With a case cut from a block of sapphire crystal and a highly complex minute-repeater movement composed of over 500 hand-finished parts, the Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire is an incredible achievement in watchmaking, and one that only the most skilled artisans in the world could produce. Its most impressive feature, however, is almost invisible: a thin sapphire gong that uses the watch’s crystal face as a resonator, resulting in an incredibly clear, rich, and ethereal sound. The creation of the world’s first sapphire-cased minute-repeater marks the culmination of a journey that began more than 25 years ago with the creation of L.U.C, Chopard’s in-house movement manufacture.
Founded in the mid-1800s by Louis-Ulysse Chopard, the maison quickly rose to become one of the top watchmakers in Switzerland, with contracts to provide timepieces to the Swiss national railway and the court of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Louis-Ulysse Chopard chose the beehive as his emblem to symbolize the industriousness and collaboration required to create high-quality watches. A century later, in the mid-1990s, Chopard remained respected for its quality and design, but it was reliant on outside suppliers for most of its components, including its movements. For co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, whose father had purchased the brand from the Chopard family in the 1960s, it was time for a change. “I wanted to re-establish Chopard as a serious watch brand, and this really would not be possible without an in-house movement,” says Scheufele. “It was a matter of independence.”
Twenty-five years later, Chopard’s L.U.C division — named after the maison’s founder — has grown from a team of five to a thrumming hive of over 220 specialists, including high-complication watchmakers and experts in traditional arts like enamelling. There have been many milestones over the years, from the achievement of Geneva Seal certification (an honour given only to Swiss brands at the very pinnacle of their craft) to a grand prize win at the 2017 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, the most prestigious award in watchmaking. This year, the Chopard L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire — along with two other highly limited chiming releases, the L.U.C Strike One and the L.U.C Full Strike Tourbillon — stand as a testament to the maison’s successful rebirth.
For Scheufele, this rarified collection of chiming watches — each of which required its own feats of fabrication, design, and finishing — is not just a way of showing the world what his little manufacture can do. It’s also his way of honouring the spirit of Louis-Ulysse Chopard and creating a link between the past, present, and future. “The striking watch is the bridge between historic watchmaking and the present,” he says. “I think it’s important for young watchmakers to see that we’re not living in the past, and in this profession, there are still a lot of things that can be done. The only question as we climb this mountain is ‘What will be the next one?’”