Chopard has had a really interesting last several years in terms of defining their brand and their release of new products. They benefit from not being part of a large group - which means they can experiment, play around, and sometimes just release cool things that aren't specifically meant for a target customer or demographic. As a watch writer, I have seen them spend time and money developing all sorts of interesting things - sometimes just for the hell of it. It basically means that I pay close attention to what they do because I don't always know what to expect.
For many people, Chopard is a brand that makes nice women's watches. You know, those timepieces with floating diamonds that the girls seem to really like. I actually like them too, but not enough to wear them like that one Singaporean guy I know. You know who you are Mr. "I blatantly wear a woman's watch." Anyway, for me Chopard is about their cool racing watches. And more recently also about their L.U.C collection pieces with in-house made movements. What you see here is a combination of those two worlds.
Chopard's racing themed watches are part of a few families. I am a bit confused by all the names, but they all seem to be part of the "Classic Racing" collection. That even seems to include very modern looking pieces like this one. So yes, the irony is that this non-retro watch is called the Classic Racing SuperFast (Super Fast). I just hope it doesn't run super fast. The majority of Classic Racing watches are in the Mille Miglia collection, while the rest are SuperFast, and Grand Prix de Monaco Historique pieces.
While I don't love each Classic Racing model Chopard releases, I am a fan of the majority of new stuff they come out with. I say that with seriousness, because I really love a lot of that stuff. Design and quality is mostly really good, and Chopard always ensures that comfort and legibility are design priorities. You'd be surprised at how many watch executives say things like "I don't use watches to tell the time." Great line of work for them... These Chopard Classic Racing watches as a whole have some of the best fit & finishing, as well as attention to detail, that is available. The biggest complaint people have with them is the price. Well, to be more precise, the price given the movement inside of them. The majority of these watches are chronographs and contain the tried and true Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750. These are top 7750s with mostly all COSC Chronometer ratings, but inherently are still movements which are widely available, and also come in many much less expensive watches. Most Mille Miglia chronograph pieces range from about $6,000 - $10,000. Which for many people is admittedly a lot for the 7750. As a watch lover I am still not 100% certain why people are so concerned about the movement as being the primary source of value in a watch, but it is often the case. What I mean is that when taking the price of a watch into consideration, people place an overwhelmingly large emphasis on the price of the movement. You need to take into consideration the case, dial, strap, and overall engineering costs. Nothing about these cases and dials says "inexpensive." Anyhow, Chopard is aware of all this and for a while has been planning the next step.
According to Chopard, there is a new factory next to where they make L.U.C movements, that will be used to make other not as technically complicated movements. Movements such as the Caliber 01.01-M and the 03.05-M which are contained in these three new SuperFast watches. The cases aren't new, and the overall style of these new for 2012 watches remains true to the existing SuperFast collection. Two of the pieces are about 45mm wide, while the three-hander is 42mm wide. You either love or don't love the case with its bulging screw bays and engraved vertical trenches on the side of the case and dial. The crown and pushers are coated with vulcanized rubber, and who doesn't like that little steering wheel in the crown? For 2012 the Classic Racing SuperFast watches with the in-house made Chopard movements are only available in 18k rose gold. I am told that next year steel cases will likely become available.
The Caliber 01.01-M automatic is used in both the three-hand and power reserve SuperFast models. Same movement, just two different configurations. The 03.05-M automatic is the new column-wheel chronograph. It has the same layout as the ETA 2894 it seems. The movement uses gray colored bridges with really neat cut lines to offer a grating look so that you can see through them to more of the mechanics. Of course the lines echo the style of the case and dial, and are yet another way of doing partial skeletonization.
While these movements aren't revolutionary in terms of technicity or function, they are made by Chopard. The brand can finally claim to have in-house movements in their more mainstream offerings, and if all goes well, these movements will be used in the majority of the Classic Racing collection. Of course it is impossible to ignore the shadow of ETA, who has been reducing their supply of movements to non Swatch Group brands. So Chopard is not only ensuring a source of movements for their watches moving forward, but is also providing an additional source of value for their customers. Look out soon for Chopard Classic Racing SuperFast watches with new in-house Caliber 01.01-M and 03.05-M movements soon. Prices on these pieces are over $20,000 because of the 18k rose gold cases, but will be less when the steel models arrive.