When it first appeared in 1976, it could have been dismissed as a pure flight of fancy; a frivolous, even futile whim. Yet here we are, forty years on, and Happy Diamonds has given ample proof that watch designers can have fun without taking leave of their senses. Something of a surprise to begin with, this lighthearted collection, a crossover of Chopard’s watchmaking and jewellery expertise, is now very much an icon, making its own agenda independently of fashions and trends – and guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
Rocks that roll
History has it that the Happy Diamonds watch came about through a chance encounter with nature. The official line tells how Ronald Kurowski – a theatrical set designer who also worked for Chopard – was hiking in the Black Forest when he was transfixed by the sight of sunbeams glistening on a waterfall. Back at his studio, he set out to capture the magic of these water droplets reflecting daylight. In a stroke of genius, he decided to free diamonds from their prong setting so they could dance, unencumbered, across the surface of a dial.
The road from the initial sketch to the first prototype is rarely smooth. One of the major obstacles facing Chopard’s watchmakers was how to prevent the diamonds, the hardest known natural mineral, from scratching the onyx dial or the sapphire crystal. They came up with the solution of fitting each stone into a gold bezel whose base was bevelled so it could slide in any direction. And so it was that in 1976, tipped and tilted by the movement of the wrist, thirty free-floating diamonds skated across the dial of a large cushion-shaped watch for men. On seeing the result, Karin Scheufele – owner, along with her husband, Karl, of Chopard since 1963 – declared that “diamonds are happiest when they’re free!” The name stuck: this future icon would be Happy Diamonds.
A watch and jewellery phenomenon
In what were challenging times for the Swiss watch industry, such a lighthearted and original design came as a breath of fresh air, and never failed to raise a smile. After a first distinction in the form of a Golden Rose trophy at the Baden Baden international watch and jewellery competition, the Happy Diamonds watch made a resounding debut at the Basel trade fair. Men wore it, women wanted it… so badly, in fact, that Chopard lost no time in creating a ladies-only version that spelled the end of the original Happy Diamonds for men. The collection was a golden opportunity for Chopard’s watch business, as well as giving a fabulous boost to its jewellery. Inspired by the watch, Caroline Scheufele, Karin’s daughter, drew a clown pendant whose tummy was filled with floating diamonds and coloured stones. From here, it was only a short step to the first Happy Diamonds jewellery in 1985, with pieces in the shape of an elephant, a ladybird, a teddy bear and a heart (another of the brand’s favourite motifs).
Happy birthday, Happy Diamonds!
Freed from the constraints of the classic luxury canon, Happy Diamonds watches have come in multiple guises, never afraid to try a new transformation though never straying from the inventive playfulness of those floating stones. The brand pulled off another design coup in 1993 when it launched the Happy Sport, the first ever steel watch with diamonds. In 2002, three fish set with coloured stones swam across the dial of the Happy Fish. Jewellery wasn’t forgotten; diamonds continued to dance their way through collections that included the Happy Spirit, from 2003, Very Chopard, since 2010, and Happy Hearts in 2015.
In 2016, Chopard celebrated the original Happy Diamonds’ 40th anniversary by reprising the aesthetic of the very first models. Larger and in greater number than before, different sizes of prong-set diamonds swirl and twirl across the dial of two jewellery watches for women; one with a round case, framed by a halo of diamonds and featuring a white mother-of-pearl dial, and a cushion-shaped version also draped in diamonds and mother-of-pearl: a modern-day reminiscence of the very first Happy Diamonds watch of 1976 – made for men and now an icon for women everywhere.