With all the sparkle Chopard has brought to the red carpet, it’s not surprising that many people think of it as a jeweller… but its watches came first. In 1860, Louis-Ulysse Chopard opened his workshop in the Swiss village of Sonvilier in the Jura mountains, a region fast becoming a watchmaking powerhouse. He gained a reputation for beautifully crafted, precise pocket watches. And far from being the retiring type, he was happy to get out and push his wares, even catching the attention of Russian Czar Nicholas II.
His son Paul Louis continued the business through the first half of the 20th century, relocating first to La Chaux-de-Fonds then on to Geneva in the 1930s. In 1943 the firm passed down another generation to Paul André Chopard. But 20 years later, Paul André’s children didn’t want to continue, so the three-generation dynasty looked to be at an end.
Then along came Karl Scheufele, a German-born jeweller and watchmaker who was running a business founded by his own grandfather. He bought the still-small Chopard and, with his wife Karin, transformed it into a innovative watch and jewellery giant of international renown. Such has been the level of success that it has never felt the need to succumb to the overtures of the luxury conglomerates that have gathered so many other independent companies to their bountiful bosom.
Karl and Karin, now in their late 70s, still keep a keen eye on the business, which employs more than 2000 people and is run by their two children, Karl-Friedrich and Caroline. Caroline takes care of the women’s collections and the high jewellery, Karl-Friedrich manages the men’s collections and watch manufacture in Fleurier, which makes in-house movements in the company’s LUC collection, a horological tribute to the Chopard founder.
Karl-Friedrich is, like his father, a car fanatic and Chopard has been sponsor and official timekeeper of the Mille Miglia since 1988, each year producing a limited-edition watch for those lucky enough to participate in the classic car extravaganza. Last year Chopard announced its sponsorship of Porsche’s top-tier return to endurance racing, and now it has unveiled a new watch, the Chopard Superfast Chrono Porsche 919 Jacky Ickx edition.
With an ‘engine’ built entirely in Fleurier, the chronograph features a bezel ring in dark blue with white lines – Ickx’s helmet colours – has a strap that resembles “the smooth tread of slick racing tyres” and dial stripes resembling the rear diffuser of the Porsche 919 Hybrid. A serious watch for the dedicated motor sport fan. And not a sparkle in sight.
For anyone who fancies a watch that is bold and intriguing, this newcomer from Harry Winston is a great talking point. With a case inspired by a 1950s car dashboard, the face is split into two. On the right there is a small, traditional dial displaying the time and date. On the left things get a bit more avant-garde. There is a second time zone with hours indicated by a red hand that disappears from view and reappears at the turn of the hour, something that takes a great deal of mechanical wizardry behind the scenes and makes for a very pleasing curiosity.
There appears to be no holding back British brand Bremont, run by the endlessly enthusiastic brothers Nick and Giles English. Bremont’s principal association is with aviation, as witnessed by its propeller logo and technical partnership with Boeing. But then a relationship with Jaguar blossomed and it has produced a series of beautiful E-type-inspired pieces. And now Bremont has taken to the waves, becoming timing partner of the 35th America’s Cup and unveiling a collection of four yacht-influenced watches.