Chopard is an intriguing brand. They have the history enthusiasts desire (yes, they were, first and foremost, a watch company, despite the common misconception), and the innovation coming from their ateliers today is enough to make any watch geek drool incessantly. Perhaps more impressive, though, is that Chopard is one of the few watch companies to own a gold foundry in which they expertly forge precious metal cases and jewelry. But why—then—is the company so senselessly pushed aside in debates involving high-end horology?
These days, the Geneva-based manufacture is applying expertise in a variety of ways and letting the big boys know they mean business. For instance, if you look deep into Chopard’s movement hierarchy, you’ll see quite a few special novelties, especially from their L.U.C. line, which pushes the limits of watchmaking. One of those calibers has a beat rate of 8 Hz. Yes, 8 Hz. To put that into perspective, think Zenith, Grand Seiko, or vintage Zodiac high-beat watches, which mosey along at a comparatively leisurely 5 Hz or 36,000 beats per hour. By anyone’s standards, those are considered high frequency, but Chopard elected to one-up them all with an astounding 8 Hz or 57,600 beats per hour. Known as caliber L.U.C. 01.06-L and L.U.C. 01.09-L (w/power reserve indicator), the movement powers two different watches in slightly different guises. Both pieces are limited to 100 (L.U.C. 8HF) and 250 (L.U.C. 8HF Power Control) pieces respectively, creating a sense of exclusivity.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at 2014’s titanium and ceramic-cased version of the watch—called the L.U.C. 8HF Power Control—which is deceptively light and, aesthetically, very unique. But that doesn’t mean the watch isn’t without a caveat or two. For one, with an impressive movement hidden almost entirely behind a slab of ceramic, the design feels uninspired, and for lack of a better word, cheap when pitted against other watches in the price range. Indeed, there IS a peephole-sized window that does a nice job of showing off the balance wheel and escapement, but other than that, there’s not much to see. Why hide a movement of such technical merit behind a closed back?
Naturally, one can only wonder if Chopard dropped the ball on movement decoration and finishing. But that’s highly unlikely, given the fact that the Power Control is part of Chopard’s L.U.C. line—a place reserved for the brand’s most prized watches and manufacture movements. The coverup does vaguely remind of an incident with a special edition Panerai, however, where unfinished Unitas movements were slyly hidden away behind closed backs. But that’s obviously a bunch of unwarranted riffraff on my part because imagery of the movement is widely available around the internet, and this clearly isn’t another generic ebauché stuffed into a fancy case.
Past that, the watch has a very bizarre look it. Set off by red accents, the second hand, power reserve indicator, and dial ring are a welcome splash of color to an otherwise dark design and emit a sense of spaciness when combined with the off-center crown. Imaginatively, the Power Control’s case is very UFO-like, not in a flying saucer sense, but in a weird, otherworldly sort of way. The enlarged window displaying multiple dates is placed interestingly, too; similarly off center as the subsidiary dial, and fits in well with the asymmetrical nature of the watch. Contrasting details combine to make an admittedly fresh design, which isn’t something said of much of contemporary horology (unless one explores smaller brands willing to take risks).
Tech-wise, you already know what makes the movement so special: operation is at an incredible 8 Hz (or 57,600 beats per hour) and sounds like a bat out of hell when churning along. The caliber has all the goods you’d expect: COSC certification, a 60-hour power reserve from a single barrel, and a silicon escape wheel, impulse pin, and lever. Simply put, there’s a smattering of mechanical innovation to the package, and that’s one of Chopard’s selling points—something technologically advanced enough to make you feel you’re getting your money’s worth.
Chopard L.U.C. 8HF Power Control
Limited to 250 pieces
42 mm titanium and ceramic case; 11.20 mm thick; automatic Chopard caliber L.U.C. 01.09-L; 60-hour power reserve; 8 Hz beat rate
However—and that’s a big however—the strap feels unsuitable for the price point, with stiffness and an unpleasant, plastic-y texture bringing the overall package down a few notches. Frankly, it’s inexcusable to slap a bargain-basement-feeling strap on a watch of this caliber because it doesn’t match up to the rest of the impressive, if flawed, package. But, in the end, the Power Control is still a thrilling showcase of technical prowess and may very well be considered an important piece in Chopard’s modern renaissance. Of course, that’s only speculation on my part, but with a hot movement beating at 8 Hz, it’s not inconceivable.
Future collectible? Perhaps.
Watch courtesy of Moyer Fine Jewelers.