As the final Act in the year-long Play of the 20th anniversary celebrations for the birth of high-end L.U.C range of watches and the Chopard Manufacture, co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele presented the L.U.C FULL STRIKE minute repeater watch to a stunned audience.
This epitome of horological endeavour is endowed with world première features. Striking the hours, quarter-hours and minutes on sapphire gongs, the new L.U.C STRIKE ONE has pushed the boundaries of watchmaking beyond expectations. It is in a league of its own because of technical innovations, excellent Poinçon de Genève (Geneva Seal) finishing standards, and most remarkable sound quality.
It is simply The Best.
What is a Minute Repeater?
Originally, watches that sounded out the time upon demand were useful in the middle of the night when lighting was only by candle light. The only way to read the dial of you watch was to get up, light your candle or oil-lamp and read the time; then, blow out the flame and go back to sleep. 🙂
Watchmakers struggled through the 17th and 18th centuries to develop a mechanism that could signal the hour, quarter-hours and minutes by playing sounds when a slider was pushed on the watch. By convention, the hour was represented by a low pitch tone (dong), the minutes represented by a high pitch tone (ding). The three possible quarter-hours (1st, 2nd or 3rd) are denoted by paired double-tones (ding-dong). For example, 2:33 a.m. would be denoted by two strikes of the hour sound, two strikes of the quarter-hour sound and three strikes of the minutes after the last quarter-hour sounding:
dong dong (2 hours), ding-dong ding-dong (2nd quarter-hour or 30 minutes), ding ding ding (3 minutes after the last quarter-hour) = 2:33.
When instant lighting was invented, the need for minute repeater watches was diminished but the sheer luxury of owning one of the most complicated timepieces was irresistible. The few makers that continued to produce striking watches focused on the pitch, loudness, cadence, phrasing, rhythm, paired notes, harmony, timbre and “musicality” of the sounds and also to eliminate extraneous noise generated by the mechanism.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the advent of electronic watches with backlit dials caused the demand for striking watches to plummet to zero. In the 1990s, a resurgence of popularity ensued as watch lovers recognised the exclusivity of artisanal mechanical watchmaking taken to the highest level. However, traditional materials and techniques still prevailed.
Until today, the few makers of minute repeaters have focused on making the best sounding steel gongs and amplifying the sound through low density case materials like titanium and magnesium or even steel. Dense metals like gold and platinum usually dampen the sound although making the case walls thinner may help.
The L.U.C FULL STRIKE is a game changer because its innovative sapphire gongs and watch-glass, hewn from a single block of crystal. Transparent sapphire crystal is normally used as scratch-resistant watch-glasses. Only Chopard has managed to harness the amazing acoustic properties of crystal for a “crystal-clear” sound. Instead of metal like steel, the L.U.C Full Strike has sapphire gongs that are integral with the watch-glass, that acts as an amplifier.
Without welding, glue or screws, there are no weak links to dampen or alter the sound. The gongs and watch-glass R&D took more than three years and a patent has been filed. Tests of robustness showed no breakage even after 1.5 Million impacts with steel hammers.
What does it sound like?
The L.U.C FULL STRIKE has its own unique sound signature. Its not metallic, cold or abrupt, but 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 is coupled with unprecedented loudness since this is the first time that sapphire is used as a generator and acoustic amplifier.
Power to Pleasure
Common minute repeaters have two forms of power: a normal mainspring is wound to drive the timekeeping mechanism and a slider or pusher is activated by the user to drive the striking mechanism on demand. The mechanism needs the user to put in energy each time the slider or pusher is activated and it is used immediately.
Common minute repeaters have no power reserve for the striking mechanism in between usage. The L.U.C FULL STRIKE has two mainspring barrels that are wound like any hand-wind watch. One stores energy required for time measurement, and the other saves energy needed for the minute repeater. The L.U.C STRIKE ONE has enough energy to chime “the longest time” (12:59), for twelve times in a row. There are twin power reserve displays on the dial so you always know how long the watch will run and the number of chimes that can be activated.
With a total of seven security devices, the 533 components of the L.U.C Full Strike mechanism is protected from risks of breakages that plague other minute repeaters. They do not claim that it is “Idiot-Proof” but I cannot see a set of circumstances where a reasonable owner could inflict damage by normal usage.
Precision and Compassion
Unlike most minute repeaters, the L.U.C FULL STRIKE is tested by two independent assessors of quality and precision — C.O.S.C. and Geneva Seal — as reassurance of true achievement.
In addition, the case is made from Fairmined® gold assuring ethical and compassionate mining conditions and rewards for the miners. Chopard is the first major House to support Fairmined® and has agreed to buy every scrap of gold that they produce. In future, they plan to produce all L.U.C watches with ethically produced precious material – the lucky owners of the launch 20-piece limited edition Ref. 161947-5001 will be able to join this endeavour now.
What price is Luxury?
Despite speculative rumours of price ranging between CHF 250,000 and CHF 300,000, the launch price of this remarkable watershed in minute repeater technology is a relatively reasonable CHF 245,000.
Truly, the cost of luxury is the choice it affords.
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelog ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).