Wednesday, March 11, 2015

High-Octane Horology

Whether on the red carpet in Cannes or trackside in Monte Carlo, a thread of thoughtful elegance connects Chopard’s collections.

 The G.P.M.H Automatic features a 44.5mm titanium case.
For 12 years, Chopard has been the official timekeeper of the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique (G.P.M.H.), a series of vintage car races held on the famed road course of Monte Carlo, known for its hairpin turns and technically demanding layout. As spectators look on from mega-yachts serving as makeshift grandstands, the crème de la crème of vintage racecars duel it out against the backdrop of palm trees, the Hotel de Paris, and the Monte Carlo Casino. It’s as grand an amalgam of sport and luxury as one is likely to encounter; and it shares quite a bit in common with Chopard, a company known as much for red carpet jewelry as for in-house mechanical watchmaking and sporty men’s timepieces.

Modern Vintage
Over the course of its partnership with the G.P.M.H., Chopard has created a single limited-edition chronograph for each grand prix. Starting with this year’s event, however, the Swiss watchmaker has upped the ante and presented a full collection of sporty driving watches inspired by the classic single-seat racecars. Each watch shares the same snailed gray dials, yellow racing ring and casebacks stamped with the logo of the Automobile Club of Monaco.
The G.P.M.H. caseback

The new G.P.M.H. Automatic is sized and built for performance and legibility. Prominent numerals at 12 and 6 anchor the display, while the seconds hand, inner flange, and marks on the bezel use bright yellow accents to enable quick reading of the time at a glance. At 44.5mm in diameter and nearly 14mm thick, the G.P.M.H. Automatic benefits from a case made of lightweight titanium, with only a few essential case components machined from stainless steel.

Inside the watch beats a COSC-certified automatic movement with 46 hours of power reserve. The G.P.M.H. Automatic comes on either a black barenia calfskin strap with yellow stitching or an integrated steel and titanium bracelet.

The G.P.M.H. Chronograph is also available on a NATO strap.
No collection of auto-inspired watches is complete without a chronograph. The complication is as essential to a driver’s kit as his helmet and racing suit. But not just any chronograph will suffice in the heat of competition. 

That’s why Chopard’s new G.P.M.H. Chronograph sports a large, legible design, bright yellow hands for the chronograph seconds and totalizers and, perhaps most crucially, oversized pushers that can be quickly activated on the fly without distracting the driver from the action on the track. Add to these design attributes an oversized titanium case and a tachymeter bezel, and one has a sport watch worthy of any driver’s wrist. Like the G.P.M.H. Automatic, this chronograph version has been designed with vintage racecars in mind. But don’t worry, its modern “engine” is a tried and true Swiss-made automatic beating at 28,800 bph, certified by COSC for accuracy.

Gold Standard
In 1996, Chopard co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele reasoned that if his family-owned company was to be taken seriously in the arena of fine watchmaking, it had to show the industry and collectors that it could manufacture mechanical movements in-house. To that end, Scheufele oversaw the establishment of the Louis-Ulysse Chopard collection, a fine watchmaking range designed to return Chopard to its roots as a maker of haute horlogerie timepieces. Since then L.U.C, the name by which collectors know it, has helped make Chopard a leading manufacturer of high-end complicated watches like the L.U.C Lunar Big Date.

Chopard produces its own special rose gold alloy.
Encompassing two of the most traditional, and indeed romantic horological complications, the L.U.C Lunar Big Date features a movement made entirely in-house at Chopard’s manufacture in Fleurier, Switzerland. That automatic movement comes housed in a rose gold case made from metals forged at Chopard’s own Geneva-based gold foundry. As one of just a handful of watch brands with this capability, Chopard keeps its world-famous proprietary rose gold alloy a closely guarded trade secret.

But the feature of this timepiece that most collectors will instantly look to is its moon-phase indicator, a highly complex engineering feat that relies on a 135-toothed wheel to mirror the actual phases of the moon to an accuracy of just one day’s deviation every 122 years. And unlike the vast majority of moon-phase indicators, Chopard’s simultaneously depicts the state of the moon in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres — the former decorated with the Big Dipper constellation and the latter with the Southern Cross.

Sparkling Personalities
While racing-inspired watches and the haute horlogerie timepieces of the L.U.C collection help form the masculine side of the Chopard coin, Karl-Friedrich’s sister Caroline Scheufele directs the development of the company’s jewelry and ladies’ timepieces. One of the real icons to have resulted from her work is the Happy Sport collection, which celebrated 20 years in 2013.

Two versions of the Happy Sport Medium Automatic alongside a diamond-set Imperiale.
Equal parts timepiece and jewelry, the Happy Sport is known for incorporating loose, unset diamonds into its design in a way that no one had ever seen before. Floating beneath the watch’s crystal, these diamonds shift when the wearer moves her wrist, and yet they do not interfere with the hour or minute hands. It’s whimsical, fun and, yes, happy!

The recently launched Happy Sport Medium Automatic range incorporates Caroline Scheufele’s iconic design with mechanical watchmaking, something that a growing number of women appreciate. Now, in addition to viewing the floating diamonds on the dial side, the wearer can also see the complex mechanism through the sapphire caseback. A variety of different versions of this collection are available.

Here, we have a solid rose gold version with a diamond-set bezel alongside an even sportier two-tone model. In the latter version, the case is stainless steel and the bezel is crafted from rose gold. The same pattern is repeated on its bracelet, whose inner gold links and outer steel links combine to luxurious and sporty effect.

Another Chopard collection created with feminine watch wearers in mind is the Imperiale, a dressy range of models whose arabesque motif has been influenced by the traditional embroideries that once graced imperial gowns. The elegant model shown combines the warmth of rose gold, with a luxurious helping of diamonds on its bezel. Intended for elegant and discerning ladies, the movement powering the watch is a mechanical chronograph.

In today’s watch industry, so dominated by just a few major groups, Chopard stands out not just for its enduring independence, but also because a single family continues to shape its identity.

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