The tricky thing about reissues is balancing the old with the new. Chopard has perfectly managed this balance with the new L.U.C 1860 in Lucent Steel, creating one of its best time-only watches, maybe even since the original L.U.C 1860 from 1997.
Chopard launched its L.U.C collection back in 1997 with the Chopard L.U.C 1860 powered by its in-house caliber 1.96. Independent, in-house, and certified to the highest standards, the L.U.C collection was Chopard’s effort to establish itself as a watchmaker amid the ’90s rebirth in traditional watchmaking. The original L.U.C 1860 went on to win all kinds of “Watch of the Year” awards. It was just that good.
At first glance, the new L.U.C 1860 is a lot like the old 1860: 36.5mm case that measures 8.2mm in thickness, guilloche gold dial, and a COSC-certified, Geneva Seal micro-rotor caliber. Chopard could’ve kept the new Chopard L.U.C 1860 pretty much like the old one and no one would’ve complained. A lot of us, myself included, have been asking for it. Back when it was released in 1997, and up to today, the L.U.C 1860 is already recognized as one of the best modern, dressy watches.
But it’s how Chopard decided to change the original that makes the new Chopard L.U.C 1860 so successful. Chopard started in the right place, riffing off the white metal and salmon pairing that’s the most collectible of the original 1860. Now though, the 36.5mm case is in Chopard’s Lucent Steel. The bezel is still polished, but the mid-case is brushed and the lugs are a bit thicker. Thanks to its thinness and curved lugs, the 1860 hugs the wrist; the anthracite strap that Chopard presented it on is also a nice, dressed-down choice. Together, the case changes give the new L.U.C 1860 a slightly more casual look, even if it wears mostly the same as the original 1860. What the Tudor Pelagos 39 is to the Black Bay 58, the new L.U.C 1860 is to the original: a little sleeker, cooler, and more modern. In a world where it’s all sport watches all the time, this is exactly how you get enthusiasts to pay attention to traditional dress watches.
The steel case is paired with a salmon dial that’s actually closer to a copper hue and sets it apart from the lighter salmon color of the original. This pairs nicely with the steel case, which is also a bit darker than the original white gold or platinum. Chopard calls its steel “lucent” because of the way it glows, and they’ve managed to achieve a similar quality with the salmon-copper dial.
Besides the color, the dial has some other subtle tweaks compared to the original. It’s still made by Metalem, a dial maker Chopard acquired a few years ago after using them as a supplier for years (and yes, Philippe Dufour would also go on to use Metalem for his Simplicity dials). It’s still a gold dial with beautiful guilloche in the middle, but now that guilloche leads to the Chopard nameplate at 12 o’clock. I generally prefer guilloche that centers on the hand stack like the original 1860 – it feels more balanced and symmetrical – but that’s a minor gripe. Around the guilloche center and the outer minute track, Chopard has added rings of white gold guilloche, an improvement over the original that gives the dial additional texture. The hour markers and dauphine hands are also made of white gold.
The biggest difference though is the lack of a date at 6 o’clock. I didn’t think the original date execution was that bad, though looking at this new Chopard L.U.C 1860 , I get it. This new, no-date version just looks better.
With all these changes, Chopard gave us the L.U.C 1860 many have been asking for, and they managed to execute it better than many of us could’ve hoped.
The lack of a date is thanks to the caliber 96.40-L. Its two main practical improvements over the caliber 1.96 are the lack of a date and the addition of a hacking seconds. Other than that, it’s still a COSC-certified, Geneva Seal, micro-rotor caliber that measures 3.3mm thick. It has two stacked mainspring barrels that give it a 65-hour power reserve, and it still looks absolutely beautiful through a sapphire caseback.
The new L.U.C 1860 is not a limited edition, but it is a limited production, boutique exclusive. Chopard says it’ll produce 10 to 15 this year, ramping up production to about 100 a year after that. One of the reasons to reissue a watch is to make a beloved, hard-to-get historical model more accessible, and it’s a bummer that this isn’t the case with the new L.U.C. But at least this isn’t artificial limitation: the gold guilloche dial and the caliber 96.40 are time-intensive to produce.
This brings us to the price of the new Chopard L.U.C 1860 . Since prices of the original 1860 have shot up in recent years, this is about what you might pay for an original full-set yellow gold 1860 now. It feels like a lot for a time-only watch in steel and no doubt some will push back, but a few people I’ve talked to who love and appreciate the 1860 as much as I do have said, “Chopard could be charging more.” I’d take the new steel 1860 over an original (not that it’s easy to get your hands on either). I used to own an original 1860, and much as I loved it, I just didn’t wear it that much: a gold watch with a large polished bezel and ornate guilloche dial didn’t have a place in my life most days. The slightly dressed-down look of the new L.U.C 1860 feels more wearable, and unlike pretty much anything else on the market.
The new L.U.C 1860 is different enough from the original that it doesn’t feel like a reissue, but an evolution of the original from 1997. For the first time, Chopard has added a steel watch to the L.U.C 1860, and it couldn’t have done so with a more fitting reference. At just over 36mm, this is the dress watch many have been asking for. Look around the deluge of other releases, and you won’t see many (any?) other brands releasing a traditional-looking watch with a size that’s just as traditional. This is about as close as it gets to the platonic ideal of a modern, dressy watch.
Chopard is one of a few independent, family-owned watchmakers that still exist in Switzerland today. Many of the others are bigger, or at least more recognizable. But with watches like the L.U.C 1860 in Lucent Steel, Chopard is establishing itself as something different from the others, just like it did with the introduction of the L.U.C collection in 1997.