Chopard L.U.C. 1.96
In the process of rewriting this relatively early article, I spent a while examining Chopard's offerings as reflected in the current "Watches International", and I now have a greater appreciation for their manufacturing accomplishments, and for their very wide range of design. While their catalog certainly includes a large variety of strictly jewelry watches, many with quartz-controlled movements, even their black-and-clear diamond-encrusted "Ice Cube" (almost unnecessary to show the picture) and some of the "Happy Jewels" lines incorporate thoughtfully chosen mechanical movements of apparent high quality from Frederic Piguet and JLC . In this light, their decision to launch in 1996 an entirely new series of watches featuring horologically ambitious movements seems less mysterious to me, as I can now understand it as a move to complement their existing products, rather than as an abrupt departure.
Chopard has given these new movements and associated watches the name "L.U.C." as homage to its founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard, and to mark the firm's return to its origins as a producer of ultra-high quality watches after some two-plus decades of concentrating mostly on the jewelry trade. The initial watch was the exclusive 1.96, followed shortly by the handwinding 1.98 (with 9 day power reserve), and slightly less finished siblings, 3.96 and 4.96 (with sweep seconds, but not Geneva Seal) and the tonneau-shaped 6.96; I believe this latter has recently been shown also in a version with tourbillon.
Aesthetically, the 1.96 is an almost entirely traditional dress-watch, as epitomized by decades of Patek Philippe Calatravas and similar designs, excepting that it is a rather modern 36.4mm diameter. The extra area available to the dial is filled practically to the square millimeter by the guillocheed sunburst pattern, an additional distinction. It has a relatively thin, slightly stepped bezel, and to my eyes the entirety is most harmonious and clean; I expect it to age gracefully.
I hope you enjoyed this!
August 31, 2004
All content Copyright asserted 2003