Unless you’re a VIP customer, a really known “friend” of the brand, or an important member of the press, it’s usually hard to score an invite to the hallowed halls of the watch maisons. And so I was quite thrilled to be invited to visit the Chopard Manufacture, despite obviously not being one the first two and barely qualifying for the third.
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So, after wrapping up all my appointments at the SIHH, a cab came to pick me up to bring me to Chopard’s manufacture in Meyrin, about 15 minutes away from the city center. Chopard produces its own special shade of red gold and Chopard is one of the very few manufactures that has its own gold foundry. Also, most watches are assembled and finished here in order to meet the requirements of the Poinçon de Genève.
But the more picturesque facilities are located in Fleurier, in the canton of Neuchâtel, approximately a two-hour drive from Geneva. (You can also take the train, which stops almost at the doorstop of Chopard.) The unexpected snow that fell all night before my trip to Fleurier made the experience even more storybook-looking as the highway and small vineyards and farms gave way to tree branches draped in crystal and white, powdery snow on the mountainside and ground (not too fun to drive on though, according to my amiable driver Johnny), delicate flurry falling from the sky.
Chopard actually has two separate facilities: the Chopard Manufacture, where they do research, create movements, decorate parts, and produce the calibers for the L.U.C. collections; and just down the road, Fleurier Ebauches, a high-tech, highly-automated factory for industrial-scale movement production. Fleurier Ebauches also features a mini “school” area for training apprentices and even sales staff from boutiques all over the world. Meanwhile, the Manufacture houses the Chopard Luceum, a museum that not only showcases key pieces from Chopard, but also important timepieces from the history of horology.
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Chopard calibres after being assembled by hand.
Lac Leman, also known as Geneva Lake, has famous cities like Geneva, Lausanne, and Montreux along its shores.
The view from the Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier: Chapeau de Napoleon (Napoleon’s Hat), at the top of which is an excellent restaurant of the same name.
Movement in the works kept protected from dust.
The stainless steel cases of the watches are diecut, and then polished at the Chopard Meyrin Manufacture.
Chopard employs its own goldsmiths in the Meyrin manufacture to melt and cast gold used in the watches.
Chopard produces its own red gold in its Meyrin foundry, allowing it to achieve a particular shade and strength.
Dial for a Mille Miglia watch.
The Chopard Luceum in Fleurier houses an amazing collection of historical timepieces from as early as the 1500s, alongside with current Chopard collections.
The Les Six- Communes hotel and café in Val-de-Travers, on the way to Fleurier, is housed in a sixteenth century building, and serves hearty meals.
A selection of exquisite chocolates freshly made at Jacot Chocalatier.
Movements are still assembled by hand by expert watchmakers at the Fleurier manufacture.
Aside from the impressive manufactures, however, the highlight of the trip was the food. Back down in Val-de-Travers, the district in which Fleurier lies, is a 60-seater restaurant (part of a quaint inn) set in a building that was built way back in the sixteenth century: Les Six-Communes. They had hearty servings and quick service, considering how packed the place was during lunch. For the brave, they recommend the absinthe-based dessert.
And, finally, Jacot Chocolatier, makers of super-fine, melt-in-your-mouth chocolates. They supply the chocolate for brands like Parmigiani (which is also in Fleurier), Montblanc, Greubel Forsey, and Nivarox. Definitely worth the stop and all the extra pounds!
This story first appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 12 No 2 2014.
Photographs by Rheea Hermoso-Prudente and David Celdran