For the past few years, Chopard has celebrated the Chinese zodiac by releasing a special edition of the L.U.C XP Urushi watch ever year. This year, for example, it was the L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Rooster, which features an exquisite handcrafted Rooster on the dial. According to the Lunar calendar, 2017 is the Year of the Rooster. For 2018, Chopard has decided to go one step further and has just released a one-off piece called the Chopard L.U.C Perpetual T: Spirit of the Chinese Zodiac.
Chopard’s L.U.C collection is home to the brand’s most high-end artisanal watches, and the L.U.C Perpetual T: Spirit of the Chinese Zodiac follows in this tradition. The highlight of the watch has to be the case. It features a 43mm-wide 18k rose gold case that is about 15mm thick, and the entire case is hand-engraved with the 12 Chinese zodiac signs using the champlevé technique. This means the case is first engraved by hand and then filled with material. In the case of the Chopard L.U.C Perpetual T: Spirit of the Chinese Zodiac watch, the case is first engraved and then filled with black patina to create images from the Chinese Zodiac.
The 12 animals of the Zodiac are engraved chronologically on the case middle with the rat positioned on the top right corner of the watch. Some highlights worth mentioning include the tiger, which is positioned on the crown; and the dragon and snake, which are intertwined between the bottom lugs of the case. The bezel is hand-engraved with the champlevé technique too and features a pattern that calls to mind the grids found on ancient Chinese doors. The dial is made of solid 18k gold, too. Like the case, it is hand-engraved with a lattice pattern that is similar to that of the bezel. The Chopard L.U.C Perpetual T: Spirit of the Chinese Zodiac is water-resistant to 30m and comes with a black hand-made alligator strap and a matching 18k rose gold pin buckle.
The L.U.C Perpetual T: Spirit of the Chinese Zodiac features a number of complications. On the dial at 12 o’clock is a big date display. Below are the perpetual calendar indications. At 3 o’clock, we have the month and leap year indicators, and at 9 o’clock we have the day and 24-hour indicators. Finally, at 6 o’clock there is the tourbillon that makes a rotation every minute. This doubles up as the running seconds sub-dial.
At 6 o’clock, you may see the seconds sub-dial with a hand that’s similar to the hours and minutes hand in that it’s also gilded, but it isn’t done in the same style. I love Chopard’s own-designed and proprietary font and crimson color used to signify the time increments at 15, 45, and 60 and even though I wasn’t sure about the markers in between the digits initially, it’s something I quite like now. Also, a notable detail is that these markers — both the numerals and the little points between them — are so modest, despite my good near-sight I could hardly take them out.Additionally, as is usual for so many L.U.C watches, there is the date window positioned at the bottom of the seconds sub-dial, blended into the second path to minimize its effect on the dial’s aesthetics. “To date or not to date?” — that is always the question, but I could love Chopard sticking to its thought of adding this extra bit of functionality. Again, to be taken into consideration is, in addition, the simple fact that this is among those smaller date windows — consider that the sub-40mm size of this watch and the proportionally yet smaller date window, and also the distraction-factor really is minimized.The display case-back allows a view into the Geneva Seal accepted 97.01-L Calibre movement which, like the 97.03-L found from the L.U.C Tonneau watch, is a tonneau-shaped automatic motion. A 22ct gold micro-rotor drives the two piled barrels built using Chopard’s Twin technology, providing a total of 65 hours of power reserve at a frequency of 4Hz. The motion steps at 28.15mm by 27.60mm at only 3.3mm thick and consists of 197 parts, and has 29 jewels.Chopard calls the L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru “the only tonneau shape watch wound by an automated motion” — although the Clé de Cartier, many Richard Mille pieces, and even some Franck Muller models spring to mind as additional watches that fit this description.The Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Hebdomadaire is indeed a tonneau shaped watch with a tonneau shaped motion, but one that is a manual wind, but the RM 67-01 (hands-on here) is very much a tonneau-shaped motion in a tonneau watch.
Powering the watch is the caliber 02.15-L that features 353 components and Chopard’s Quattro system, which means it has four mainspring barrels and a power reserve of 216 hours or 9 days. As mentioned earlier, it features the perpetual calendar complication and a tourbillon mechanism, and it beats at 4Hz. The movement features extensive hand-finishing such as beveled bridges, polished screws and jewel countersinks, and has been awarded the Geneva Seal. The owner can also be assured of excellent timekeeping performance as it is also chronometer-certified by COSC. The movement can be admired through the watch’s sapphire display caseback.
The Chopard L.U.C Perpetual T: Spirit of the Chinese Zodiac was probably designed with a Chinese customer in mind. But even as a Chinese myself, I can’t help but think they probably took the Chinese styling cues too far. Personally, I think Chopard should have stopped at the engravings on the case and left the dial plain. But hey, what do I know? I’m sure there’s a market for slightly over-the-top unique pieces like this. The Chopard L.U.C Perpetual T: Spirit of the Chinese Zodiac is a one-off piece and price is only available on request. www.chopard.com