Review: Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Tiger -
Like sports watches, Chinese zodiac watches – to a some extent – are one of luxury watchmaking’s most persistent trends. With each passing year, an increasing number of brands hop onto the bandwagon to present a piece of their own. Meanwhile, for brands like Chopard, the Chinese zodiac watch is nothing new. Since 2013, Chopard has dedicated a watch in its high-end L.U.C collection to the sign of each Chinese zodiac year. With the L.U.C XP ultra-thin model serving as the canvas, the celebratory piece has always been adorned using the ancient Urushi Maki-e technique and systematically produced in a culturally-relevant 88-piece limited series.
Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Tiger
In 2022, specifically at the end of January, we waved goodbye to the Year of the Ox and ushered in the Year of the Tiger. As it has been for the past 9 years, Chopard celebrates Chinese New Year with the addition of its latest Chinese zodiac watch to the L.U.C collection. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the new L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Tiger.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Tiger is crafted from ethical gold which Chopard uses in all of its watches and jewelry. Measuring 39.5 mm in diameter and 6.8 mm in thickness, the case is delightfully thin and dressy. In spite of the simple design, it is immaculately finished, with the bezel and case back polished to a sheen and the flanks and inter-horn space vertically satin-brushed for contrast. The slim bezel serves to accentuate the dial which, unquestionably, is the star of the show.
The simple, elegant case serves as the perfect frame for the lacquered dial.
True to tradition, Chopard collaborates with master lacquer artist Minori Koizumi who crafts the dials using the ancestral Urushi lacquer technique. Using the Maki-e technique, gold flakes – placed between layers of lacquer made from the urushiol-rich sap of the Toxicodendron vernicifluum tree – illuminates the background featuring a tiger perched above a bay surrounded by cliffs, set against a starry night sky. There are no unnecessary distractions on the dial that undermines its beauty. Apart from a pair of classic dauphine hands required to tell time and the tasteful ‘Chopard’ inscription on the sapphire crystal, nothing else impedes the breathtaking sight of the dial.
Sketching, lacquering, highlighting with charcoal, and gold dusting – these are but a subset of steps involved in creating each XP Urushi dial.
Driving the L.U.C Urushi XP Year of the Tiger is the tried and tested, 29-jewel Calibre L.U.C 96.17-L. This is the same movement used in every Chopard Chinese zodiac watch since the Year of the Snake in 2013. At only 3.3 mm thick, the movement is impressively thin. This is thanks, in part, to the use of a micro-rotor (rather than a full central rotor) that sits level with the bridges of the movement. The Calibre L.U.C 96.17-L has two mainspring barrels, stacked in accordance to Chopard’s Twin Technology. They provide 65 hours of power reserve when fully wound, which is commendable for an automatic watch and corresponds perfectly to a long weekend off the wrist.
The Calibre L.U.C 96.17-L as seen through the sapphire crystal case back.
As we have come to expect consistently from L.U.C movements, the Calibre L.U.C 96.17-L is beautifully finished. A look through the sapphire crystal case back says it all. The bridges feature Geneva waves on the top surface and edges that have been beveled and polished. There are plenty of rounded angles to be found, but also several sharp, outward angles. The 22-carat gold micro-rotor is stamped with a sunburst pattern and the L.U.C logo. The screws that secure the bridges are polished while the main plate is decorated with perlage. Suffice to say, the L.U.C Urushi XP Year of the Tiger is as gorgeous from the front as it is from the back.
The Competitive Landscape
The Chinese zodiac watch segment of luxury watchmaking gets more crowded every year. That said, few can match Chopard at their game. The L.U.C Urushi XP Year of the Tiger remains one of the most evocative specimens in the market, and one of the most competitively priced. Available only in rose gold and limited to 88 pieces, the watch is priced at CHF25,400.
The L.U.C XP Urushi cuts a classy figure on the wrist thanks to its pure design and dressy size.
Another brand that has produced an outstanding Chinese zodiac watch this year is Piaget, with the Altiplano Chinese New Year of the Tiger 2022. The piece features a depiction of a tiger in cloisonné grand feu enamel, crafted by master enameller Anita Porchet. The case is set with no fewer than 78 brilliant-cut diamonds totaling approximately 0.71 ct. The 38 mm watch is produced in a limited edition of only 38 pieces and is priced at SGD102,000.
The Piaget Altiplano Chinese New Year of the Tiger 2022
Ulysse Nardin has also opted for the enameling route for their Chinese zodiac piece. Since the acquisition of Donzé Cadrans in 2011, Ulysse Nardin has continued to be a powerhouse in the production of enameled dials. The Classico Tiger is further evidence of this notion. Using two centuries-old methods of enameling (namely champlevé and paillonné enameling), the artist’s sketch is brought to life. Unlike the Chopard, the dial of the Classico Tiger is fitted with hour markers and even a seconds hand. While this does mean that the visage of the Classico Tiger isn’t as pure as it could be, it does make time-telling more precise. The Classico Tiger is available in a limited edition of 88 pieces. It is, however, a pricier affair compared to the Chopard, at CHF40,600.
The Ulysse Nardin Classico Tiger
Chopard Chinese zodiac watches continue to impress, this year in the form of the L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Tiger. The watch is very competitively priced in its category, offering superior quality relative to its asking price. Importantly, Chopard manages to stand out with urushi where most of its competitors opt for enameling or engraving in their Chinese zodiac pieces.
EXCLUSIVE: Chopard Reveals 6,225-Carat Raw Emerald Called ‘Insofu’
PARIS — Continuing on its mission of sourcing exceptional stones in a responsible and sustainable way, Chopard will unveil a 6,225-carat raw emerald during the high jewelry presentations coinciding with Haute Couture Week here.
The emerald, named Chopard Insofu, weighs 1.22 kilograms — roughly the same as a Champagne bottle — and was found in the open-air Kagem mine in Zambia by Gemfields, a leading supplier of responsibly sourced colored gemstones.
It was given its name after the word “elephant” in the Bemba language spoken in the region around the mine, for its size and its shape evoking the animal’s trunk. The Chopard Insofu is among the largest emeralds ever found in the world, and the second-largest emerald ever found in Kagem, placing between the 5,655-carat Inkalamu (or “lion”) and the recently unearthed 7,525-carat Chipembele (or “rhinoceros”).
Still in its raw state, the sizable emerald has not yet revealed its secret, but it has already been described as “extraordinarily alive,” with experts lauding its purity and size.
“The size and quality of the crystal make it a rare find indeed,” stated Sean Gilbertson, director of Gemfields, noting that it was also “setting a historic milestone for traceability back to the mine-of-origin, a holy grail for consumers” seeking reassurances on the credentials of their stones as it is the first emerald of this size and purity to meet traceability requirements.
“By purchasing a raw stone, we are able to follow its entire journey through to final creation. Chopard will cut the raw emerald and collect all the cut gems emerging from it….We ensure a complete chain of traceability, which is rare for [such] stones,” said Chopard’s copresident and artistic director Caroline Scheufele who noted that a “fully integrated supply chain” was what made “these treasures of nature so valuable to our clientele,” who despite the COVID-19 pandemic had shown “strong resilience and loyalty” to the house.
She recalled her feeling at the discovery of the Insofu emerald as “surpassing any emotion [she] had ever known.”
The Rose of Caroline ring Courtesy of Chopard
Despite her excitement at this project, which “a passionate gem-lover like her dreams of,” she expressed caution, noting that while “plans are underway to make a collection [out of the stone], a rough emerald holds many mysteries” and that the process was just beginning.
“With a one-of-a-kind stone like this one, we have to find a way to make it the star of the show. In this case, we will start with what results of the cut…and build the surrounding design that best complements [them],” she said in an email interview.
In 2017, the house had unveiled the “Garden of Kalahari” set, designed from a single 342-carat raw diamond of exceptional purity.
Emeralds are a particular point of focus for the brand, which gives them pride of place in its high jewelry designs. “Whenever we have a larger emerald, my priority is to cut the stone in a way that takes advantage of its size. Each [one] possesses an individual internal structure [called] a garden…a fingerprint of textures and inclusions that make [them] unique,” she continued.
In the 2021 Red Carpet Collection unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival under the “Paradise” theme, impressive specimens included a 43.21-carat cabochon on a brooch and a 61.79-carat round shape on a necklace.
The Chopard Insofu emerald will be the highlight of the “Exceptional Gemstones” presentation at its Paris flagship store, where the jeweler will showcase an assortment of 20 exceptionally pure gemstones, in designs or still loose — a first for the house.
Among these will be some emeralds, of course, but also an unheated sapphire of 21.04 carats; an also-unheated pigeon blood ruby cut in a pear shape, found in Mozambique, and a 31.3-carat fancy dark gray-greenish yellow “chameleon” diamond, which has the unusual ability to change color depending on light and heat exposure.
Dark gray-green yellow diamond. Courtesy of Chopard
Completed designs will showcase the house ethos of “revealing the natural radiance of gems, without superfluous ornament or embellishments,” according to Scheufele.
Other rarities are a black Australian opal with striking blue and green streaks, and a vibrant turquoise Paraïba tourmaline.
This exhibition will be the first of several highlights for Chopard this year.
Coming up next is a celebration of its 25th anniversary as Cannes’ official partner, where Scheufele aims to satisfy the house clientele’s appetite for “something that hasn’t been done before, something surprising” to top last year’s “escape into a beautiful imaginary world” that was a response to clients’ crisis-driven desire for the rare and exceptional.
Also slated for 2022 is the move of Chopard’s New York flagship store, which will be paired with the reveal of a new high jewelry collaboration.
The house will leave the 709 Madison Avenue address it has occupied for 15 years and move into a new 2,400-square-foot home in the Crown Building at the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Review: The New Chopard L.U.C XP Skeletec -
The year was 1996, and Chopard had just inaugurated its own manufactory in Fleurier. The Chopard Manufacture was dedicated to crafting so-called “L.U.C” movements entirely decorated by hand. Today, over a quarter of a century on and dozens of models later, the L.U.C collection has grown into Chopard’s most prestigious line, with plenty of awards under its belt. While the collection is home to the brand’s most complicated timepieces, it also features simple time-only watches, many of which come with design twists. One such model is the L.U.C XP Skeletec, first introduced in 2012. On its debut, the L.U.C XP Skeletec was among the world’s thinnest self-winding skeleton watches, showcasing the capabilities of the Chopard Manufacture.
Chopard L.U.C XP Skeletec
Last year, in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Chopard Manufacture, Chopard gave the decade-old model a minor but impactful redesign. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the new 2021 L.U.C XP Skeletec, now more open and sleek than ever.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
One of the most palpable traits of the L.U.C XP Skeletec is just how thin it is. Measuring 40 mm in diameter and just 7.2 mm in thickness, the watch is delightfully slender and wears elegantly on the wrist. In line with Chopards commitment to using 100% ethically produced gold in all its jewellery and watches, the case of the 2021 L.U.C XP Skeletec is crafted in ethical 18-carat white gold. Its design is simple but striking enough, with vertical satin-brushed finish on the flanks and mirror polishing on the lugs and bezel.
The white gold case of the L.U.C XP Skeletec is elegant, thanks in no small part to its simple design and slim profile
Where the Skeletec starts to distinguish itself from other L.U.C pieces is in the dial, or rather, a lack thereof. In the 2021 edition of the model, four main changes have been made relative to the original version: 1) more of the dial has been cut out to reveal an even greater portion of the movement, 2) instead of baton indices, arrowheads (overhanging from the edge of what remains of the dial) are used now to mark the hours, 3) the hands have been changed from classic dauphine to contemporary, Chopard-style dauphine hands, and 4) a minute scale has been added along the perimeter. All in all, these design updates have brought about a much improved appearance for the L.U.C XP Skeletec. The idea of the Skeletec has always been to highlight the skeletonisation of the dial and movement behind it. The more open design of the 2021 version certainly helps achieve this purpose. The changes have also thoroughly modernised the model, thus extending its longevity in the market.
The overhanging hour markers produces an illusion that makes the central opening look bigger than it is
Driving the new L.U.C XP Skeletec is the familiar 167-part, 29-jewel Calibre L.U.C 96.17-S that also powered the previous version of the watch from 2012. While it would’ve been nice to see an update or upgrade on the movement, the Calibre L.U.C 96.17-S still exceeds current standards from a technical standpoint. It has a respectable power reserve (for an automatic movement) of 65 hours thanks to twin coaxial barrels and operates at a modern 4 Hz frequency. To ensure movement thinness, Chopard opts for a 22-carat gold micro-rotor that sits flush with the bridges.
The Calibre L.U.C 96.17-S as seen through the sapphire crystal case back
The highlight of the Calibre L.U.C 96.17-S is in the openworking, featuring plates and bridges artfully hollowed out to reveal the beauty of the inner workings. Of course, all this is meticulously carried out by hand at the Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier. The skeletonised parts are dominated by rounded angles but also showcase some sharp outward and inward angles. On the dial side, a Côtes de Genève finish ripples across the skeletonised mainplate. The mainplate and bridges are black rhodium-plated to let the gilded gear wheels and stamped micro-rotor stand out even more.
Not a single millimetre of the movement – visible from the front and back – is left unfinished
The Competitive Landscape
There are times when we just want to be able to look at our watch and tell the time instantaneously courtesy of a clean dial and legible display. For other times, there are skeleton watches. While they sometimes feel gimmicky, luxury skeleton watches never go out of fashion simply because many people who buy watches happen to also be watch enthusiasts who care about watch movements and craftsmanship. The Chopard L.U.C XP Skeletec is the prototypical luxury high-end skeleton watch. It offers excellent visibility of the movement through both sapphire crystals and a generous degree of skeletonisation that is sure to entice the watch geeks among us. Limited to only 50 pieces in white gold, the new L.U.C XP Skeletec retails for a fair CHF26,300.
The watch is matched with a grey nubuck calfskin leather strap
For something a touch sportier, look no further than the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic Blue. The absolutely airy design of the timepiece is thanks to its highly skeletonised movement, openworked dial, and tasteful use of sapphire crystal. There are plenty of blue accents on the watch, as its name would suggest, ranging from the hands and screws to the fabric strap. It is worth mentioning as well that the case is made of zirconium oxide ceramic, ensuring that the Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic Blue is featherweight not just in looks but also to the touch. Priced similarly to the Chopard L.U.C XP Skeletec at CHF24,300 (2019 pricing), the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic Blue is a worthy – albeit sportier – alternative.
The Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic Blue
If you have a bit more (or a lot more) to spend, why not go for the king of skeleton watches, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Ceramic. Of the three watches mentioned here, the Royal Oak definitely boasts the highest level of finishing and the most evocative skeletonisation. Apart from having two balances for better timekeeping, the watch also features an all-ceramic body that makes it supremely light and scratch-resistant. The Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Ceramic is a prime specimen of haute horlorgerie – the catch is, it costs USD84,300 (more than three times the Chopard L.U.C XP Skeletec). And even with the funds, you probably can’t buy one in-stores without proper connections or a solid purchase history; this is, after all, one of the most coveted Audemars Piguet timepieces in recent times.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Ceramic
The new L.U.C XP Skeletec comes with improved looks while largely retaining its original identity. As it stands, this is the only skeletonised model that the L.U.C collection has. With the amount of talent available at the Chopard Manufacture, it would be unsurprising if more skeletonised models or skeletonised variations of pre-existing models were to surface in the years to come. Elegance is the core of the L.U.C collection, and if anyone knows how to craft an elegant skeleton watch, it’d be Chopard, as they have shown with the L.U.C XP Skeletec.
Chopard Buys 6,225-carat Emerald for Undisclosed Sum
Swiss-based jeweler Chopard has bought a 1.22 kg, 6,225-carat emerald – one of the world’s largest – for an undisclosed sum, IDEX Online reports. Chopard said that the raw stone will enable it “to create a dedicated high jewelry collection with infinite possibilities”.
Chopard said that the emerald will highlight its Exceptional Gemstones presentation at its flagship store in Paris.
The huge emerald was recovered by Gemfields at its Kagem mine in Zambia in February 2010. It was named “Insofu” – “elephant” in Bemba. The language spoken by the people indigenous to the region where the impressive stone was mined.
Credit: Leibish & Co.
When it was found, Gemfields CEO Ian Harebottle said: “This is a unique find. The Insofu displays wonderful color and good translucency. Its sheer size, rich color and fine protective biotite shell makes it difficult to see deep into the gem. However, all indications suggest that the core of the emerald is competent and that it should yield a number of cut gems of significant size.”
Vintage Watches The 1970s Lead The Way With Rolex Sport Icons, A Lip Chronograph, and A Chopard Dual Time
This Chopard Dual Time watch is an amazing object, period. “Restrained opulence” would be the right words to describe this piece. It’s gold, it’s big, and it’s heavy (almost 100 grams!), but somehow it appears understated at the same time because of its soft, matte golden glow. I’ve talked about integrated bracelet watches from this period in the past, but the construction of this one is a direct reflection of the strengths that come from a long line of expertise in jewelry. The meticulous fine bark textured finish found throughout the case and bracelet truly come together as one; it’s so smooth and so comfortable. When the bracelet is laid out on a flat surface, it reminds me of the famous yellow brick road from The Wizard of Oz. One of the common issues with these types of bracelets is that the can become warped or small sections can slightly lift up to resembles fish scales – but this example is in pristine condition. The bracelet also appears to have remained in its entire, full length which is certainly a plus.