10/19/2023
 4 minutes

Chopard 101: The Crossroads of Jewelry and Horology

By Emer Browne
Chopard 101: The Crossroads of Jewelry and Horology

Chopard 101: The Crossroads of Jewelry and Horology

Like Cartier, Chopard are all too often dismissed as more jeweler than watchmaker in some circles. And like Cartier, Chopard definitely doesn’t deserve this reduction. In fact, the brand didn’t release their first jewelry collection until 1985, quite some time after the company’s founding in 1860. Their history is drenched in intriguing horological innovations, and the family-run business deserves recognition for honing in on craftsmanship and sustainable practices.

Chopard’s Humble Beginnings

During their formative years, Chopard specialized in chronometers and pocket watches, as was the trend at the time. Enticed by the prestige the Geneva Seal would award its timepieces, the brand eventually moved from Sonvilier, a small Swiss village, to the watchmaking hub of Geneva further south in the country. Fast-forward to 1963, and the manufacturer was bought by Karl Scheufele III, who hails from a long line of watchmakers. Remarkably, the Maison is still independent and run by the Scheufele family to this day.

Significant Watch Collections From Chopard

Among Chopard‘s impressive collection of watches, several models have gained worldwide acclaim and continue to captivate watch enthusiasts and collectors alike.

Happy Diamonds

The Happy Diamonds collection is perhaps the strongest indication of Chopard’s position in the overlap of the jewelry and watchmaking Venn diagram. However, the brand didn’t just set gemstones on a dainty women’s watch and call it a day. First released in 1976, these watches feature diamonds sandwiched between two sapphire crystals that move around with every wrist movement. The Happy Diamonds collection is still a staple in Chopard’s catalog today, and countless iterations of this innovation have been released in the bridging years.

Chopard Happy Diamonds – the five larger diamonds are free to swirl around the dial.
Chopard Happy Diamonds – the five larger diamonds are free to swirl around the dial.

Happy Sport

Following on the heels of this success, Chopard released the Happy Sport collection in 1993. This collection ushered in the era of combining steel with diamonds, with the aim of creating a women’s watch that would seamlessly slip into different settings. Prices for Happy Diamonds and Happy Sport watches start at around the $3,000 mark.

Alpine Eagle

And what about men’s watches? Of course, not all Chopard creations are studded with diamonds. The Alpine Eagle collection is likely the brand’s strongest contender in the sports watch category. Though they might scream “Royal Oak,” these timepieces actually take after Chopard’s first sports watch, the St. Moritz, and are thus a nod to the brand’s history. Visually, a few details draw the eye: the paired screws at each quarter hour, the textured dial resembling an eagle’s iris, and the integrated three-piece link bracelet. In-house, COSC-certified, automatic calibers take care of the rest at prices from roughly $9,000.

Read for yourself why the Alpine Eagle is a better alternative to the Royal Oak.

The Alpine Eagle collection is inspired by the St. Moritz watch from the 1980s.
The Alpine Eagle collection is inspired by the St. Moritz watch from the 1980s.

Mille Miglia

The Mille Miglia collection is a physical manifestation of Chopard’s firm footing in the world of motorsport. The series is named after the classic car race held in northern Italy, in which Chopard’s own CEO, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, competes annually. These chronographs lean on the finer details of historical racing cars – interior and exterior – and offer technological excellence under the hood, too. The current Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph sells for close to $8,000, but there have been plenty of editions over the years, to the point that the collection covers virtually all price points.

Mille Miglia watches are powered by COSC-certified, automatic movements.
Mille Miglia watches are powered by COSC-certified, automatic movements.

Are Chopard watches good?

But how do Chopard watches hold up on the ruthlessly competitive luxury watch market? As I touched on earlier, one specific aspect that gets a nod of approval is the fact that the brand remains independent. Not being eaten up by the Swatch Group, Richemont, or LVMH conglomerates is quite the badge of honor these days. The pride they take in craftsmanship is evident by the lengthy profiles for their artisans published on their website, which also reinforces the personal note fostered by their strong family values. Along with that, it’s estimated that Chopard only produce around 50,000 timepieces per year. For comparison, Rolex is rumored to push up to 1 million watches a year out of its hallowed halls.

In terms of the manufacturer’s innovations, Chopard have a few notches on their belt. Their L.U.C caliber 1.96 has been proclaimed a great among automatic movements, while their proprietary Lucent Steel turns to high-quality scraps from Swiss watchmaking and other industries in their quest for “ethical luxury,” with the end result declared 50% harder than regular steel.

If you are interested in Chopards L.U.C. caliber 1.96, check out this article by our guest author Hirota Masayuki.

Chopard vs. Cartier

Undoubtably, Chopard and Cartier have a lot in common: a French-sounding name, exquisite jewelry, and world-class timepieces. Cartier are under the Richemont Group, and undoubtedly offer higher brand recognition. But where I think Chopard have an edge is with their family values and sustainable practices. The brand has set ambitious goals, pledging that all their steel watches will include 80% recycled steel by 2023, and 90% by 2025. They’ve also been using 100% ethically-produced gold since 2018. Their high level of vertical integration, transparency, and craftsmanship harmonize beautifully on the wrist and underline Chopard’s watchmaking prowess.


What do you think about this article?


About the Author

Emer Browne

My interest in watches has snowballed since joining the team at Chrono24 in 2022. I now get to spend hours each day delving into the ins and outs of the craftsmanship, various brands, and industry lore.

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