Blue ‘Quattro’ 1863 Chopard LUC in White Gold
Chopard set out in the late 90s with a blank check and Mr. Parmigiani on side to show the world they could do serious watchmaking. While most of the world is familiar with their first effort, the calibre 1.96, the second evolution 1.98 is little less discussed. Yes, the 1.96 is still the collector darling, but today the 1.98’s value proposition is just off the scale. It’s hilariously over-engineered, was undoubtedly a loss-leading product, and remains overshadowed in discussion. This, I like to think of as the Volkswagen XL1 of the watch world. But that’s actually not as pedestrian as the VW badge might lead you to believe.
Fair warning I’m entering an automotive aside here. The XL1 was a hopelessly expensive and futuristic efficiency-first design. It was the first production car to be able to carry two passengers 100 km on just 1 litre of diesel. The body was carbon fibre over a magnesium monocoque, not dissimilar to Le Mans prototype race construction. It weighed 640 lbs, which I can hit after a thorough dinner. The passengers sat staggered in tandem, rather than side by side, to allow smaller cabin and reduce drag. Michelin engineered a one-off tyre to optimize low rolling friction. The point is: every single detail was considered and honed toward its goal, with no thought given to cost; a noble goal, smart people, and a blank check.
In a similar manner, a glimpse at the 1.98 is a peek inside the mind of Parmigiani and Chopard’s best combined ability. The manual calibre features two dual-stacked mainspring barrels, giving an 8 day power reserve and its nickname, Quattro. There was added power reserve indication, a new date display, and 38mm case. What didn’t change from the 1.96 were its polished and beveled swan neck regulator, Geneva Seal standard hand-finishing, COSC certification, or dial by Metalem (of Dufour fame). If one wanted to optimize for classic Neuchâtel design, outright power reserve, and finishing standard, this is probably the best recipe of all time. And, unlike the VW, this is wildly more impressive when you remember that Chopard are and always have been independent. The blank check here didn’t come out of some corporate investment portfolio, it came from the Scheufele family in 1995, brave enough to take a wild risk and show the world what they were made of. I solute them. Production was said to be limited to 1860 examples across all metals, but most seem to think that fewer than half that were ever produced.
This example is lightly worn and that’s about it. The white gold case is the one I’d go for, and this blue as well. It’s a dream spec. It comes with its full set from a well-regarded Shanghai retailer.