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An interview with Chopard's Caroline Scheufele: On Happy Diamonds and joie de vivre

Jasmine Alimin
Jasmine Alimin • 12 min read
 An interview with Chopard's Caroline Scheufele: On Happy Diamonds and joie de vivre
Chopard’s Caroline Scheufele shares what joie de vivre means and why she chose Julia Roberts for her latest campaign
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When the first Happy Diamonds timepiece was launched in 1976 — sporting a glittery array of dancing diamonds floating freely around the dial — it was considered to be a technical breakthrough amongst watchmakers and something that Chopard became the proud pioneer of.

Given the hardness of the precious gem, these moving diamonds would have inevitably scratched any surface they touched even when held between two sapphire crystals. So what in-house designer Ronald Kurowski did was to cover the diamonds in a delicate film of gold to prevent any friction. This breakthrough went on to win the atelier the BadenBaden Golden Rose d’Or Award — the jewellery industry equivalent of an Oscar — which paved the way for Chopard’s rise to success.

In the famous words of Caroline Scheufele’s mother, Karin who at the time was running the company with her husband Karl, “These diamonds are happier when they are free”. This joyous statement basically summarised the ethos of Happy Diamonds in its celebration of joie de vivre (a French phrase often used in English to express a cheerful enjoyment of life).

The original Happy Diamonds (circa 1976) featuring dancing diamonds around the dial won the BadenBaden Golden Rose d’Or award

As a young gemologist-to-be and successor to the family business, German-born Caroline Scheufele used the dancing diamond concept to design clown pendants with a belly-full of diamonds in the early 80s, marking Chopard’s first foray into jewellery design.

Years later, Scheufele hatched a plan to reimagine the Happy Diamonds timepiece for a younger more dynamic demographic of women who would wear it for all occasions, whether it’s on the tennis court, a business lunch or an evening out on the town.

Instead of making freely moving diamonds dance around the dial as was the case with the original Happy Diamonds, Scheufele wanted to encase the gems between two sapphire crystals directly on top of the dial.

As you can imagine, this was met with some resistance from her artisans who felt the idea would make the watch face look too thick. One of them even mocked: “Caroline! If you manage to sell these watches, I’ll give you one rose for each of them”.

In her early 30s at the time, Scheufele challenged her team to think out of the box and her insistence paid off. The reinvented Happy Sport was unveiled in 1993.

For the first time in watchmaking history, here was a watch mingling steel and diamonds, fitted with a soft, comfortable pebble-link bracelet, set with cabochon-cut sapphires on the lugs and on the crown echoing the understated blued hands. The classic white dial was enhanced by seven diamonds caught up in an animated dance, and it was breathtaking.

Did Scheufele’s workshop foreman put his money where his mouth was? Yes, and he ended up gifting his co-president a whole rose bush! Today, when she sees a young woman trying on a Happy Sport in her boutique, she playfully remembers the abundant blooms of her rosebush.

Rebirth of an icon

Over the years, Happy Sport has taken on a life of its own with different permutations every other year, and has become a popular collector’s item for watch aficionados.

The most memorable examples that spring to mind are the original Happy Sport presented in 1993, as well as a fullset Happy Sport Diamantissimo jewellery version created in 2013 to commemorate the collection’s 20th anniversary, and several tourbillons including a Happy Sport Chrono All Black version.

Whether hitting the slopes with Happy Snowflakes or the beach with Happy Fish and Happy Ocean, the collection follows women all the way to the Cannes Film Festival with Happy Palm, the first watch in the ethical gold collection celebrating artistic crafts with a Japanese lacquer Urushi dial graced with a dancing Palme d’Or.

This year, the legendary Happy Sport the First will be re-released in limited quantities sporting a new size, material and in house mechanical movement. Inspired by the principles of the golden ratio the watch face is now larger at 33-mm in diameter. The in-house 09.01- C movement with automatic winding comes with a 42- hour power reserve. And the case and strap is now made of ethically-sourced Lucent Steel.

Aesthetically, the new Happy Sport the First is in every way similar to the original model introduced in 1993, from the seven freedom-loving dancing diamonds set between the two sapphire crystals topping the dial, to the meticulously polished pebble bracelet. The round case is adorned with an understated silver-toned dial punctuated by Roman hour-markers in a shimmering shade of blue echoing the five cabochon-cut sapphires set on the lugs and crown of the watch.

Globally, there are only 1,993 pieces available for this limited edition timepiece, and 788 for the version with a diamond-set bezel and textured mother-of-pearl dial.

Happy Sport launched new line extensions in 2021: Four two-toned models featuring lucent steel with 18-carat rose gold; three crafted from ethical 18-carat rose gold available on a leather strap or metal bracelet; and one in ethical 18-carat white gold entirely paved with diamonds.

Chopard is also adding eight new line extensions to the Happy Sport family in a rich variety of models: Four two-toned watches featuring a Lucent Steel A223 case embellished with ethical 18-carat rose gold, and three entirely crafted from ethical 18-carat rose gold, available on a leather strap or metal bracelet.

There is also an eighth version for jewellery lovers in ethical 18-carat white gold entirely set with diamonds and a mother-of-pearl dial. All of them beat to the rhythm of the manufactured Chopard 09.01-C movement with automatic winding and each dial is graced with the legendary dancing diamonds.

The new face of Happy Diamonds

As a brand with close ties to the glitzy world of celebrity and red carpet affairs, it comes as no surprise that the house chose Julia Roberts to front its latest Happy Diamonds campaign to coincide with the new Happy Sport timepieces.

It was the Cannes Film Festival 2016 when Chopard first worked with Roberts, where the actress was seen walking the red carpet barefoot wearing an off-the-shoulder black dress highlighting a Chopard Haute Joaillerie emerald and diamond necklace. Her carefree sense of spirit and humour encapsulate the stylish brand in every way.

Who better to embody joie de vivre than the Hollywood star with the world’s most radiant smile? “It was her and nobody else! Julia Roberts was the only person I felt could convey the spirit that I see in Happy Sport,” says Scheufele.

Roberts will appear in a short campaign video available on various social platforms, produced by young film-maker Xavier Dolan and photographed by Shayne Laverdière.

In almost 30 years since its launch, this contemporary watchmaking icon has transcended successive decades with its ever-evolving style. Much more than a new way to wear a watch, with Happy Sport, Scheufele has invented a whole new relationship with time. To her, it is not merely about reading the time, but about delighting in the perpetual ballet of these dancing diamonds that spark a smile, an emotion or moment of happiness.

In this interview with Options, Scheufele shares more about her happy new creations and that Julia Roberts collaboration.

How did Happy Sport come about?
I was initially inspired by the concept of dancing diamonds developed by my parents in 1976. My idea to redesign the watch was to make it sportier and wearable for all occasions. Having diamonds around the dial was a little too elegant, instead I wanted them to freely move above the dial. When the head of the workshop told me it was impossible, that only fuelled my determination. We worked hard with the design team to find the right technical qualities to transform this idea into a viable project. I’m so proud of how it turned out. It is a source of great pride and satisfaction for me today to see that the watch has since become a new casual chic fashion icon, acclaimed by the press and in strong demand in the markets.

Is there a particular market that Happy Sport sells well in?
Happy Sport is very well received internationally. It appeals to active, stylish women all over the world who love its adaptability. The unusual combination of steel and dancing diamonds give it an originality and easy, edgy elegance which is definitely universally looked for.

Is it still targeted at the younger wearer?
The unique feature of Happy Sport is its extreme versatility. It is a watch that I, and every woman, can wear 24 hours a day! It looks just as good with jeans and sports shoes as it does with a little black dress and high heels, and has proved its style strengths on catwalks, red carpets, and women’s wrists for the past 30 years. Happy Sport has achieved a timeless, iconic status so that it appeals to every generation. I am always thrilled to see young women come to our Chopard boutiques to treat themselves to their first Happy Sport — a reminder of the one their mother or grandmother wears.

Can you share with us why the new Happy Sport is 33mm in diameter?
The Happy Sport collection is evergreen. As I mentioned we keep it alive and fresh by regularly designing new variations, as there is always a perfect occasion for Happy Sport. We have redesigned it in 33mm diameter that is particularly well suited to the female wrist. It’s inspired by the ‘golden ratio’ principles of aesthetic harmony — a sense of proportion is of paramount importance to the Maison. Designed to accompany women in all their day-to-day activities, the Happy Sport is a watch that must above all feel as pleasant to wear as a second skin, in every situation.

Why the use of Lucent Steel?
Stemming from four years of research and development, Lucent Steel A223 is an anti-allergenic alloy that is purer, brighter and sturdier than ordinary steel. It also testifies to Chopard’s commitment to sustainable luxury: Lucent Steel A223 is 70% made from recycled materials, in a state-ofthe-art workshop located in Austria, thereby limiting the carbon footprint relating to shipping materials to our Swiss workshops.

Why have you chosen to have a celebrity front the new Happy Sport?
Julia Roberts was the only person I felt could convey the spirit that I see in Happy Sport. For me, she is not only a talented and glamorous actress, but a genuine global movie legend with a big heart, you could say she embodies a feminine ideal. Across generations and natural borders the name Julia Roberts evokes a uniquely positive universal feeling.

When choosing a celebrity to represent your Maison it is essential to be completely aligned. This is the case with Julia Roberts because her personality embodies our values of joie de vivre and free-spirited charm.

The new face of Happy Diamonds, Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts is wearing the Happy Sport stainless steel and 18-carat rose gold watch with leather strap and features a silver-toned dial, 18-carat rose gold crown set with a sapphire and automatic movement. PHOTO: Shayne Laverdière

How did the collaboration with Julia Roberts come about?
Not only is Julia a wonderful person, she is also, of course, a fabulous actress and film legend — I have loved all of her films. I’ll always remember her first appearance at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016. The way she strode up the famous steps of the Palais de Festival in Cannes, barefoot and in nothing but a black gown with Chopard Haute Joaillerie emerald and diamond necklace. It has become the most memorable red carpet staircase event in recent editions of the festival thanks to her naturally graceful demeanour.

As a passionate film lover, I imagined the dream campaign; a film encounter between Julia Roberts and Happy Sport, under the artistic direction of Xavier Dolan. Renowned for the intensity with which he conveys his protagonists’ emotions through the camera, Xavier strove to show through film how Julia Roberts instinctively relates to the joie de vivre inherent in Happy Sport watches. I hope you all enjoy the short film we created, I’m very excited.

We all could use some joie de vivre right about now. How do you find happiness in times like these?
By being grateful and focusing on positivity. Happiness exists only when shared. It is made of moments you spend with your loved ones. During the lockdown, we made sure to remind everyone to have a more lighthearted attitude to life and embrace joie de vivre in all that we do. Has the pandemic impacted how you dress up the celebs for the recent awards shows? It was very quiet during the lockdown. Almost all events were cancelled. Thankfully, as the Covid-19 situation improves, events are resuming and we are still dressing celebrities. The most recent events were the 78th Golden Globe Awards in February where Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kyra Sedgwick and Anthony Anderson, all presenting at the evening’s ceremony, wore jewellery by Chopard. We were also delighted to dress Megan Thee Stallion and Ingrid Andress in a stunning selection of jewellery and High Jewellery creations for the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards. Femininity and glamour will always be part of our Maison’s image!

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