Very few watch manufactures have as much quality control over their own creations as Chopard.
The maison also stands out for its complete mastery of horology. Founded by Louis-Ulysse Chopard in 1860 as an artisanal purveyor of unique chronometers and pocket watches, the house today is a collective of artisans, overseen by the Scheufele family. By virtue of being independent and family-run, Chopard has paved the way for the watch industry as a luminary with an unyielding passion for ethical luxury.
Thanks to its vertical integration, the Chopard Manufacture can perform – without external reliance – movement construction and adjustment, product design, gold smelting, case stamping and machining, traditional handcrafted decorative arts, surface treatments, polishing, assembly and quality control. In short, it can execute each step of the watchmaking process from start to finish, including where the case material is sourced.
This level of self-sustainability wasn’t born overnight. The groundwork had been laid over a long period of time. In 1978, Karl Scheufele envisioned the vertical integration of production, starting with the smelting of gold. Not merely content with vertical integration, Chopard injects it with purpose and greater good.
Located in Fleurier, the Chopard Manufacture was founded back in 1996. Its establishment was at the behest of the brand’s co-president and Karl senior’s son, Karl- Friedrich Scheufele, who wanted Chopard to return to its roots at the heart of Neuchâtel, where artisans honour watchmaking traditions with the use of contemporary tools.
The younger Scheufele even went so far as to revive the rare technique of Fleurisanne engraving, approving an artist to train in the lost art and inviting her to engrave certain movements with delicate floral and ornamental decorations.
Chopard embarked on the journey to sustainable luxury in 2013. The ambitious commitment, developed from a sense of humility, has driven the maison to make a positive, profound impact in the luxury industry fraught with social and environmental challenges, faced especially by the forgotten actors in the supply chain.
From the outset, Chopard was unequivocal in the formalisation and implementation of this ambition in its business practices and operations. It had to be done in accordance with compliance rules, and verified regulations and standards. Policies were communicated to all involved, including raw material suppliers, communities in which the company operates, consumers who purchase final products, and anyone in between. Working together with a dedicated sustainability manager is a centralised raw material procurement team based in Geneva that was formed specifically for this purpose.
By July 2018, Chopard attained a 100 per cent ethical gold status in its supply chain and every ounce of gold used in its watch production today is of this conscientious standard. It can be traced to artisanal mines participating in the Swiss Better Gold Association, Fairmined and Fairtrade schemes, as well as Responsible Jewellery Council’s Chain of Custody.
The internal gold foundry accords Chopard the freedom to use only ethical gold. Additionally, up to 70 per cent of pre-consumer gold scraps are recycled here, which is further proof of Chopard’s pledge.
The foundry is manned by Paulo, an artisan who has been with the house for nearly two decades. At the basement of Chopard’s Genevan facilities, he smelts the Chopard gold and produces all its alloys. With the help of a vacuum furnace heated by an induction coil, the alchemist fastidiously fashions the ingots, which will serve as the base for Chopard’s watches later.
To make an 8kg ingot of 5N gold, Paulo uses 6kg of pure gold and 2kg of alloy, including 1.5kg of copper to impart it with its red hue. A formula of more silver and less copper results in a yellow gold, while palladium is used to obtain white gold. When the mixture becomes molten under intense heat, it is poured into a mould to create an ingot. It is then immersed in cold water for crystallisation and to obtain the desired 160 Vickers hardness. Finally, the ingot is pressed by a roller mill to obtain a bar with 210 Vickers hardness.
“Some people see me as an alchemist because I transform precious metals while ensuring that Chopard gold is 100 per cent ethical. The fact that I can claim that people out there are wearing a watch or a piece of jewellery made from my gold makes me feel that in some way, I help to make their dreams come true,” says Paulo.
L.U.C Perpetual Twin
Through the new L.U.C Perpetual Twin, the ingot which Paulo synthesised yields a perpetual calendar watch that speaks of Chopard’s advocacy for excellence, artistry and sustainability. Unveiled in 2016 on the 20th anniversary of the Chopard Manufacture, the timepiece tugged at the heartstrings for rewriting the rules, being the only stainless steel perpetual calendar watch in the market at the time. It offered unprecedented value for money for its impeccable finishing and a movement rivalling some of the best.
Chopard still makes a convincing case this year with its new L.U.C Perpetual Twin, available in two 43mm references – the stainless steel and the plush 18k rose gold. It should be noted that the former’s status as the sole chronometer-certified perpetual calendar in stainless steel currently on the market still holds strong.
For the first time, the L.U.C Perpetual Twin is dressed in a precious metal. The rose gold variant has a subtle grey dial that emphasises tonal contrasts through a sunray satin-brush finish, centring on the big date. It forms the pedestal for the big date aperture, flanked by sub-dials indicating the day, month and leap year, and small seconds at 6 o’clock. Applied hour markers add flair to an otherwise gentlemanly dial. The approach is a nod to tradition, where all information is displayed clearly, but the layout showcases Chopard’s distinctive take on the perpetual calendar by focusing on the time and date. The typography chosen gives the watch a touch of personality, albeit discreetly.
The L.U.C 96.22-L automatic movement is designed, produced and assembled in-house in its entirety. With its COSC-certified chronometer, the movement houses Chopard’s technical know-how such as the patented Twin Technology, consisting of two barrels that help to prolong the power reserve to 65 hours, driven by a 22k gold micro- rotor. The handmade movement also boasts fine aesthetics with a series of hand finishes and is further adorned with a Côtes de Genève motif.
Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro
Chopard’s youthful, sporty portfolio is enriched with two utilitarian complications – a power reserve indicator and chronograph. The Mille Miglia collection is a tribute to Italy’s famous Mille Miglia (Thousand Miles) classic car rally and the brand has been the main sponsor and official timekeeper since it first took up the role in 1988. Every year, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele participates in the 1,609km race from Brescia to Rome and back. It has been hailed the most beautiful race in the world for its rich heritage and sophisticated participants.
The collection over the years has been reinterpreted in an assortment of colourful dials. Azzurro, Italian for blue, is a colour reminiscent of the paint job sported by some of the greatest classic cars. It is also a colour synonymous with Italy and dolce vita, granting more versatility than conventional black or silver dials.
The Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro Power Control combines a steel 43mm case and 18k rose gold detailing on the crown, bezel, hands and hour markers. The sophisticated injection of gold bodes well for the watch, tactfully amplifying the luxe factor without weighing it down. Complementing the satin-brushed blue dial is the varnished blue aluminium bezel insert.
The in-house Chopard 01.08-C movement is chronometer-certified by COSC. It is endowed with 60 hours of power reserve and can be conveniently read thanks to a dial-side power reserve indicator modelled after a fuel gauge. The steel ring surrounding the sapphire crystal case back is marked “Brescia > Roma > Brescia” and each of the 500 pieces is engraved with its individual edition number.
On the other hand, the Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro Chrono entices with its tactile chronograph function. With only 750 pieces produced, the 44mm stainless steel model features a solid caseback bearing the inscription “Brescia > Roma > Brescia” and a chequered flag motif. Encased within is a chronometer-grade automatic movement with a power reserve of 48 hours.
The chronograph incorporates even more automotive references. The sub-dials resemble the instrument cluster residing on the dashboard. Push-pieces are grooved and moulded to mirror engine pistons. The varnished blue and grey bezel insert is marked with a tachymeter scale to enable speed and distance calculations. Just like the Power Control, the Chrono is fitted with a perforated leather and tyre-tread rubber strap, inspired by 1960s Dunlop racing tyres and driving gloves. It is a modern chronograph entrenched in the beauty of classic sports car racing.
(Main and featured image: Régis-Golay/Chopard)