Imperial “The Empress Watch”: Majestically evoking the Empire of the tsars
Dreams of an empire wafting through the ages: ageless beauty awaits only a kiss on the forehead to awaken its magical spells in the present age. In its new edition of the Empress Box, Chopard has immersed itself in the splendours of imperial Russia to create an exceptional watch mingling historical references with the cutting-edge skills characterising the watchmaking Manufacture and the in-house Haute Joaillerie ateliers. Illustrious inspiration celebrating the grandeur and the epic stature of the imperial spirit.
The Empress Box epitomises the narrative strength of the great myths interpreted through modern design language. Every two years, this crown jewel of the IMPERIALE line revisits the great empires of history and interprets them in the most sophisticated possible manner through this collection. Representing the quintessence of the many skills cultivated within the Manufacture, it testifies to their diversity and reveals all the expertise of the artistic crafts involved in watch- and jewellery-making. After a tribute to Byzance and the magic of the East, and then to the sun-inspired charms of the Inca civilisation, Chopard’s co-president and artistic director Caroline Scheufele, herself a tireless traveller, allowed herself to be carried away by the prolific imaginary world surrounding imperial Russia. The result is an objet d’art replete with an incredible wealth of poetry as well as dazzling artistic and technical expertise.
When the codes of contemporary elegance echo imperial majesty, the inevitable result is a natural-born great classic. The eminently feminine IMPERIALE collection stuns observers through the richness and finesse of its details. Entirely redesigned in 2010, it has become the flagship range of feminine watchmaking at Chopard. In 2011, the IMPERIALE collection inspired a collection of jewellery distinguished by its refined sophistication. Dainty lacework traces the noble profile of a decorative motif evoking the embroideries adorning of the stately hangings and cushions on which monarchs placed their insignia. Featured in each of the Empress Box editions, as well as throughout the IMPERIALE watch and jewellery collection, this motif endows the line with its strength of character and its regal stature.
The crown of the Tsars, symbol of imperial power
For 144 years, it witnessed an unbroken line of Russian empresses and emperors take the throne. It was the absolute symbol of their power, the emblem of their sovereignty. The imperial crown of Russia was the treasure of the Empire of the Tsars, representing all the power, grandeur and magnificence of the Empire over which they reigned supreme. It was in 1762, for the coronation of Catherine II, known as “Catherine the Great”, that the court jeweller Jérémia Poser received the commission to create the imperial crown. The latter was to vividly illustrate the splendour, culture, luxury and solemnity associated with the Russian empire.
A ceremonial object of power, the crown must first and foremost be of peerless beauty and ornamental richness. Its traditional shape is inspired by Byzantine models: on either side, rimmed by a row of pearls, two hemispheres depict the Roman empire stretching from East to West. At its centre, a foliate garland is topped by a 398.72-carat spinel adorned with a cross representing the Christian faith. The inside of the crown is lined with red velvet. In all, around 5,000 diamonds adorn the imperial crown with delicate graphic and plant-inspired gemset motifs.
Interpreting this symbol of majesty, grandeur and beauty – stemming from the nobility of deft manual touches, from the very heart of ancestral artisanship – within a repertoire of contemporary design codes: such is the incredible challenge brilliantly taken up by Chopard. For the 2018 edition of the Empress Box, the workshops have created an exceptional ‘secret’ watch. This veritable objet d’art, nurtured by history and culture, is figuratively set against the background of an imaginary imperial Russia. Graced with a dainty play of arabesque motifs, the openworked cover is set with diamonds, pearls, and a ruby in its centre. Like a wall hanging depicting the scene of an epic saga, the three-dimensional lacework offers a hint of the imperial purple that inspired this gem. Framed by a likewise diamond-set bezel, the splendid Grand Feu enamel dial called for more than 20 hours of work. At its heart is the emblematic motif of the IMPERIALE collection, hand-engraved and adorned with diamonds. The 18ct white gold case harbours another treasure in the shape of the self-winding L.U.C 96.23-L3 movement, entirely designed, developed and hand-decorated with the Fleurisanne engraving technique in the Fleurier workshops of Chopard Manufacture. This task calling upon the brilliant craftsmanship skills of gifted artisans required no less than 46 hours to complete.
Artistic crafts cultivated at the highest level in the Chopard workshops
A perfect combination of beauty and precision, in harmony with the finest traditions of the Maison Chopard, ‘secret’ watches unite the best of Haute Horlogerie and Haute Joaillerie. The Empress Box testifies to the virtuosity of the artisans involved in crafting it, as well as to the genius essential in designing it, all under the watchful guidance of Caroline Scheufele. This exceptional watch showcases two singular techniques illustrating the excellence of the artistic crafts exercised by the watchmaker-jeweller. The “Grand Feu” enamelling adorning the watch dial ensures its inalterable beauty. This 17th century technique is one of the most difficult and delicate to master, with only a few artisans achieving the rare degree of excellence required. The artisan does not paint the motif directly on the watch, but instead applies several oxides to the gold dial. The technique then consists of firing the dial at 900°C several times, thus gradually revealing the motif and colours. The dial is subsequently hand-polished to erase the micro-bubbles having formed on its surface. Finally, a last firing of a transparent enamel coating called fondant (flux) or glazing gives unique brilliance and luminosity.
A number of artistic crafts were born in the historical watchmaking cradle of Fleurier, yet are becoming increasingly rare. Chopard is of course dedicated to perpetuating these traditions, representing a proud cultural and aesthetic heritage. Fleurisanne engraving is one of these decorative art techniques belonging to the watchmaking legacy of the region. In the 19th century, it earned local watchmakers considerable fame, with timepieces thus adorned gaining favour as far afield as China. Chopard restores its noble pedigree by giving it pride of place on the Empress Box. Using the Fleurisanne engraving technique, the white gold movement is adorned with oak leaves and acorns, a motif inspired by the foliate garland gracing the imperial crown of Russia. This singular savoir faire is notably distinguished by its raised motifs. The engraver ‘spares’ the motif that he wishes to have emerge; the surface thus preserved is then engraved and polished so as to achieve a shiny effect. The background surrounding the motif is finely dotted to create a grainy appearance. To master this slow process calling for extreme dexterity, Chopard has provided in-house training for expert hands. Through combining techniques, pooling talents and honouring the memory of a bygone age, it thus achieves the ultimate goal of preserving this traditional craft as well as honouring the ageless beauty bequeathed by the Empire of the Tsars.