I have discussed the ethics of luxury with friends and understand that some are troubled by the apparent excess of wealth possessed by a relative few. However, I have always believed that it is the demand for luxury goods that perpetuates the craftsmanship and skills I hold in great esteem. Indeed, with an absence of wealthy clients, the talents of exceptional watchmakers and artisans could disappear from view. Moreover, the luxury industry employs many thousands of people who derive income from the sale of these goods. The world of luxury has become increasingly aware of its responsibilities to society as a whole. Several companies have implemented environmental strategies to mitigate their impact on the planet. In addition, the much-publicized sale of “conflict diamonds” has led to companies sourcing gems from ethical sources. Earlier in 2014, Chopard announced that, for the first time, the company had used “Fairmined” gold to create the Chopard L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined. The gold is used for the case, bezel and caseback of the watch. In some cases the working conditions of miners working in the gold industry has lacked due consideration of health and safety. Indeed, some of these miners have even been exposed to mercury in the pursuit of gold. Moreover, workers have not always received fair financial reward in exchange for their labor.
Chopard has entered a long-term partnership with a South American organization called the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM). Working with miners and experts from the gold industry, ARM has established a certification standard for the “Fairmined” gold, ensuring fair treatment for miners. The Chopard L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined represents a new chapter in watchmaking, but the question on the lips of many watch enthusiasts is whether this watch offers more than a clear conscience.
The sunray, satin-brushed ruthenium gold dial exudes a sumptuous character and wonderfully contrasts with the rose gold of the case.
Chopard has employed many of the familiar design codes synonymous with its L.U.C collection, including dauphine fusée hour and minute hands, together with applied Roman numerals denoting the hours. A power-reserve indicator, positioned at noon, bears a resemblance to the display of the L.U.C Quattro. Positioned at the base of the dial is the freely disclosed tourbillon carriage, visible through a circular aperture. A small seconds display, featuring a neat rose-gold hand, floats above the dial, interfacing with crisp white markings encircling the aperture. The tourbillon bridge, anchored by four screws, consists of two parallel bars spanning the aperture. Rather than presenting the bridge in a highly polished finish, Chopard has exercised judicious restraint, matching the bridge to the surrounding dial canvas. The result is a sense of understated horological deportment which befits the overall styling of the timepiece. A detail that I find particularly attractive is the minute track encircling the dial. With its readily visible white markings, it offers functionality by aiding the interpretation of time and provides delightful delineation between the main dial area and the case.
Measuring 43 mm in diameter, the watch nestled comfortably on my wrist. Indeed, a sad consequence of merely writing about watches is that you are aware that at some stage the watch has to be returned.
The caseback is attached with eight silver-colored screws and includes a sapphire crystal center stage. The profile of the caseback is relatively flat and the lugs are gently curved. The strap is constructed of black alligator leather on the outer surface, with a contrasting brown alligator lining. The watch affixes to the arm with the aid of a rose-gold pin buckle.
I was reminded of a high-performance car engine as I looked at the movement within the L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined. It is tuned to perfection and bristles with fine details that induce admiration. The bridges sit close to the surface of the exhibition caseback, decorated with a sublime côtes de Genève motif. While this motif is becoming increasingly commonplace on luxury watches, in this instance there is magnificent definition to each stripe, differentiating this caliber from lesser movements. The positioning of the bridges allows the wearer to closely admire the finishing. Many details relating to the specification and identity of the watch are engraved on the bridges in golden text. Gold chatons emphasize the sense of exacting creation. Each bridge bevel is beautifully executed. The power reserve of this watch is also highly impressive. Two sets of two stacked barrels, four in total, collaborate to provide a power reserve of 216 hours, an aspect the brand calls Quattro. This is particularly impressive considering the watch is equipped with a tourbillon.
Not only is this a stunningly impressive watch, it is the recipient of several certificates. In addition to using “Fairmined” certified gold, the watch is a chronometer, certified by COSC. Moreover, the watch has also been subject to the scrutiny of Fleurier Quality Foundation, according another certificate. It is this latter aspect which deserves further discussion. With much debate taking place regarding the origin of watches and the percentage of added value taking place in Switzerland, the Fleurier Quality Foundation requires that the “watch-head” is 100% Swiss made. (The watch-head is the case, display and watch movement.) A prerequisite for the Fleurier Quality Certification is the aforementioned COSC certification. However, the watch is also subject to additional “chronofiable” tests. Furthermore, the finishing of the movement also has to meet stringent criteria set out by the certification body.
Finally, there is the Fleuritest machine. A couple of years ago, I remember visiting Fleurier and witnessing the machine in use. A screen shows video footage of an individual exhibiting varying degrees of activity, from a gentle walk to a vigorous run, with the wrist moving accordingly. The movements of the wrist are then replicated by the Fleuritest machine, simulating the ‘real world’ use of the test watch. The rate-keeping of the watch is analyzed using a series of digital cameras, capturing images of the timepiece at various stages of the cycle. The precision of the watch is then ascertained and must fall within the range of 0 to +5 seconds per day.
Capitalism can sometimes appear like a grotesque figure, devoid of empathy and occasionally cruel. However, the use of “Fairmined” gold exhibits a friendlier face to commerce and the world of luxury. The Chopard L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined is the first step on a journey that will hopefully improve the conditions of those workers employed within the gold mining industry. The world of luxury is increasingly showing its consideration to society at large, caring for the environment and using materials from ethical sources. This should be commended as it makes the world a richer place for all of society.
Returning to the Chopard L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined and its horological merit, its virtue goes beyond the equitable source of its gold case. This watch contains a magnificently finished movement which meets a demanding set of certification criteria. However, in my opinion, the greatest strength of this watch is its refined appearance. Some tourbillons on the market can appear rather gauche, but this is not an accusation that can be leveled at the L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined. This watch does not excessively assert itself with outré styling, but offers tasteful delight with its seemly aesthetics. Quite simply, this is a beautiful watch.
- Model: Chopard L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined
- Reference: 161929-5006
- Case: 18k “Fairmined” rose gold; diameter 43 mm; height 11.15 mm; water resistant to 50 meters; sapphire crystal front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; power-reserve indicator; tourbillon.
- Movement: Calibre L.U.C 02.13-L1, hand-wound movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 33 jewels; power reserve 216 hours; 224 parts.
- Bracelet: Black alligator leather strap presented on an 18-carat rose gold pin buckle.
- Limited Edition: 25 pieces