Haute horlogerie is largely an exercise in visual spectacle. So much of the experience of a watch is wrapped up in how it looks — the quality of the finishing, the shapes that make up the design, the use of color. Outside of the tactile wearing experience (and the very occasional scented rubber strap), timepieces don’t generally aim to stimulate our other senses, but minute repeaters are the dramatic, musical exception to this rule. First announced at Watches and Wonders 2022, the limited edition Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire takes the classical minute repeater design in a spectacular new direction, delivering a full-sapphire watch that delights the ear every bit as much as it does the eye, and introducing a host of new horological innovations.
Ordinarily, a sapphire case would be the clear (no pun intended) visual highlight of any watch, but it’s a testament to both the finishing and the movement work of the Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire that this exotic case doesn’t overshadow the rest of the design. The 42.5mm-wide case design itself is clean and classical, with slender tapering lugs, a narrow rounded bezel, and a manageable 11.5mm-thick profile. This sits at the pinnacle of Chopard’s range, however, and the brand aims to set it apart from its sapphire competitors with attention to detail. The clearest example of this fine detail work on the case is undoubtedly the crown. Many sapphire case designs make concessions to cost or practicality with their crowns, opting to render this extremely complex and hard-wearing shape in metal rather than undertaking the painstaking process of shaping a grippable toothed edge into ultra-hard sapphire crystal. Chopard not only creates a full crystal crown for the L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire, but it also tops this intricate element with an integrated minute repeater pusher, also in sapphire. It’s a subtle power move atop a much more overt spectacle, but one that stands out in light of the difficulty in creating small, complex sapphire parts.
Minute repeater cases are more than just standard watch cases, however, and Chopard’s other achievement with the L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire is its quality as a musical instrument. Any minute repeater case acts as a resonator for the chiming mechanism within, and while watchmakers have centuries of experience with creating a full, rich sound from a metal case, sapphire cases are a far more recent phenomenon. At first glance, this seems like a sound engineering problem – how can Chopard create a pleasing tone from an untested material? In fact, sapphire crystal has excellent acoustic properties (think back to any time someone has called attention to themselves at a crowded wedding by simply tapping on crystal drinkware). The L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire provides a clear, even, and exceptionally loud chiming tone, as demonstrated in the video below. Of course, such a multifaceted case design is not without its drawbacks, and Chopard does not provide a depth resistance rating for the L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire, whatsoever.
Although the layout is carried over from previous versions of the L.U.C Full Strike, the execution of the Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire’s dial is drastically different. Although it appears to be a fully skeletonized design at first glance, the use of a partial sapphire dial layer gives the overall look both a sense of visual depth and a clearer basis for legibility without detracting from the drama of the skeleton movement below. Chopard opts for the L.U.C series’ signature stepped dauphine handset in rhodium plate here, which combines with the railroad outer minutes track and slim pointed applied indices to give the design a uniquely handsome blend of classical and futuristic influences. The 6 o’clock running seconds subdial is more or less standard fare, but the double-stacked power reserve indicator at 2 o’clock is a clear hint that something special is going on under the hood (if the skeleton layout and sapphire case hadn’t already tipped you off). While the inner poser reserve scale tracks the usual winding progress of the mainspring, the outer scale gives wearers a way to monitor the L.U.C’ Full Strike Sapphire’s second concentric mainspring barrel, reserved especially for the power-hungry minute repeater complication.
The sheer visual complexity and ornate finishing of the Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire’s in-house L.U.C 08.01-L hand-wound minute repeater movement makes it a genuine horological spectacle without ever engaging the chiming mechanism. From the dial side, the view is an intricate web of skeleton bridges finished with clean vertical brushing and polished anglage above a mainplate in warm, perlage-textured nickel silver (sometimes referred to as German silver). Of course, the real visual standout is the pair of large, axe-head-shaped minute repeater hammers stretching from 9 o’clock to 11 o’clock. These work in tandem with Chopard’s patented sapphire crystal gongs to create a beautifully bright, clear tone. From the rear, the L.U.C 08.01-L is simpler and more classical, dominated by elegantly contoured three-quarter plates in nickel silver-topped by Côtes de Genève and polished anglage.
The L.U.C 08.01-L movement is more than just a visual showcase, however. Chopard introduces several unique innovations with this movement, designed primarily around protecting the delicate minute repeater mechanism. Firstly, if the minute repeater’s dedicated mainspring barrel does not have enough energy to complete a chiming sequence, the movement includes an automatic safety disconnect to prevent the pusher from engaging the chime and potentially damaging components with a partial cycle. On a related note, the integrated crown-mounted minute repeater pusher is automatically disengaged by another proprietary safety system once the complication is engaged, preventing the pusher from accidentally stopping the chiming cycle midway and harming components. Chopard’s patented variable inertia balance also helps this movement to maintain a solid 60-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. The minute repeater’s dedicated mainspring barrel also offers a respectable power reserve, with enough stored energy to play out the longest possible sequence of chimes (12 hours and 59 minutes) 12 times before winding is needed. Chopard mounts the L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire on a high-impact gray alligator leather strap, with dramatic highlights and lowlights to match the bright qualities of the sapphire case and the movement within.
With an elegant, dramatic design that elevates both the visual and auditory sides of horology, the limited edition Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire stands as one of the most visually and technically impressive releases of 2022 so far. Only five examples of the Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire will be made, and the watch is available now through authorized dealers. MSRP for the Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire is rumored to be in the neighborhood of $450,000 USD, but the brand does not confirm this. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.