highest level of finishing. But don’t let that give you the impression that the finishing is anything less than superb. To ensure that the Geneva stripes and 27 jewels don’t disrupt the rest of the watch’s dark colorway, the sapphire caseback is given a smoky tint. It’s a small detail, but absolutely fits the character a watch. Chopard completes the package by mounting the L.U.C. Skull One on a warm brown calfskin leather strap with DLC-coated buckle to match the case finishing.
The Chopard L.U.C. certainly isn’t a watch for everyone, nor is it meant to be. My guess is that if you’ve read this far, you know already whether the watch is for you. That said, the Skull One is a much more thoughtful and well-rounded watch than a cursory glance might suggest. Considering this is a limited edition of only 100 watches, you’ll have to be quick if this watch strikes your fancy. The Chopard L.U.C. Skull One retails for $9,780 USD and for more information, please be sure to visit the brand’s website.