It is that time-honoured gesture we are all familiar with, when, during a formal dinner, the host picks up a piece of cutlery, and proceeds to strike a glass repeatedly to gain the attention of his guests. The clinking that we hear, in tones sonorous and full, is high pitched enough to travel the distance, making us stop what we’re doing so we can listen to the speech.

Now imagine that sound emanating from that most noble of horological complications, the minute repeater, and you will have an idea of what the new L.U.C Full Strike from Chopard sounds like at full clip. For what we have here, for the brand’s 20th anniversary is not just its first minute repeater, but one that uses sapphire crystal as the material for its gongs in the most innovative of ways, bringing forth a chime not just attention grabbing in volume, but as magical and authoritative as the finest cut-crystal glasses.

The secret? A sapphire crystal milled in one complete piece, making up not just the gongs, but the very crystal that is the face of the watch. Combined with the non-traditional layout of the dial-side mounted hammers, what we have with the Full Strike is a minute repeater that takes the sound generated by the gongs and transmits it directly forward, projecting it outwards towards the wearer of the watch.

Indeed, in order to visualise it clearly, it is useful to think of this sapphire crystal piece as having a similar shape to a bottle cap. The grooves underneath that we would use to screw the cap onto the bottle would be analogous to the circular shape of traditional minute repeater gongs, and the top of the bottle cap would be where the sapphire crystal face of the watch would be. Imagine that shape, and then imagine it vibrating when struck – the resonance of the material that can be achieved and transmitted would no doubt be astounding.

Heart of glass
That in essence is the genius idea behind the Full Strike and, while sapphire gongs have appeared before in other watches, none have been made in this way with the gongs and the dial crystal in one piece. Of course, in other minute repeaters, various methods of welding the materials together, either with screws or glue, have been attempted, but these solutions are clearly inferior since physical breaks in the material affect the transmission of acoustic waves. But, with the perfect physical integrity of L.U.C’s sapphire crystal, and its characteristic ability to act as an acoustic amplifier, the full strength and personality of the sound is transmitted outside the watch.

That this watch can be made today is partly a testament to how far materials technology has come over the past few years. Think of the explosion in the number of sapphire-cased watches in the market for 2016, and one gets a sense that this material will be used in more and more creative ways as time goes on. That it has been done here now with the Full Strike and its one-piece gong and dial system is a culmination of work that began with the L.U.C Strike One of 2010. That watch was created not to be a groundbreaking display of technical prowess, but as a warm-up exercise by Chopard to master the intricacies of building a striking mechanism.

Back then, one of the prototypes of the Strike One was made with sapphire gongs, and the potential for the material’s acoustic properties were already realised. Yet the technology at the time made it very difficult to work with in a practical sense and so the idea was shelved, waiting for the day when advances would finally make it possible. That day has come, and the result is simply exceptional.

Yet for all the attention-grabbing ability of this show-stopping feature, it is worth noting that the sapphire crystal gongs are not the full story. For what we see in the execution of this watch is a clear demonstration that, despite the technical achievements it embodies, it keeps to the core idea of the L.U.C line and who it is was created for: the gentleman watch connoisseur, needing a practical, reliable everyday watch, that is not only be elegant on the wrist, but full of the kind of technical content that he can appreciate.

Behind the looking glass
The strike governor, visible at 8 o’clock, has been made inaudible, allowing the full purity of the sound to resonate. The calibre L.U.C 08.01-L also superimposes the gear trains of the hours, minutes and quarters, mutually driving each other and maintaining a constant cadence, enabling it to skip the silences that are present in some other minute repeaters.

To allow the timekeeping and chiming functions to function properly, they draw energy from their own dedicated barrels, with the barrel for the chiming function being able to sound out “the longest time” (12:59) 12 times in a row from full power. Winding for both barrels is separated, with the large-diameter rose-gold crown transmitting power to the appropriate barrel, depending on the direction in which it is wound.

Furthermore, a number of security systems have been put in place to ensure reliable operation of the watch, including a semi-toothed wheel that is coupled with the striking mechanism power reserve that deactivates the minute repeater chime at lower power; a coupling-clutch that prevents the regulator from rotating until everything is in place for the striking mechanism to function; and a crown that is disconnected from the movement during the chiming process.

In addition to these technical features, the design of the watch is also surprising, as L.U.C has resisted the temptation to go overboard, opting instead for understatement and simplicity. In fact, it is precisely because of the technical feature of the one-piece sapphire gong and dial system that there was no need to have outlandish case shapes or weird designs that would have achieved a better sound. In this case, the technical solution employed has that wonderful effect of allowing the Full Strike to look every bit an L.U.C, retaining the codes of the collection with a precise and collected elegance on the wrist.

With a “Fairmined” rose-gold case at 11.55mm thick and a diameter of 42.5mm, the size is perfect, even with the extraordinary 500-component movement within. With a full dial side visibility of the minute repeater works – including the hammers and the double power reserve indicator – there is nothing more to want or need from the Full Strike, without doubt the pinnacle of the L.U.C collection.

Coming of age
This has been an amazing year for Chopard, and the L.U.C Full Strike not only caps it off in style, but stands as the pinnacle of horological achievement from an impressive 20 years of a manufacture that started everything from scratch. In an interview with Chopard Co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele earlier this year on the occasion of the launch of the Traveller One worldtimer, he told me that he had a wish-list for the L.U.C line: to have all of watchmaking’s major complications conquered and full represented within the collection.

A survey of the L.U.C line reveals already a wealth of accomplishments, from the brand’s first in house micro-rotor, long-powered movement in the calibre 1.96, to tourbillons, an in house-chronograph and much more. What was clear, and perhaps indicative in the Strike One of 2010 was the lack of that singular complication that, in our current state of horology, is seen as the most prestigious of them all: the minute repeater.

Today, the line is complete, and what we have now to contemplate, with the L.U.C Full Strike Minute Repeater, is how it signals the end of one journey, and the beginning of a new one. However what is certain is that, the new journey will be nothing if not amazing.

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