Is there no stopping Chopard? Last year the brand celebrated two decades since the opening of its L.U.C Manufacture in Fleurier. Opening a production site from scratch was a bold move after the difficulties experienced in the mechanical watch industry and its twenty-year milestone justified an exceptional anniversary timepiece, delivered in the form of the L.U.C Full Strike, Chopard’s first minute repeater and host to all manner of clever tricks and innovations, including gongs and a crystal cut from a single piece of sapphire to produce a unique sound signature. And because good things come in twos, Chopard’s co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele was summoned to the stage at the 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève to receive the Aiguille d’Or for the Ferdinand Berthoud FB1 Chronometer, five years in the making. Once again, Scheufele’s instinct and ambition – this time to revive the name of one of the eighteenth century’s most celebrated watchmakers, renowned for his marine chronometers – had been borne out.
From Switzerland to Botswana
And there was more to come. At Baselworld 2016, Chopard teased its fans with the promise of further launches before the end of the year, again in honour of the Manufacture’s jubilee. True to its word, the brand unveiled a pair of new travel watches. The L.U.C Time Traveler One is a worldtimer driven by the COSC-certified 01.05-L calibre. A slender 6.25mm high, it promises to “simplify its owner’s life”. Joining it, the L.U.C GMT One is the first L.U.C watch with a dual-time function integrated in the movement, which is also COSC-certified. The second time zone is set by the crown at 4 o’clock and shown by an arrow-tipped hand on a 24-hour scale. Both are proposed in gold, platinum and, a sign of the times, steel.
In the midst of this plethora of desirable timepieces, Chopard took the opportunity earlier this year to remind us of its pre-eminent position in high jewellery, enlisting the services of the South African actress Charlize Theron. She dazzled onlookers at the Academy Awards ceremony with a pair of stunning diamond pendant earrings. They are part of the Garden of Kalahari collection, the most precious jewels ever to come out of Chopard’s workshop. The story began in the spring of 2015 when Caroline Scheufele, co-president of Chopard, took a call from her diamond partner in Antwerp informing her that an exceptional rare diamond weighing 342 carats, found in the Karowe Mine in Botswana, was coming up for sale. This was the opportunity she had been waiting for. “I wanted to come back to the source,” she declared. “To start with the rough stone and make every decision at every stage.” The diamond, which Caroline named the “Queen of Kalahari”, was graded D and Flawless for its perfect colour and absolute purity. Enough to whet the most robust appetites. Ultimately, though, it was Caroline who staked her claim. Then came the slow and painstaking process of transforming the rough into a suite of 23 diamonds, including five of over 20 carats. After another year of careful labour, they emerged as the Garden of Kalahari collection of six jewels, completed by a secret watch that is fully set with stones, of which two D/Flawless diamonds, one pear-cut and one brilliant. The price of these jewels, which will be sold as a single set, has not been revealed. The first offers have already been made.
A foretaste of Baselworld
All of this makes for quite a run-up to the products Chopard will be launching at Baselworld. Already, the brand has hinted at what’s in store, beginning with the L.U.C Lunar One, a perpetual calendar with astronomical moon-phase display that is certified Poinçon de Genève. Introduced in 2005, it returns with a new dial and platinum case. In a more sporting vein, the Mille Miglia collection welcomes a Classic Chronograph in “his and her” versions: for women a 39mm diameter with gem-set bezel and mother-of-pearl dial, and for men a 42mm size that borrows the deliciously vintage feel of last year’s XL Race Edition, but with a smaller diameter. Movement-wise, Chopard’s own 03.05-C automatic chronograph calibre hands over to an ETA 2894-2 movement with additional module, also COSC-certified, for fine watchmaking at an accessible price.
Still on the sporting front, the Happy Sport line introduces the Happy Ocean. Water-resistant to 300 metres and driven by the Chopard 01-01-C automatic calibre, this is the first Chopard ladies’ watch on a NATO strap. Completing the line-up is the L.U.C XPS Twist QF Fairmined. This extra-thin model contains a L.U.C 96.09-L calibre (3.3mm high) inside a case made from Fairmined gold, a standard for responsibly extracted gold which Chopard joined in 2013, and which continues to make inroads in its collections. Beautifully finished, it boasts Qualité Fleurier certification. Chopard is one of the handful of watchmakers to meet what is the most stringent quality standard in the profession. But would we expect anything less?