Top ad area, 970 x 250 (could be anything though)

30 years of the first luxury watch collected by women

Ming Liu
April 22, 2024
7 min

Capturing movement – its drama, excitement, unpredictability, even romance – is the aspiration of any artist. Van Gogh’s energetic and turbulent paint strokes epitomised his work as much as his mental state, and the organic power and fluidity of Zaha Hadid’s architecture will forever move us. Watchmakers, too, seek to capture movement in their time-honoured craft. That’s certainly the case for Chopard and its Happy Sport collection that, courtesy of a cluster of diamonds that famously dance across the dial, imparts a jolt of joie de vivre and touch of magic – and in a way that no other women’s watch can.

This year marks the 30th birthday of the Happy Sport, and Chopard is notably celebrating with Happy Sport the First, two limited re-editions that are a modern nip-andtuck on the original model. The watch now comes in a new 33mm size, in state-of-the art steel, all set on a charming vintage-style pebble link bracelet, while beating to a new Manufacture Chopard automatic 09.01-C calibre. This design, alongside a host of new references – including an even daintier new 25mm size – is a fitting, faithful tribute to the original Happy Sport of 1993, whose creation and rich past is not only a tale of overcoming odds and the makings of an icon, but is also a uniquely and decidedly feminine story in the too-often masculine world of watchmaking.

The Happy Sport may have been conceived in the early 1990s by Caroline Scheufele, Chopard’s co-president and creative director, but the design’s roots date back two decades earlier, to the time of Caroline’s mother. In 1976, when the elder Mrs Scheufele saw a prototype for a line of classical gold watches with diamonds that encircled the dial, she likened the floating stones to a free-spirited soul, famously saying: “Diamonds are happier when they are free”. And so the new collection was duly christened.

CHOPARD Happy Sport. Photograph © Firat Arslan for QP Magazine UK

Happy Diamonds proved to be a rich muse for the next generation. At 16 years old – unbeknownst to her as well as the rest of the family – Caroline single-handedly sent the family business on a new and fruitful trajectory. A lover of the circus, she created a clown pendant complete with the same waltz of diamonds found in her family’s signature watch collection. “My favourite act was the clowns because although they're sad, they make people laugh,” recalls Caroline.

“As a result, I designed the little clown with diamonds in his tummy.” When her father saw the sketch, he had it produced and surprised her with the jewel for Christmas. Caroline joyfully wore the gem every day – notably to dinners with clients, who all loved the piece – and one day “I went to the workshop and saw lots of them,” recalls Caroline. “That was the beginning of jewellery at Chopard.”

Unsurprisingly, curiosity and creativity course through Caroline’s veins. She is known to never be far from her sketchbook, even keeping one by her bedside table in case she dreams something that she’d forget in the morning. Creativity, she says, is an “on-going process – often in the back of one’s mind”, and indeed it fuelled another one of her key character traits: never taking no for an answer. Which is exactly how Happy Sport was born.

CHOPARD Happy Sport. Photograph © Firat Arslan for QP Magazine UK

In the 1990s, Chopard produced a line of cool, feminine watches for summer, but Caroline craved something more versatile and fun – namely a watch that suited her own sportif life. “I really wanted something with a bit of sparkle that you could wear around the clock – suitable for swimming, water-skiing, playing tennis, shopping, taking the kids to school, going to the office or going to a cocktail party,” she recalls. Essentially a sophisticated watch for an active, modern woman. “If there was no time to change, you would already be somewhat dressed up with little diamonds dancing on your wrist,” she continues. “For me, that’s what being a free spirit is all about.”

Liberty, modernity, fun, sport: these defined her dream watch, which she set down in her sketchbook as a combination of steel and newly-dancing diamonds – to the shock of both Chopard’s watch workshop and her parents.

“They thought it was a crazy idea to put diamonds in a steel case when diamonds are normally hosted in white gold or in platinum. But there was nothing to prevent it,” Caroline Scheufele recalls. “Steel isn’t a precious metal but it's cool, young and fun and you can wear it around the clock.” The others weren’t immediately convinced. “Everybody thought I had gone mad. But I'm a very persistent person… The more I hear no, the more determined I am.”

Her other unconventional idea was to have the diamonds actually floating and twirling freely on the dial, with the hands indicating time below, rather than simply spinning around the watch. To achieve this, the diamonds had to be placed between two sets of sapphire glass, with each stone housed in its own spinning, top-shaped metal capsule, which took after a type of domed cylinder culet that Chopard invented in the 1970s.

All this was much easier said than done, of course: especially when considering the stacked movement, dial, hands, two sapphire crystals and seven dancing diamonds – all the while keeping it relatively, desirably slim. Today, this complex ballet – of sometimes five diamonds, other times seven – has been perfected by a specialised choreography artisan whose main task is to ensure that the diamonds spin continuously, but also in a controlled manner, so not to interfere with the time-keeping hands below.

“It was a technical challenge to find the aesthetic balance between the case, the dial, the first sapphire crystal, the position of the dancing diamonds and the next sapphire crystal,” recalls Caroline, adding that additionally, “of course, the watch had to be waterproof.” Paired with a mesh-like galet, or pebble-link bracelet, the Happy Sport made its debut in 1993, and instantly made waves as a watch of contrasts: technical and sporty, yet glamourous and sophisticated. It spoke directly to the modern woman.

Thirty years on and the Happy Sport is a watchmaking icon. Those dancing diamonds are instantly recognisable – there really isn’t anything else like them on the market – but Caroline’s take on the success of her creation registers as more cerebral.

“I wasn’t really thinking of shaking up the watchmaking industry. I was just doing my job, which is also my passion, namely creating and designing,” she says. “Maybe I did come up with something very unusual and unexpected, which is often the case with the best creations. But I had no idea that we would come that far with this watch.” After the debut steel model came gold and bi-metal versions, of course, alongside tourbillons and chronographs. But the models that really extended the watch’s signature joie de vivre are those that saw the whirling diamonds accompanied by charming new companions: the likes of precious gem-set snowflakes or bejewelled fish and turtles joined diamonds in Happy Snowflakes and Happy Fish respectively. Or diamonds that welcomed a twirling golden leaf in Happy Palm, Chopard’s first ethical gold watch that featured a Japanese-lacquered Urushi dial. Indeed, championing the environment is an ongoing mission for the Scheufele family – since July 2018 all Chopard jewellery and watches have come exclusively in ethical gold – and last year the maison created three exceptional, limited edition bejewelled Happy Sport Métiers d'Art watches that celebrated the life and ever-important eco-systems of three endangered species: the hummingbird, sea turtle and polar bear.

Today, a combination of steel and diamonds are a must-have offering of every major watch brand. But, if the young women coming into the Chopard boutique are any indication, its Happy Sport that continues to transcend generations. As we enter the celebrations for the 30th birthday, the collection welcomes several new ultra-feminine models sized at a petite 25mm, complete with on-trend, wraparound strap in cool midnight blue leather – a first for Happy Sport. A new 33mm size is also embraced, reproportioned around the golden ratio principle for perfect, aesthetic symmetry. Style-conscious and happy to channel their '90s forebears, girls are increasingly seeking out the Happy Sport watches that their mothers and grandmothers wore. As Caroline puts it, “this is how icons are born – when something is passed on.”