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Review: Chopard L.U.C. 1937

Ever thought to yourself, “I wish a high-end, historic watchmaker would just make a really top-drawer, beautiful watch with an incredible, chronometer-rated in-house movement that I could buy for way, way less money than it seems like it should be.” Yeah, me too. Pipe dream? Perhaps not. This is the Chopard L.U.C. 1937, and it’s the watch you always wanted.

I don’t know about you, but when I find myself browsing for watches, I don’t find myself looking for anything specific—I’m more on the hunt for a watch that catches my eye, that’s somehow slipped through the net and ended up being an exceptional purchase for way less money than you’d expect. I’m no loyalist to any one particular brand—that I can afford, at least—and that leaves prospects open for any number of unexpected treats to make themselves known.

Before I even worked for Watchfinder I would find myself trawling the pages and pages of watches looking for that hidden gem, that piece that had it all and asked for nothing, and very occasionally that does happen, more or less. My Grand Seiko SBGV245, for example, a simple yet interesting design with flawless finishing and an unrivalled dial cost me less than a new Longines. It’s a quartz, granted, but in this game wearing a Japanese quartz watch is just one of those things I do to—well, be annoying really.

I’ve been doing this now for nearly ten years—working with watches, that is—and I’ve been interested in watches for many more years than that, and as you can imagine, that sweet, sweet combo of quality, heritage and price doesn’t come up too often. It doesn’t really come up, ever. There’s usually some kind of hiccup, some snag that doesn’t exactly make the watch a complete no-go, just doesn’t make it worth the risk of going off-piste for either.

If you’ve got a bit more cash than most to spend, you’ll find Mosers, Breguets, Blancpains and the like dangling a very tempting, surprisingly good value carrot right in front of you, but then the margin of value is still protected by the barrier to entry of the higher cost. No, what we want is something cheaper, much cheaper, that still packs a massive wallop. We’re Ahab, this mythical watch is our whale—but there won’t be any revenge, I’m afraid.

Chopard was founded in 1860, Sonvilier, Switzerland

Chopard was founded in 1860, Sonvilier, Switzerland

Having a good bit of watch knowledge really helps to spot the kind of bargain most of us are hoping to get, and so whenever I stumble across an L.U.C. Chopard, I always stop to get a better look. L.U.C., the initials of Chopard founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard, denote Chopard’s top-drawer collection, the in-house treats that aspire to no budget. The stuff you see in jeweller’s windows in shopping malls and such, that’s the broader offering; the L.U.C. collection is, for those in the know, where the prime pickings are.

Most people, however, don’t know that. At a glance, an L.U.C. Chopard is just another mid-level luxury watch with a price tag that makes you double take, and in a bad way. This is a particularly special combination, because it has a very particular effect: depreciation. This is what we’re looking for, a high-priced watch that most people confuse with a mid-priced one that renders it very difficult to sell—and when it finally does get sold, the new owner’s going to want to hang on to it because the residuals are not going to make for very pleasant reading.

I mean, it’s a shame for Chopard because these L.U.C. watches are some of the very best in the business, pieces that would sit quite contentedly alongside the Audemars Piguets</a and Patek Philippes</a found flying off shelves. It’s a funny old game, but let’s not feel too bad just yet, because it actually presents us with an opportunity to catch this mythical watch.

Buying a Chopard may not put you on the list of coolest dudes ever, but if it’s a brand that knows its stuff you want, it’s not going to do you wrong. Founded in 1860, the watchmaker’s skills quickly found favour in the courts of the Russian Tsars, chaps noted for their tastes in fineries such as watchmaking. It’s still a family-owned business today, one of those companies that seems to value the quality of its product over its own bottom line. Not great business, but it makes for some pretty great watches.

Chopard was founded Louis-Ulysse Chopard

Chopard was founded Louis-Ulysse Chopard

The Chopard L.U.C. 1937 is one of them, a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the brand—and, in case you’re wondering where the year 1937 comes into it, it’s a nod to a pivotal moment in the brand’s history where it relocated to Geneva. It’s sporting, yet classic, simple, yet refined. It’s not small and unwearable, and it’s not overbearing either. So often you think you’ve found a watch that just might be it—and it turns out to be the size of a button. Not so here.

The case and dial aren’t what you’d call ornate, but they’re executed to a level you’d hope for in a watch that aims as high as this one does. The fact it didn’t reach those heights has nothing to do with the watch itself, I can assure you. What it does mean is that its misplaced expectations can become your unexpected bargain.

What really makes this watch worth considering is the powerhouse inside, the in-house calibre 1.010, a fully automatic movement with 60 hours of power reserve and chronometer rating to boot. But it’s not just a practical machine, because with Chopard’s decision to glaze the rear comes the opportunity to enjoy what else the calibre 1.010 has to offer.

This is a movement that most watches achingly wished they had. It’s slender, it’s well-proportioned, well-finished, too; it invites observation in a way familiar with those Audemars Piguets and Patek Philippes, earning more than a mere glance that can quite easily, time permitted, become an extended study.

Chopard is a company famous for both its jewellery and watches

Chopard is a company famous for both its jewellery and watches

This is no tractor as is so often found in watches of middling achievement; there’s more finesse to it than that, in the lines and curves of the bridges, the striped and turned graining, the polish of the bevels. To put a price on it, this is what you’d expect of a watch costing in the realms of £10,000.

But it doesn’t cost £10,000. It doesn’t even cost £5,000. This watch, this Chopard L.U.C. 1937, is a watch that can be had for £3–4,000, even less if you’re lucky. Yet it stands toe-to-toe with watches some four times as expensive, despite costing as much as an Omega. Is this our Moby Dick? Could this be your Moby Dick?

As the old saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, it most probably is, and for the most part the quest for a cheap, great watch is always going to be a fruitless one. I know—I’ve been looking for decades. But that’s not to say it’s been a completely fruitless search, as the Chopard L.U.C. 1937 demonstrates, because every now and then, once in a blue moon, when all the stars are aligned, something slips through. Only problem is, like a dog that finally catches its tail—what do you do now?

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