You are currently viewing Collector’s Corner – Chopard L.U.C 16/1860 and The Calibre 96

Collector’s Corner – Chopard L.U.C 16/1860 and The Calibre 96

After a short hiatus, we return to The Collector’s Nook, with an entry that’s as far faraway from the Omega Seamaster Skilled 300M and the Rolex Explorer II Polar 16570 we final checked out, in each type and performance. At Watches & Wonders 2022 (try our full protection right here), Chopard introduced not one, however three chiming watches to commemorate the twenty fifth anniversary of the founding of the jeweller’s haute horlogerie ambitions beneath the L.U.C line. We thought it could thus be related to take a better take a look at the beginnings of L.U.C and, extra importantly, the groundbreaking motion powering it, the very good calibre 96.01… and naturally, the ultra-desirable and stylish watches that got here outfitted with it.

The Calibre 96.01 was launched in 1996 as Chopard’s first in-house, computerized motion, and was developed over three years with a transparent aim: set up Chopard as a critical contender was so forward-looking that its spinoff actions nonetheless proceed to energy Chopard’s newest creations, just like the Chopard Alpine Eagle Flying Tourbillon. Once we discuss in regards to the traits that outline a sure watch mannequin or reference, we usually fall again on options like an iconic design, unparalleled legacy, and perhaps even desirability and rarity. It’s a uncommon watch that’s outlined by its motion: the Chopard L.U.C 16/1860 is one such watch.

A short historical past of Chopard

To know the significance of the Calibre 96.01, we have to first check out the Chopard’s historical past. The son of a farmer, Louis-Ulysse Chopard based his eponymous firm in 1860. Chopard proved himself a proficient watchmaker from the get-go, establishing his first workshop for the manufacture of pocket chronometers on the younger age of 24. Chopard’s work rapidly gained acclaim, along with his watches praised for his or her reliability and accuracy. The standard of Chopard timepieces landed the younger firm two prestigious commissions, changing into the official supplier of timepieces for the Tir Fédérale and the Swiss Railway Firm.

Louis-Ulysse Chopard (far proper) and household

These successes laid the inspiration of the corporate his son took over upon the elder Chopard’s passing in 1915. The corporate headquarters have been moved from Sonvilier, Switzerland to La-Chaux-de-Fonds, then to Geneva in 1937. Conflict once more got here to Europe, severely impacting the demand for Chopard’s timepieces. The corporate, now within the third era of household possession within the arms of Paul-André Chopard, had managed to remain afloat to rejoice 100 years of existence, however Paul-André had begun to understand {that a} sale could be the one viable choice to save lots of the corporate.

Enter Karl Scheufele III. Scheufele too was a third-generation businessman, inheritor to the ESZEHA jewelry firm primarily based in Pforzheim, Germany. Till then, ESZEHA had relied on third-party actions provided by IWC, JLC, and Vacheron Constantin, however Scheufele needed to deliver your entire manufacturing course of beneath one roof. In 1962, Scheufele was in a position to understand this dream when he and Paul-André Chopard agreed that Scheufele would assume possession of Chopard.

The quartz disaster led to a shift away from mechanical watches to low-cost, correct quartz merchandise. Scheufele knew that he couldn’t win over prospects on the standard measures of high quality like accuracy and reliability. He must pivot – drawing on experience from the jewelry enterprise, Chopard remodeled its watch providing into simply that: time-telling jewelry. This pivot led to the creation of Blissful Diamonds, a group that is still within the Chopard lineup to at the present time. Diamonds have been sandwiched between two sapphire crystals however have been in any other case free to maneuver about on the dial. The idea was successful!

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Co-President of Chopard

Administration of the Chopard firm handed to Karl’s youngsters within the Nineteen Eighties, who grew to become co-presidents. Caroline managed the ladies’s jewelry line, Karl-Friedrich was accountable for the model’s males’s line and timepiece assortment. The following milestone got here in 1988, with the institution of the Mille Miglia connection – Chopard grew to become the official timekeeper for the well-known race.

All through the quartz disaster, quartz watches have been the bread and butter of Chopard’s watchmaking division. Nevertheless, Karl-Friedrich had an formidable plan: he needed to return Chopard to its roots as a manufacture of mechanical watches. Scheufele took a gambit in 1993, establishing a workforce within the city of Fleurier with the aim of growing an in-house calibre. The workforce was given carte blanche, and three years later, the automated calibre L.U.C 96.01 was born, named after the founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard.

The Chopard L.U.C 16/1860 – The fundamentals

First, a notice on reference numbers. The 16/1860 household consists of three references: the primary inaugural reference 16/1860/1 is supplied with a hunter-style caseback and was produced in solely 100 examples earlier than being discontinued and changed by the 16/1860/2. The 16/1860/2 did away with the hunter caseback (allegedly because of points with the hinged caseback on the earlier reference) however in any other case shared the identical dial and motion, specifically the Geneva Seal Calibre 96.1. The reference 16/1860 (notice the absence of the ultimate specifier), was a extra accessible watch constructed round the same, if much less elaborately completed Caliber 3.96 – I’ll go into the variations under. The 16/1860 reference additionally lacks the engine-turned dial that makes the “/1” and “/2” references so fascinating.

After the flip of the century, the L.U.C Tonneau 16/2267 was launched in 2001, with a formed motion designed across the 96.01 (the motion was known as the 6.96). The Tonneau featured the identical dial particulars because the 16/1860/1 and 16/1860/2, although the guilloché central dial was stamped somewhat than engine turned. Different uncommon references embrace the 17/1860/2, which options the identical specs and Geneva Seal motion because the 16/1860/2, however has a bezel set with brilliant-cut diamonds – becoming for a jewelry home!

It’s customary for me to begin this part off with an outline of the case, the dial, and the damage of the watch we’re discussing earlier than I transfer on to the technical specs. Nevertheless, I feel it’s solely honest for me to show this order on its head this time. Why? It’s uncommon {that a} watch motion features as a lot recognition because the watch itself – actions of comparable stature embrace the Jaeger-LeCoultre 920 or the Patek Phillipe Calibers 12-600 AT or 240. Enter the Chopard L.U.C Calibre 1.96.

Conceived along with Michel Parmigiani (founding father of the eponymous Parmigiani Fleurier model), the Calibre 1.96 took round three years to develop, with completion in 1996. The temporary for Parmigiani was easy: to make a skinny, trendy, and extremely embellished computerized calibre that might cement Chopard’s place amongst different top-tier watchmakers in Switzerland. One 12 months later, the calibre made its debut within the reference 16/1860/1.

Let’s begin with the bottom specs: the calibre 1.96 is a 3.3mm skinny computerized motion with a stable energy reserve of 65-70 hours. Bidirectional computerized winding was achieved with a totally jewelled, pawl-based rocker system. As an idea, it resembles the IWC Pellaton winding system – because the rotor oscillates, its motion is transferred to a pawl (principally a toothed beak), which drives the ratchet wheel, in flip winding the mainspring. For extra photos of the automated system – and of the 1.96 on the whole – I refer you to the unbelievable technical write-up of Walt Odets, who, on the time his article was revealed in 2002, wrote that “the calibre 1.96 might be the best computerized motion being produced in Switzerland immediately.”

Photograph MrWatchley

The spectacular energy reserve is due to Chopard’s “twin” know-how, specifically two stacked barrels working in sequence. Using two barrels not solely endows the watch with a wholesome energy reserve, but additionally with spectacular timekeeping. Really, this was the motion’s trump card – the 1.96 was one of many uncommon Geneva Seal calibres to bear COSC certification. So proud was the manufacture of this feat that each the chronometer certificates and the paper type of the Geneva Seal have been delivered with every watch.

Isochronomism was additional enhanced by means of a Breguet overcoil hairspring (flat hairspring in 3.96 and later generations) and a swan’s neck tremendous adjustment regulator. Oh, and naturally, the seconds hack, as a result of what use is an correct motion when you can’t set it to the exact second?

The ending of the Calibre 1.96 is completely exemplary, with every screw and jewel countersink being finely polished. Each bridge has mirrored, rounded anglage that was clearly carried out by hand. All screws are bevelled on their circumference and slots. Even the swan’s neck regulator – a tremendous and skinny spring is bevelled on its edges. Each floor of each part has been eliminated of machining marks and embellished with polish, brushing, solarization, or Côtes de Genève.

Some attention-grabbing tidbits in regards to the caliber 1.96 and later generations:

    The Calibre 1.96 runs on 29 purposeful jewels. Early variations of the calibre, each on the 16/1860/1 and 16/1860/2 references are 32-jewel actions, although it’s believed that these are merely ornamental.
    The Calibre 1.96 cased in white metals have been outfitted with a platinum PT950 microrotor, versus the 22k yellow gold rotor present in YG and RG fashions
    The primary numeral within the caliber title refers back to the era of the motion, the suffix “96” to the motion household. Thus, 96 is the microrotor computerized household, 98 the 9-day Quattro household. Chopard’s motion naming conference was later modified and the order inverted, thus the 1.96 grew to become the 96.01, the three.96 grew to become the 96.03, and so forth.
    All 1.96 calibres have a billowing guilloché sample minimize on the automated winding rotor. There are variations of the three.96 with the identical sample, but additionally these with a hobnail sample. The sample probably correlates to the fabric of the rotor (see level under), as rotors with a hobnail sample shouldn’t have a visual “22k” hallmark.
    Early 3.96 rotors have been manufactured from a heavier base steel (tungsten) capped with 22k gold. These have been later changed with stable 22k rotors – the identical as within the caliber 1.96
    One other differentiation between the 1.96 and the three.96 is using a kidney-shaped stud holder (black-polished, after all) within the 1.96 as a result of necessities of the Geneval Seal.

Photograph MrWatchley

Seen from head-on, the reference 16/1860 is what you’d sketch if I requested you to attract the quintessential gown watch. Valuable steel? Test. Small seconds? Test. Particulars that impress as you get nearer? Test, examine, and examine.

The references share options discovered on a few of the most enduring gown watches of our time, such because the Philippe Dufour Simplicity or the Patek Philippe Calatrava. The watch is classically sized, at 37mm in diameter, with a case in yellow gold (silver and black dial variants), rose gold (silver and black dial variants), white gold (silver, blue, and salmon dial variants) and platinum (silver dial variant). The dial is a research in classicism. Ranging from the skin and dealing our manner in, there’s a brushed monitor with dashes for the minutes. Barely inboard is a sunken monitor with a radial brushing that acts because the hour monitor – the hours are marked with utilized yellow gold arrowhead hour indices. There’s a double index at 12.

Within the “/1” and “/2” references, the centre of the dial includes a hand-laid billowing soleil guilloché sample radiating out from the cannon pinion. Set on this central dial, slightly below the 12 o’clock markers, the model title is printed on a “plaque” that has additionally been minimize into the stable gold dial clean. Now, that is the place it will get even higher: these guilloché dials have been manufactured by Metalem SA, a dial producer primarily based in Le Locle, Switzerland, that gained publicity for producing the dials for the Dufour Simplicity. No surprise the 2 watches appear like they have been minimize from the identical material!

Photograph MrWatchley

As is conventional for gown watches, seconds are displayed on a subdial – with each brushed and concentric patterns. A small concession to practicality has been made within the type of the date window, which has been set inside the sub-seconds. The hour and minutes arms are dauphine in form and are half-polished, half-frosted; the seconds hand is a straightforward baton type with a counterweight.

Photograph MrWatchley

Coming to the case, you discover that it too is classical in type and development: the three-part case is totally polished. The caseband makes up many of the quantity of the case from the facet – set barely again from the caseback, the bezel is domed in a trend that harks again to pocket watches. The caseback is secured with eight screws.

Alongside the hallmarks stamped into the steel, the hunter caseback within the “/1” was engraved with the phrases “Chopard Manufacture” and a beehive – the image chosen by the founding father of the manufacture.

Why it’s best to think about the Chopard L.U.C 16/1860 and its calibre 1.96?

I’m guessing I’ve your consideration by now! There are fairly a couple of the explanation why I made a decision to dedicate an episode of The Collector’s Nook to the 16/1860. First off, the seems to be: I’ve a weak spot for classically-styled, elegant gown watches. The 16/1860 knocks this one out of the park and may simply compete with the standard gamers on this area. The variations with Metalem dials are a surprise to behold and have clearly been executed sparing no expense. If I had one niggle, it could be the date window, however I can’t deny its usefulness. Additionally, the window itself has been executed nicely, with a step down as an alternative of a mere cutout. Additionally, props to Chopard for deciding to make use of matching date wheels – the salmon dial and salmon date wheel mixture is especially beautiful.

Photograph MrWatchley

The second cause is the motion. Although the 16/1860 was not met with the best industrial success, its motion was extensively lauded. In every of its guises, the 96 household of actions is a technical powerhouse and nonetheless is a little bit of a sleeper motion. Micro-rotor automatics are slowly changing into increasingly more accessible as supplies know-how makes them extra environment friendly and extra sturdy, however within the early 2000s, that was most definitely not the case. The motion can be fairly a looker whatever the variant. After all, the 96.01 takes the cake, and I imagine it to be one of the crucial lovely computerized calibres in existence.

Photograph MrWatchley

The final cause is that there are numerous totally different variants of watches carrying the calibre 96 household to select from, spanning the entire gamut of budgets. Notion is every thing on the earth of luxurious, and it’s honest to say that exterior of our area of interest group, Chopard continues to be extensively regarded as a jewelry home first and as a watch manufacture second. What this implies is that the calibre 96-based watches have been for the longest time buying and selling at a substantial low cost and solely began to achieve recognition within the final three years.

On the high of the lot is the 16/1860/1 – these not often come up on the market and are additionally the rarest – adopted by the 16/1860/2. Anticipate to pay upwards of 20-25k Euros for the references with Metalem dials. The rarest of those, in platinum, or white gold with a blue or salmon dial, will definitely command a premium. Given the state of the market, I might not be shocked to see an asking worth of above 30k.

Photograph MrWatchley

Subsequent on the value hierarchy is the 16/1860, which at the moment trades between 5-7k Euros. Uncommon dial variants will probably command a premium – count on to pay round 9k-11k Euros. The value differential in comparison with the reference 16/1860/2 is substantial and these, although not cheap, are an outright steal as compared. The Calibre 96.03 will not be stamped with the Geneva Seal, however will not be in any manner a detuned motion, as it’s nonetheless chronometer licensed and has the identical energy reserve.

And eventually, we come to the Chopard L.U.C Sport, powered by the calibre 4.96. That is the metal, sports-watch equal to the classical 16/1860. The L.U.C Sport might be had with a darkish blue dial or silver dial, each with machine stamped guilloché dial. L.U.C. The 4.96 motion lacks hacking seconds however features centre seconds and a extra conventional date positioning at 3 o’clock. Of the three references thus far, that is in all probability one of the best as a every day driver – at 10mm thick, it retains an extremely slim profile and is extremely snug on the wrist. Regardless of the svelte proportions, the watch is endowed with 100 meters of water resistance, and the totally brushed stainless-steel case makes it a unbelievable all-rounder. Consider the L.U.C Sport as a excessive horology competitor to the Rolex Explorer, however for half the value. I do know which one I might select! I ought to point out, for the sake of completeness, that the L.U.C Sport was preceded by the Professional One in every of 2004, which was Chopard’s first manufacture calibre sports activities watch and was powered by a calibre 4.96.

Photograph MrWatchley

Regardless of which manner you go, nevertheless, I doubt that you’ll find yourself regretting your choice. These are all terrific references, and all helped to put the inspiration for the rise of Chopard and of L.U.C.

Illustration pictures for this text have been offered by mrwatchley.com and are used beneath prior settlement. 

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