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Introducing Chopard L.U.C XPS Twist Qualité Fleurier

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The L.U.C. watches from Chopard hold a special place in the hearts of many enthusiasts, for offering an alternative to those firms more traditionally identified with fine watchmaking. Though Chopard has been making watches since its inception – its founder, Louis-Ulysse Chopard, was a watchmaker – it became most famous as a watchmaker to the growing international watch enthusiast community when in 1996, it released the first watches made with its high-grade L.U.C. calibers. These movements instantly brought Chopard international recognition, and today L.U.C. movements continue to represent the highest level of traditional watchmaking at Chopard.

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The L.U.C. Twist watches are so named because the movement is rotated in the case to an unusual position, putting the crown at 4:00, and the sub-seconds dial at 7:00. An interesting additional features of this version, is Qualité Fleurier certification. Certification is through the Fleurier Quality Foundation (FQF) which is an independent inspection agency which examines watches according to several criteria, including place of manufacture, as well as durability, accuracy, and aesthetic criteria. The case is made of ethically certified Fairmined gold, which must be sourced from mines that meet certain standards for good environmental and business practices, and which are produced on a small, local, and artisanal scale. (At Baselworld 2017, Chopard released an earlier version of the XPS Twist in Fairmined pink gold, as a limited edition, and with a spiral-pattern engraved dial). While Chopard has been using Fairmined gold since 2014, the company announced in 2018 that it would use Fairmined gold exclusively for all its watch and jewelry collections.

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The movement is Chopard L.U.C. caliber 96.26-L, which offers a 65 hour power reserve in a relatively flat, 3.30mm movement; it's a micro-rotor caliber with a white gold winding rotor and is finished very much to the standard that made L.U.C. movements so important to the history of modern watchmaking.

Initial Thoughts
The L.U.C. Twist QF is handsome watch from a company that continues to represent a real alternative to some of the heaviest hitters in fine watchmaking and although Chopard produces a wider range of watches that some of the L.U.C. Twist QF's competitors, that shouldn't be allowed to obscure the fact that at the high end it offers a level of fit, hand-finishing, and design that's at least competitive with what's on offer at a similar cost from other fine watchmaking manufacturers. 

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The FQF Quality Seal as an independent certification system offers several points of interest. The Foundation was first established in 2001, by Chopard, Parmigiani Fleurier, Vaucher Manufacture, and Bovet, all of which continue to submit watches to the Foundation for inspection and testing. Although the Foundation's certification procedures are, according to its statues, open to any wristwatch which is 100% Swiss-made, thus far they haven't been used by any brand other than the original four. Testing and inspection procedures include COSC certification, but also include requirements for movement finishing (including beveling) and the Chronofiable and Fleuritest tests. The Chronofiable test is for durability and includes test cycles on bezels, crowns, and pushers as well as shock resistance and resistance to magnetic fields, and water resistance; the Fleuritest is 24-hour precision test on a special machine that simulates a typical range of human activity over a full day. The testing procedures are a significant value added but also represent a not inconsiderable additional cost, which may be part of the reason that the FQF quality seal hasn't found a broader client base (for more info on the FQF inspection and testing criteria, check out Fleurier-Quality.com) .

The Original L.U.C. Caliber 1.96

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For more on the history of L.U.C. calibers, check out our report on one of the original L.U.C. timepieces from 1997, right here.

Of course, the use of Fairmined gold and the presence of the FQF Quality Seal alone aren't enough to make the watch a success; it has to have aesthetics that are a match for its other credentials. I find the design very appealing (both based on images, and on having seen a pre-production prototype not yet ready for photography). The movement is a pretty close approximation to the caliber 1.96 from 1996, with some minor changes – the original caliber 1.96 used an overcoil balance spring with a kidney-shaped adjustable stud, as well as a whiplash fine regulator and both of these elaborate elements have been foregone in caliber 96.26. However, almost every other aspect of caliber 1.96 is present, including the 22 karat gold rotor, and the general layout and level of finish of the plates and bridges; it remains an extremely visually appealing movement.

The radial brushing is centered around the seconds subdial; a nice thoughtful touch, and the date window actually works very well with the overall composition, balancing the off-center seconds. These elements give the watch an idiosyncratic and appealing character, without straying so far from the general design language of a classic dress watch as to begin to look as if the watch is striving too much for novelty. 

The Basics
Brand: Chopard, reference 161945-1001 
Model: XPS Twist QF

Diameter: 40mm
Thickness: 7.70mm
Case Material: Fairmined 18 karat white gold
Dial Color: Blue-grey galvanic treatment with satin-brushed sunburst motif, centered on the small seconds sub-dial
Indexes: Applied
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Strap/Bracelet: Hand-sewn blue-grey plant-dyed alligator strap with cognac-dyed lining and 18k white gold pin buckle

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The Movement
Caliber: Chopard Caliber L.U.C. 96.26-L
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Diameter: 27.40mm
Thickness: 3.30mm
Power Reserve: 65 hours via two stacked mainspring barrels
Winding: Automatic with 22k gold micro-rotor
Frequency: 4 Hz (28,800 vph)
Jewels: 29
COSC Chronometer Certified and FQF Certified

Pricing & Availability
Price: $20,400
Availability: TBD
Limited Edition: Yes, 250 pieces worldwide

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