A link between watchmaking and winemaking is perhaps not so obvious, beyond the fact that most people who appreciate a handcrafted wristwatch most probably also enjoy the odd glass of fine wine too. They go hand in hand (no pun intended!). But Chopard’s Co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele has been making both watches and wine for a number of years now and to celebrate both worlds he invited a small group of journalists down to his vineyards near Bordeaux to better understand the connection.
Arriving at the Scheufele’s vineyards at the Château Monestier de la Tour, you immediately notice the attention to detail, from the expertly chosen furniture to the flowers whose colors match the painting hanging on the opposite wall, everything is there for a reason and it is all aesthetically pleasing to the eye. This level of perfection is nothing new, however, as anyone who has taken a long look through the sapphire casebacks of Chopard’s L.U.C. calibers will know that Scheufele doesn’t do things by half.
First order of business is a delightful lunch in the castle’s courtyard and a first sample of the Château Monestier de la Tour’s delicious Dry White Bergerac wine, but only a taste, as straight after lunch we are invited into one of the cellars for the presentation of the latest L.U.C. timepiece, the L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru. This brand-new edition to the Heritage L.U.C Collection comes in a tonneau-shaped, 18-karat rose gold case. This shape isn’t new to Chopard, the Maison released its first tonneau in 2001, followed by another in 2005, but this is the first one to be equipped with an automatic movement and a micro-rotor.
The tonneau shape is particularly difficult to achieve as it is neither square nor round, but it is a great choice for those who have small wrists but like the look of a larger-sized timepiece. The shape is also a nod to the traditional oak barrels that are used to store and age some varieties of the Château Monestier de la Tour wine.
The L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru has been created as a homage to the brand’s founder, Louis-Ulysse Chopard, who created the L.U.C Manufacturing Company in 1860, and produced pocket watches that reached a large international clientele. When Scheufele decided to create his own movement, however, he had to start from scratch. “We started in 1996 with three employees in rented premises and we went from there. We didn’t take over an existing activity, it was a start-up in the most positive of terms. The LUC 1.96 was the first caliber to arrive and it was the most exciting moment for me to hear this movement ticking for the first time, and I can tell you, even today, I still remember the moment,” he recalls.
The new L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru has a white porcelain-like dial with black Roman numerals, an elegant railway track around the central section and bold fusée dauphine-shaped hands. A small seconds sub dial is visible at 6 o’clock along with an aperture for the date.
The watch is powered by the Maison’s Caliber 97.1-L automatic movement with an 18-karat gold micro-rotor. This caliber also comes in a tonneau form, unlike some tonneau watches that use a round or square movement. It has a 65-hour power reserve, which is a practical length of time as it means you can wear the timepiece all week, put it down on for the weekend, and it will still be ticking perfectly on Monday morning.
The L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru is certified both by COSC and the Poinçon de Genève, affirming Chopard’s dedication to the highest quality. “L.U.C is a very exclusive range within the Chopard line today. Right from the beginning we wanted chronometer certification. The COSC had to be part of every L.U.C movement and we decided to certify every single movement, even the minute repeater, but this was easier said than done. All the finishes we apply are either Poinçon de Genève or Qualité Fleurier and even the most simplest movements are among the best,” shares Scheufele. This passion for quality is also a big part of Scheufele’s wine production which is both organic and bio-dynamic, attesting to his desire to create the finest products with the best craftsmanship, whether at the bench or in the vineyards.
When asked about the differences and the similarities between his two businesses, he explains, “You have to be patient, flexible and hardworking in order to make wine. For the watches all that is true too, but the big difference is that for watchmaking it is all up to you. For winemaking, it is not just up to you, mother nature can completely throw you off your path and this is something that I have learned. Wine making also takes much longer, from planting your vines to harvesting, it takes at least five years before you can have wines that you can drink and up to 10 years to have reasonable quality wines. Nevertheless, there are definitely many parallels for the rest.”
Our afternoon ends with a tour of the impressive winery, followed by a trying on session of the L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru and a number of new variations of the L.U.C XPS Collection, all while tasting the numerous wines from the Château.
As I stand in this beautiful place with a L.U.C timepiece on my left hand and a glass of wine in my right, I realize that Scheufele has not only mastered the worlds of watches and wine, he has created a magical place that makes you stop and appreciate all the fine things in life. I wonder if he needs an extra pair of hands for the grape picking, I could quite happily stay here a little longer!
L.U.C XPS New Editions
A selection of reworked L.U.C models were also unveiled with a number of new variations and colors. The first LUC XP (XP for extra plat – extra flat) was presented in 2006 and is recognizable thanks to its ultra slim 40mm case, automatic movement with micro-rotor and a generous power reserve.
This year the collection sees a number of new modifications that bring a more refined and comfortable timepiece, such as lugs that have been slightly trimmed for an improved fit, a domed sapphire crystal that slides gracefully under the cuff and new fusée dauphine-shaped hands. Other details include elegant black Arabic numerals at the 12 o’clock position; hour markers that are raised, shaped and facetted like arrows; and satin-brushed cases which contrast with the highly polished bezels.
There are four new models – a stainless steel version with a grained white dial, an 18-karat white gold version with a black sunburst dial, an 18-karat rose gold version with a silver-toned sunburst dial and a platinum version with a blue dial and a Poinçon de Genève certification.
The final detail is the addition of the word “Chronometer” under the logo which attests to the high quality of every L.U.C movement.