For a long time, Chopard was predominantly seen as a jewelry house and not thought of as a serious horological manufacture. This perception has solid reasons, including some questionable watch designs in the past which certainly have presented some challenges for the brand. However, after you've finished reading this, you'll come to understand why the Chopard L.U.C. 16/1860 defies these preconceptions and holds a highly esteemed position among enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike.
To begin, the example you see here today is a slightly later variant derived from the L.U.C. 1860 – this is the 16/1863 ‘Quattro’. However, before we get into it, I believe it is important for us to grasp some historical context about the L.U.C. 16/1860.
The 1990s marked a period of recovery, as companies remained cautious following the devastating impact of the quartz crisis in the 1980s. Consequently, most watch brands adopted a conservative approach during this era. They relied on movements that had been in use for decades, often sourced from suppliers like Valjoux, Lemania, and ETA. With only a few exceptions, this was simply not a time for bold experimentation. Relative to this, Chopard was striving to establish itself as a reputable watchmaking brand, embarking on this journey in 1993 with the collaboration of renowned independent watchmaker Michel Parmigiani. This partnership demonstrated their commitment to this endeavour. Notably, it wasn't until 1996 that they deemed themselves ready to introduce their prestigious watchmaking line, known as the manufacture L.U.C.
Coming back to the L.U.C 16/1863 ‘Quattro’ offered here today, this reference marks the next chapter in Chopard’s pursuit of haute horlogerie. Building on the legacy of its predecessor, the inaugural 16/1860, the 16/1863 introduces a host of technical enhancements and aesthetic refinements. This example here boasts a marginally larger 38mm case crafted from exquisite 18-carat yellow gold, which showcases a distinguished stepped bezel design and ergonomically shaped lugs, delicately sloping down to meet the strap. The tri-tone dial is a symphony of details, featuring a power reserve indicator at 12 o'clock, a date indicator cum small seconds at 6 o'clock, applied hour markers, and a set of exquisite faceted dauphine-style hands – all in resplendent yellow gold. The dial's pièce de résistance is the beautiful rose lathe guilloché emanating from the center. For those who are familiar, the dial on this 16/1863 also bears a visual resemblance to a certain world-renowned Philippe Dufour Simplicity. This is because the dial was produced by Metalem, the same Swiss dial manufacturer Dufour used.
Turn the 16/1863 over on its back and you will be greeted with Chopard’s manual-winding Cal. 1.98, also known as the ‘Quattro’, which refers to its distinctive twin-stacked barrels. This remarkable movement bestows the watch with an impressive 8-day power reserve—some sources even hinted that its actual power reserve extends closer to 9 days. A departure from the Cal. 1.96 found inside the 16/1860, the Cal. 1.98 upholds an equal standard of craftsmanship and finishing which becomes evident when the movement is observed from specific angles through its glorious exhibition caseback, revealing deep Côtes de Genève engraving, elegantly black-polished screw heads with chamfering, a meticulously polished and bevelled swan neck regulator, mirror-like anglage along the edges of the oversized bridges, and subtle glimpses of engine-turned perlage beneath the baseplate. As a bonus, this 16/1863 is not only Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) certified but also bears the prestigious Poinçon de Genève (Geneva Seal).
The 16/1863 was initially said to be produced in a limited run of 1860 pieces across various variants in gold, mirroring the quantity of the original 16/1860. However, scholarly sources seem to suggest that Chopard likely manufactured fewer than half of that intended number. Nevertheless, as an overall package, the subtle yet striking allure of the 16/1863 is seriously unparalleled; it is THAT good. In a saturated industry where excellence is paramount, I’d go as far as to say that the over-engineered 16/1863 makes a compelling case for itself and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the most esteemed watch manufactures.
Considering the brand's rapid ascent from obscurity to excellence in the haute horlogerie space during the '90s, I tip my hat off to Chopard for making arguably one of the most underrated dress watches of all time.