Happy faces: how Chopard made time smile
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Of course Julia Roberts, owner of perhaps the most iconic grin in the business, was the only choice for Chopard’s campaign to launch Happy Sport the First. “Her smile is mesmerising,” says Caroline Scheufele, the Swiss brand’s co-president and artistic director, of the Hollywood actress.
The watch is a revamped take on the original 1993 Happy Sport, but Chopard first sent diamonds dancing on the face of a watch in 1976 with the launch of the Happy Diamonds timepiece line. Relating the story, Scheufele says: “My mother found the name for that first collection when she saw the first prototype and exclaimed, ‘These diamonds are happier when they’re free.’”
Technology back then meant that the diamonds could only move within an O-shaped circuit around a central timekeeping dial. But the mechanism inspired Scheufele’s father, head of the family-owned watchmaking company, to make a clown‑shaped pendant that the then 17-year-old Caroline had designed featuring the dancing jewel technique. Chopard launched its first dedicated jewellery collection shortly afterwards. Scheufele’s clown set the tone – joyful, full of surprises – both for Chopard’s future and her own first watch design.
Casual and sporty yet precious and glamorous, the Happy Sport was intended to capture the essence of independent, multifaceted contemporary femininity in the early 1990s. Scheufele explains: “I loved skiing, swimming, running and, like most women at that time, I needed a watch that I could keep on all day, for work, gym, shopping, and for going out in the evening.”
With this in mind, she imagined a sports watch that would incorporate the Happy Diamonds look she loved so much. Combining diamonds with a steel sports watch was radical enough. But, even more challenging, she wanted the diamonds to run riot across the whole dial, not just around it. In order to achieve this, each precious stone had to be housed in a thin spinning-top-shaped metal cup, cut and set so as not to scratch the sapphire crystal. So sure was the company’s foreman that it wouldn’t work that he promised to give Scheufele a rose for every watch she sold. In the event, the watch materialised, exactly as Scheufele conceived it, and the foreman, losing count, sent her a rosebush instead.
The Happy Sport led the way to a new era of women’s timepieces, intended to be worn 24 hours a day. Since the 1993 original, there have been many vibrant iterations: including Happy Snowflakes, made for skiing, and Happy Ocean, for the beach.
Launched this month, Happy Sport the First offers two limited editions, one of 1,993 watches (£8,630), and the other of 788 (a lucky number for Scheufele), in steel with a diamond-set bezel (£15,200). And there are a further eight models (from £6,280), including an entirely diamond-smothered one in white gold. All have been refined, says Scheufele, to present a softer, more feminine look, and fitted with Chopard’s in-house automatic movement, Manufacture Chopard 09.01-C, with a 42-hour power reserve.
Chopard wouldn’t be Chopard without a sparkling, movie star-fronted campaign to mark this latest milestone. Scheufele first met Julia Roberts when the star made her first appearance at Cannes, in 2016, walking the red carpet barefoot, wearing a Chopard diamond and emerald drop necklace. According to legend, when asked about her footwear (she broke with Cannes protocol in removing her stilettos) Roberts replied, “If I have jewels like this, I don’t need shoes.”
Asked what Happy Diamonds evoke for her, Roberts replies: “The idea that something is going to happen!”