The first watch to combine steel with diamonds, the Chopard Happy Sport was deemed by naysayers to be doomed for commercial failure. Now, 28 years on, the enduring collection boasts a new Hollywood ambassador for its latest releases.
Created in 1993, Chopard’s Happy Sport is the brainchild of the maison’s co-president and artistic director Caroline Scheufele, who unwittingly revolutionised jewellery watches with a precious yet casual design that made them versatile and wearable for all occasions. Scheufele recalls: “When I invented the Happy Sport, it was most of all because I was doing a lot of sports myself. But I really wanted something with a bit of sparkle that you could wear around the clock… so if there was no time to change, you’d already be somewhat dressed up with little diamonds dancing on your wrist.”
Happy Sport turned out to be a huge success. “I wasn’t really thinking of shaking up the watchmaking industry, I was just doing my job, which is also my passion, namely creating and designing. Maybe I did come up with something very unusual and unexpected, which is often the case with the best creations,” Scheufele adds. Indeed, by virtue of her creation, women no longer simply looked at the time; instead, they took the time to contemplate the choreography of the diamonds.
For Scheufele, the joyful dance of the gemstones represents what it means to be a free spirit. Embodying Happy Sport’s joie de vivre perfectly is Chopard’s new ambassador, Julia Roberts. The Hollywood A-lister made headlines at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival when she strode up the famous steps of the Palais de Festival barefoot in a black off-the-shoulder dress that highlighted a Chopard Haute Joaillerie emerald and diamond necklace. With her megawatt smile, easy elegance and natural exuberance, Roberts was the obvious choice for Scheufele: “She has this sunny energy, fostering hope that everything will be reborn even more beautiful than before, as well as amazing magnetism and inextinguishable joie de vivre. Julia was the only person I felt could convey the spirit that I see in Happy Sport.”
As contemporary today as it was almost 30 years ago, the creation has seen more than 1,000 iterations that women have continued to love. Scheufele ruminates on its enduring popularity: “It’s a watch that somehow really crosses generations. I think this is how icons are born – when something is passed on from grandmother to mother to daughter.”
It’s hard to imagine that Scheufele faced resistance by the entire watch development team at Chopard and her parents when she first presented her idea of the watch: “They thought it was a crazy idea to put diamonds in a steel case when they’re normally hosted in white gold or platinum. But there was nothing to prevent it. Steel isn’t a precious metal but it’s cool, young and fun, and you can wear it around the clock.”
She adds: “When it came to producing it, that was another challenge because everybody thought I’d definitely gone mad. However, I’m a very persistent person who doesn’t take no for an answer. Anyway, it did happen, and the results are clearly visible. I remember the workshop manager saying that for every watch sold, he would give me a rose. I ought to have a rose plantation by now!” The workshop manager did keep his promise and gifted her a beautiful rose bush for her garden.
While the dancing diamonds were just allowed to spin around the dial in the original gold Happy Diamonds timepieces that preceded the Happy Sport, the latter features floating diamonds since the stones (housed in thin spinning top-shaped metal capsules) are placed between two sapphire crystals above the dial. Scheufele says: “For me, when you say ‘Happy’, that says it all. The diamonds inside are actually truly free. And when you see them dancing, you realise it was worth the challenges!”
Now, 28 years later, Chopard celebrates the rebirth of its 1993 icon with the launch of Happy Sport the First, with two limited-edition reissues of the very first model in a new 33mm case size for the collection. Showcasing a polished steel bezel and silver-tone dial is the Happy Sport the First limited edition of 1,993 pieces – a quantity that reflects the year the icon was unveiled. The second version, produced in a run of 788 (Scheufele’s lucky number), features a diamond-set steel bezel with a textured mother-of-pearl dial.
Presented on a four-row polished pebble bracelet with a modern-vintage look, each watch flaunts seven dancing diamonds and Roman numerals in a shimmering blue echoing five cabochon-cut sapphires set on the lugs and crown. Firmly committed to sustainable luxury, Chopard uses Lucent Steel A223 – which is 70 per cent made from recycled metals – for the cases of both models. The steel alloy that combines anti-allergenic properties with the brightness and sturdiness of ordinary steel is the result of four years’ research and development. The watches are driven by the Manufacture Chopard 09.01-C automatic movement offering 42 hours of power reserve.
When asked why she chose to recreate the very first model instead of realising a brand-new watch, Scheufele explains: “You don’t change an icon, but you can reinterpret it. After the tough times we all went through in 2020, I felt it was the right moment to relaunch this piece as a celebration of joie de vivre and to put a smile on every woman’s face when she checks the time.”
This story first appeared in the June 2021 issue of Prestige Singapore.