In the 1980s, had you been part of the travelling glitterati who partied in New York, anchored their yachts in Saint-Tropez, summered on Mustique and wintered in St Moritz, you might well have been wearing as your watch a characterful steel- bracelet number from Chopard. It was even named the ‘St Moritz’, in celebration of the resort in the Swiss Alps where skiing inevitably took second place to more sybaritic pursuits.
As Chopard’s CEO Karl-Friedrich Scheufele explains, ‘It was a chic and versatile watch to suit the lifestyle at St Moritz’ – and that could mean anything from living it up in the nightclubs to a mad dash down the historic Cresta Run. In 1980, Scheufele was a 22-year-old St Moritz regular, when he convinced his father, the company’s then-President, to make a watch that could suit either. ‘We’d never produced a steel sports watch, and it took me a long time to persuade him; 50,000 sales later, he thought it was a great idea.’
With its integrated case and bracelet, and distinctive, screw-laden bezel, the St Moritz was very much a watch of its time. It followed a blueprint established by countless brands in the 1970s, in which the robustness of a steel sports watch was fused with the design and finish of something more luxurious.
Fast-forward to the present day, and tastes have come full circle. Bracelet-bound sports watches dominate sales, and the most celebrated examples from the earlier era, from Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, have become absurdly sought-after. Chopard, having spent the intervening years building its strengths in motorsports watches and haute horlogerie, found itself missing out on a vast part of the market.
Just as it had been a generation before, it was Karl-Friedrich’s own son, Karl-Fritz, currently studying business management at university, who convinced his dad to look at the St Moritz anew. A couple of years ago, work began on reimagining the template for the modern era.
The resulting watch was revealed last month. The St Moritz it is not – in name at least. ‘We have different priorities, and we wanted to embody the larger, more beautiful aspect of the mountains,’ he explains.
Behold, then, the Chopard Alpine Eagle – a sports-luxe watch for the 21st century, with more than a modicum of glamour and style inherited from the 20th. It has a classical dial – representing an eagle’s eye – with stark Roman numerals, paired sets of bezel screws and a bracelet characterised by a raised central seam of highly polished squares.
If the name reflects Scheufele’s interest in sustainability and the environment (Chopard is also initiating a new charity to promote the Alpine environment and eagle conservation), so does the use of a new stainless-steel alloy with recycled steel content.
The alloy has been a longer development job than the watch in which it’s being used: Chopard worked with a German foundry for four years to create what it’s calling Lucent Steel A223. As
it happens, most stainless steel contains large amounts of recycled material, but Chopard has raised the bar, up to 70 per cent of the alloy. What’s good for carbon emissions is also good for your wrist. According to Chopard, the Lucent steel is hypoallergenic, and considerably harder and more resistant to abrasion than normal stainless steel. And the facets of the Alpine Eagle can at times give off an almost diamond-like vivacity.
It further diverges from the St Moritz in a final crucial manner as Chopard now has the capacity to produce its own automatic, chronometer-certified movements to power the Alpine Eagle, which comes in men’s and women’s sizes (41mm and 36mm), in steel, gold, two-tone, and diamond-adorned versions, with a variety of dial options. Those cases and bracelets are also machined, assembled and finished in Chopard’s Geneva workshops.
And if you’re in St Moritz, that toughened steel means it still ought to stand up pretty well to an encounter with the Cresta Run…
From £8,770; chopard.com