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A Technical Discussion: Patek Philippe Caliber 240 VS the Chopard 96.40-L - Two Very Similar Movements Separated by 20 years!

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 WatchProSite Moderator Patrick_y compares two excellent micro-rotored caliber from two big Swiss independent watch brands.  

 

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The Patek Philippe 240 Caliber VS the Chopard L.U.C. 96.40-L Caliber.



Some of you have asked me to make some comparisons between the Patek Philippe 240 Caliber and the Chopard 96.40-L.  These are both EXCELLENT micro-rotor movements, but they are quite different from each other.  It's important to realize that the Patek Philippe 240 Caliber design comes from the 1970s when the Chopard 96-series of movements come from the 1990s.  

 

A lot of you have assumed that Patek Philippe is the creator of the micro rotor movement - this is not entirely true.  It is arguable that Universal Geneve and Buren came out with the micro rotor movement in the 1950s - although these brands are almost unheard of today and their micro rotor watches didn't work extremely well - and few of these movements are still in use today.  Piaget came out with theirs in the 1960s - although some of you may recall that the system didn't work very well and was unpopular.  Patek Philippe's 240 caliber came out in the late 1970s and after relatively few hiccups, the 240 caliber became the workhorse base movement for many of their complicated watches since it had enough torque to drive certain complications.  

 

A little reminder about the Patek Philippe 240 caliber - this caliber debuted in 1977 - in the middle of the Quartz crisis.  Upon the debut of the 240 caliber in 1977, the 240 caliber was probably the only micro-rotor automatic that actually worked somewhat well (previous iterations of the micro rotor didn't work reliably).  Patek Philippe has been making the 240 caliber for nearly 50 years and will be phasing out the 240 caliber for their new generation movement in the coming years (such as the 31-260 caliber).  In contrast, the Chopard 96-series caliber came out in 1996 at the beginning of the transition phase where luxury brands started to phase away from generic movements and move towards in-house movements.  Karl-Freidrich Scheufele, head of watches at Chopard, created the 96 series movement with the help of Jean-Frederic Dufour (who is now the CEO of Rolex) and the help of Michel Parmigiani (of Parmigiani Fleurier fame).  Upon its quiet debut in 1996, watch industry experts were very impressed at the Chopard LUC 96-series movement - hailing it as the best micro-motored automatic at the time.  In 2023, 27 years after the initial debut in 1996, the 1.96 caliber of 1996 has been adapted and is now called the 96.40-L caliber.  The biggest changes are the removal of the date system and the introduction of hacking seconds.  

 

Here are some other interesting comparison points.  

 

1.  Finishing.  Both movements are highly finished.  Exquisitely finished.  The Chopard 96.40-L does qualify for the Geneva Seal hallmark.  The Patek Philippe 240 Caliber has qualified for the Geneva Seal in the past until 2009 - starting in 2009 Patek Philippe transitioned away from the Geneva Seal.  However, despite Patek Philippe's movements no longer having the Geneva Seal - that still doesn't mean they wouldn't qualify for the seal if submitted today.  Draw, no points awarded.  

 

2.  Movement architecture.  The Chopard 96 series movement uses two stacked barrels to give it a 65 hour power reserve.  The Patek Philippe has a power reserve of 38 to 48 hours.  Both movements have a Swiss French style movement that is slim in design.  Both movements are similar in diameter, 27.5mm and 27.4mm for the Patek Philippe 240 Caliber and the Chopard 96.40-L, respectively.  The Chopard 96.40-L is slightly thicker at 3.3mm vs 2.5mm on the Patek Philippe 240 caliber.  This additional thickness is partially attributed to the stacked double barrel energy storage system in the Chopard - where the Patek Philippe 240 caliber uses a single barrel design.  A slight win for the Chopard, 0.5 points to the Chopard.

 

3.  Accuracy.  The Chopard is COSC certified which means it will run within -4/+6 seconds a day.  The Patek Philippe is not certified by an external party, but should run in -2/+3 seconds a day.  Do note, the COSC test is well regarded, very comprehensive, and the criteria is publicly posted.  The Patek Philippe accuracy test does not specifically state in detail temperature fluctuations, crown positions, to the same extent at the COSC test.  While it is likely the Patek Philippe test is very comprehensive as well - it simply isn't publicly detailed to the same extent.  This is technically a small win to the Patek Philippe 240 caliber.  Patek Philippe +0.5 points.

 

4.  Accuracy continued, Frequency.  The Chopard uses a modern 28,800 VPH 4HZ design.  The Patek Philippe 240 caliber uses a 21,600 VPH 3HZ design.  Theoretically, the Chopard has the more modern, higher hertz, design that should be more accurate as the higher hertz would allow faster recovery of shocks.  However, a higher hertz would use more energy, and the balance wheel might have the be slightly smaller/lighter.  No points awarded.

 

5.  Accuracy continued, Hairspring details.  We will omit balance wheel details as there is no significant differentiator here.  Regarding the hairspring itself, the Chopard 96.40-L also has the benefit of a true Breguet Overcoil with a Phillips terminal curve.  The Patek Philippe 240 caliber uses a traditional flat hairspring.  The Breguet Overcoil design is superior to the flat hairspring in many ways, as the watch will theoretically achieve better rate stability in a variety of circumstances as the hairspring breaths in a small circle to a large circle pattern.  The flat hair spring breathes in a more "oval" pattern transitioning from small oval to large oval - this hurts its shock resistance, it slows its recovery from shocks.  The Breguet Overcoil does cost more as it takes more man hours to regulate whereas the flat hairspring can be partially regulated by computers.  This is perhaps a more glaring difference in favor for the Chopard.  I award one point to the Chopard, although some technical purists may award more than one point.  Chopard +1 point.

 

6.  Accuracy continued, Regulation and Adjustment.  The Chopard 96.40-L has the supremely elegant swan neck fine adjuster - while the Patek Philippe 240 caliber has the more conventional weights on the balance wheel (Gyromax style weight system).  Although both are technically equivalent, I would give a personal half point to the Chopard; but a pragmatic individual may not feel this is warranted since neither system is necessarily better over the other.  Chopard +0.5 point.

 

7.  Accuracy continued.  Hacking seconds.  The Patek Philippe 240 caliber generally does not have a hacking second hand.  Meaning when you pull out the crown, the second hand is still advancing and thus makes it nearly impossible to set the watch to the exact second.  Starting in 2023, the Chopard 96.40-L does feature a hacking seconds mechanism which allows the user to stop the second hand and set the watch to the second.  Chopard +1 point.  


8.  Winding efficiency.  The Patek Philippe 240 caliber winds only in the Counter-Clock-wise direction and requires about 800 revolutions a day to stay fully wound.  The Chopard L.U.C. 96.40-L caliber winds in BOTH directions and requires about 800 revolutions a day to stay fully wound.  Winding efficiency and efficacy should be significantly better on the Chopard.  A half-point granted to Chopard.  

 

9.  Long term reliability.  Hard to say which model has the better long-term reliability and daily usability.  The higher power reserve of the Chopard 96-series movement is desirable and substantial.  The Patek Philippe 240 caliber has been in use for nearly 50 years and should have the kinks mostly ironed out.  The Chopard's 96-series has been in production since 1996 and has enjoyed nearly 30 years of production.  As with any micro rooted movement, winding efficiency is always going to be mediocre.  No points can be awarded here, as I don't have good statistics for overall movement reliability.  

 

10.  Side note: Comparing the Patek Philippe 240 caliber and the Chopard LUC 96-series movement to one another is truly a comparison of two somewhat similar movements.  But comparing either of these to the Bulgari BVL 138 would not be a fair comparison.  While the BVL does share a slim profile and a micro rotor, that's where the similarities end.  The Bulgari BVL 138 has a much thinner profile (Bulgari's movement is "Ultra Thin" whereas these two are "Extra Thin" movements), a much greater diameter, and is overall very different.  The Bulgari BVL 138 also uses wire springs (forbidden in Geneva Seal requirements) and is not finished to the same standard as the Patek Philippe 240 caliber nor the Chopard LUC 96-series movement.  I will maintain, the Bulgari BVL 138 is still a haute horlogerie movement, but it is just not a comparable movement to the Patek Philippe and Chopard as the objectives and goals are entirely different.  The starting price point is also significantly different as well.  I'm a fan of the Bulgari BVL 138 - but I wouldn't compare it to either the Patek Philippe 240 caliber nor the Chopard LUC 96 series movements.  

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Grand total: Chopard LUC 96.40-L movement racks up 3.5 points and the Patek Philippe 240 Caliber racks up 0.5 points.  Thus, objectively, I have to admit, the Chopard's movement is probably the "more special" movement in this case. Admittedly, I bought a Patek Philippe 240 caliber as my first watch - so I'm generally a little biased in favor of the 240 caliber.  But having toured Chopard's factory back in 2009 (WatchProSite had a special factory tour with Chopard in 2009) I have to admit that Chopard has created an incredible movement - a movement so incredible that I'm still very impressed with it 28 years after its creation.  Karl-Friedrich Scheufele ought to be very proud of his incredible movement.

 


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Should we report the author to the Fashion Police?  Is it criminal to wear a Patek Philippe Nautilus while hiking?


Congratulations Chopard!  Applause to Patek Philippe for making such an incredible movement nearly 50 years ago!  And Bravissimo to Bulgari for making an incredible modern movement!  


P.S.  If anybody else has any other differences they've noted between the Chopard movement and the Patek Philippe movement to add to this list, please comment below and I'll add it onto our master list!  Thank you for reading!

 





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What are your favorite watches from Patek Philippe with the 240 caliber?  The Calatrava models?  The Celestial?  The WorldTimer?  The 5712 Nautilus?  


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Chopard's 96-series LUC movements can be found in the Alpine Eagle and the 1860 models!  


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The Bulgari BVL 138 is indeed an awesome movement.  But it's 36 mm in diameter (the Chopard and Patek Philippe movements are about 27 mm in diameter) and it's got a very different feel and different construction criteria.  Still - the watches are super cool.  






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A great macro photo of the 240 caliber by W220, another WPS member!  








Comments:
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gary_g June 25th, 2024-22:01
It’s an interesting comparison.  But IMHO there is Patek and there’s everything else.
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patrick_y June 25th, 2024-22:09
I think a lot of people think that way! A lot of people think that way. Sometimes I even think that way. And I think that's putting blinders on. We should be objective! Although, as human beings, sometimes we're not! Thank you for your honesty! But do try to appreciate the Chopard for what it i... 
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gary_g June 25th, 2024-23:08
I was in chopard boutique yesterday to drop off some items for repair for my wife.  While their pieces are gorgeous (and I used to have a titanium MM), I was never aware of their price tag. The prices are astronomical. I was shocked.
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patrick_y June 26th, 2024-06:47
Honestly, I think the pricing at Chopard is reasonable. But that's just my thought.
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amanico June 27th, 2024-07:07
That is disputable. The LUC 1860 in lucent steel is less expensive than the current Calatravas. And I find it is better finished than its Patek contenders. 
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patrick_y June 28th, 2024-17:50
I concur with Amanico. Although I do find that the 1860 LUC is SOMEWHAT EXPENSIVE considering it's a steel cased watch. I mean... Considered to the Vacheron Constantin 82172 Traditionelle model, that watch is a 3-hand design in GOLD for the same price as the Chopard. BUT! Some ... 
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amanico June 28th, 2024-20:11
Agreed on the price, indeed. A bit ambitious. 
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mahesh June 28th, 2024-18:25
Defenitely Patek has its charm on vintages but if I think of modern ones, a countable few stand out IMHO While Chopard IMHO is underrated still. I don't know any other brand who does chronometer certification even for their Tourbillons, Full strike MR (same approach for Ferdinand Berthoud). Full Strike is also by far the best MR in market - I understood Mr. ... 
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patrick_y June 28th, 2024-19:00
The top end of Chopard is really quite special! The Ferdinand Berthoud and the Minute Repeater are amazing! The vintage pieces from Patek are extremely charming.
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amanico June 28th, 2024-20:08
Agreed. JLC did it, for a moment a good decade ago. 
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Daytona "Le Mans" 126529LN 18k White Gold.

amanico
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Here are some relatively good photos I found on the net about this " Le Mans " Daytona, from 2023, which was produced only one year in white gold. The key details are that this version was issued to celebrate two dates: The 100th edition of the famous Le Mans Race, last year, and the 60th anniversary of the not less famous Rolex Chronograph. The Devil is in the details. This Daytona, too: The black dial has a sun-ray finish, which is quite elegant.


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