Chopard L.U.C 1860: Its Only Downside is that it’s So Good
by Martin Green
In 1997, Chopard made an important step by introducing its first in-house L.U.C caliber. In less than three decades, the brand has proved to belong among the great in watchmaking by combining well-designed and build movements with refined finishes and not being afraid to add a complication or two.
At the same time, Chopard has also been able to create a design language of their own, which is never overly outgoing but more a sophisticated kind of classic chic.
Coming full circle
While the original L.U.C 1860, with caliber 1.96, was spot on for the era, the current L.U.C 1860 in Lucent steel is just that again. It shows once more that trends come and go, but circle.
Chopard has never been a company known to follow trends; instead, it prefers to walk to its own beat, especially with its L.U.C collection. Its clients appreciate this, and staying power is rewarded when trends went from enormous back to a more normal scale to now finally appreciating smaller, sophisticated dress watches again.
At 36.5mm in diameter, it is small. In fact, quite a few brands would happily advertise it as a ladies’ model. It shows how outdated it is to predetermine to which gender you want to sell your products, as the L.U.C 1860 might even be the most elegant time-only you can buy.
Its proportions are simply perfect, complementing its classic diameter with a height of just 8.20mm. This is thanks to caliber L.U.C 96-40-L, which is based on the original caliber 1.96 and a mere 3.3mm high.
It differs in two main things from its predecessor: it has hacking seconds and lacks a date.
This also means that the current caliber remains a true powerhouse. It runs at 28.800VpH/4Hz, is certified with the Geneva Seal, and offers a 65-hour power reserve thanks to two stacked mainspring barrels.
The finishing is superb and can be admired through the sapphire insert in the caseback. There you can also see the icing on the cake, and a hallmark of Chopard, as the brand has embraced micro-rotor movements. This one is crafted from 22K gold, standing nicely out against the rest of the movement.
Chopard opted not to case this watch in gold but in its Lucent steel. This proprietary alloy is 50% harder than the regularly used 316L stainless steel. It can be polished to such an extent that it reflects light brightly and has a slightly different hue.
You won’t notice this beforehand unless you put it next to a watch made from 316L stainless steel.
In daily life, the reflections of the Lucent steel draw your attention to the watch more than you might appreciate. Also, making a watch like the L.U.C 1860 with a stainless steel case turns it into a true daily wear watch, as it feels more robust.
The lack of date is an important one compared to the original L.U.C 1860, as it allows Chopard to create a cleaner dial. Chopard went all in and chose a beautiful color that holds the middle between copper and salmon. It shows different levels, and the guilloche is hand-made. It is made by Metalem, a company that supplied dials to Chopard for years until they acquired them.
While Metalem is now integrated within the Chopard empire, they also still make dials for other companies. One of them is Philippe Dufour, who uses them in his Simplicity models. One can hardly think of a better association than that.
With the dial, the perfect proportions continue. Chopard still kept a sizable bezel but made the watch look larger than it is by applying different levels on the dial. This creates a play of light that gives the eye so many details to focus on that it forgets that it is a relatively modest-sized watch.
Perfection comes at a price. In case of the L.U.C 1860 this is $23,700. Even when it is Lucent steel, it is quite steep for a stainless steel watch. However, although brands like Blancpain and Patek Philippe offer other options, the majority of the competition can be found in Chopard’s own collection.
For this kind of money you also have a wide choice of Alpine Eagle models in Lucent steel to choose from, or you can opt for the L.U.C XP with jeans blue dial and strap, or even a white gold L.U.C XPS.
In most cases, this even leaves money to spare for a luxurious city trip to your favorite destination.
The problem is that the L.U.C 1860 is so spot on, from every detail and every angle, that you don’t want to look at other watches. This is the watch, and that not only shows that old is new again, but also how superb the original L.U.C 1860 from the late 1990s really is.
For more information, please visit www.chopard.com/en-us/watch/168860-3003.html
Quick Facts Chopard L.U.C 1860
Case: 36.5 x 8.20 mm, Lucent Steel, 30 m water resistance
Movement: automatic Caliber L.U.C 96.40-L with 22-karat gold micro rotor, 3.3 mm high, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, twin spring barrels, 65-hour power reserve, Geneva Seal
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: Boutique special with limited production
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