As those who have followed past blogs of mine know, I have a real attraction to elegant watches with straightforward design. I will also admit to a great admiration for the Manufacture Chopard , and have followed their rapid-rise (since 1996, when they introduced their remarkable in-house 1.96 movement) in the ranks of truly elite Manufactures who produce exceptionally fine, exclusive mechanical movements; as I have said in the past, I happily sold a well-loved 5107R Patek Philippe Calatrava to help fund the purchase of a Chopard L.U.C. Twist, a decision I have never regretted.
Recently, I had a chance to handle the new Chopard L.U.C. Extra Plate dress watch. Let me tell you, this is an absolutely exquisite dress timepiece, and one that must be handled and seen to be fully appreciated – although the press photographs of it are certainly attractive to begin with. First of all, this Chopard watch is, in my humble opinion, perfectly sized. At 39.5mm, it is decidedly larger and more expressive than yesteryear’s dress watches of 33-35mm, yet it is not grossly over-sized (an important consideration for a true dress watch). The 38-40mm range is nearly ideal, and that is my evolved view formed after seeing and handling many watches, and assisting customers with different timepieces. Such a size range looks good on larger wrists, while not overpowering those whose wrists are not so generously endowed. In short, the Chopard L.U.C. Extra Plate watch is a perfect balance between presence and elegance.
The Chopard L.U.C. Extra Plate is a wonderfully thin watch, at 6.80mm high–a fact which is particularly noteworthy when you consider that this watch uses an automatic-winding movement, rather than a manually-wound one! Of course, Chopard has developed a new movement, the L.U.C. 96HM, which is another development from their outstanding 1.96/3.96 micro-rotor based movements, modified to omit any date or second hand functions. Like the other L.U.C. micro-rotor calibers, this movement has the remarkable power-reserve of approximately 70 hours. One could say that such an impressive power reserve is hardly necessary on a dress watch, but since when was necessity an adjective we apply to dress watches, or luxury goods in general? Once again, Chopard really delivers with the horological goodies. Besides, this watch is so good looking that I am sure fortunate owners will probably be giving it wrist time far more often than just those occasions when the tuxedo comes out. Chopard has opted to conceal this movement beneath a solid caseback, but traditionalist that I am, that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Partly, this is due to the fact that almost every mechanical watch produced today, worthy or not, has a sapphire back these days, but mainly its because I know the love for fine detail and perfectionism that Chopard invests into each L.U.C. movement. Check out these evalutions on the limited edition Chopard L.U.C. Fleurier watch (which also has a solid caseback) to see what I mean. And as these reveal, even these solid casebacks are works of art in their own right.
The Chopard L.u.C. Extra Plate watch is being offered by Chopard in both 18K yellow and white gold. For the ultimate traditional look, the yellow gold version might be preferable, with its white Roman numeral dial. However, my personal pick is the white gold model. The depth and shine of the glossy black dial is incredible – it has an appearance quite like that of polished black onyx. Accented with the shining white gold Arabic numerals and baton hands, this Chopard watch exudes the class you associate with anything that is “the very best”. The case finishing is absolutely impeccable, something shared by all Chopard watches; this is one of the advantages of Chopard’s long background as a jeweler, as well as a watchmaker. Even the massive ardillon buckle is a real luxurious treat, and is completely unlike the rather puny thin gold buckles you see on some minimalist gold dress-watches. Cradling this watch in your hand, the solid feel and impressive mass is truly delicious.
It is also worth mentioning that this beautiful watch won the top prize at the 2006 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve in the category of ultra-thin watches. Considering the impressive level of competition (representing nearly all the traditional Swiss haute horlogerie brands) at this prestigious annual Genevan competition, this is an accomplishment for which Chopard should be very proud.