In 1993, Chopard launched the Happy Sport watch. It was an instant icon. Over the years, Chopard has regularly revisited the piece, releasing reinterpretations that have kept the spirit of the original alive while bringing their own unique identity to the collection. Some of those reinterpretations have been humorous. Others have been elegant. Occasionally, they've managed to be both. The Happy Fish watch is a prime example of the latter. Released to fanfare in 2002, it immediately captured the public imagination with its vivid depiction of the underwater world. Its unusual combination of steel and diamonds played beautifully against the contemporary lines and playful spirit of the watch. Featuring a mother-of-pearl dial and a gold-lea fish swimming its way between seven diamonds in a sea of blue sapphires, the Happy Fish watch was an artisan's delight. Almost 20 years since its launch, it remains as coveted as ever. Here, we take a look at the history of the Chopard Happy Fish watch.
The History of Chopard
To understand the history and story behind the Chopard Happy Fish watch, we first need to understand the history of the brand. Chopard was launched in 1860 in Sonvilier, Switzerland by a 24-year-old artisan watchmaker named Louis-Ulysse Chopard. Over the next few decades, Chopard built a solid reputation on reliable, high-quality watches that managed to keep perfect time while looking like works of art as they did it. In 1915, Louis-Ulysse's son, Paul-Louis, took over the company. Under his stewardship, the company continued to grow at a phenomenal rate. In 1937, Chopard moved its headquarters from small-town Sonvilier to Geneva, the international epicenter of watchmaking. In 1943, Paul-Louis handed the reigns to his son, Paul-André. The post-war period was a huge test for Chopard. Europe was recovering and few people had the money for luxuries. By the 1960s, the company was on its knees. With none of his children keen to take on the burden of a failing company, Paul-André started considering selling the family business. At around the same time, a German goldsmith and watchmaker by the name of Karl-Scheufele III was weighing up the possibility of buying a Swiss manufacturer to keep his own jewelry and watch company, ESZEHA, supplied with movements. During a trip to Switzerland, Scheufele met up with Paul-André. Within 30 minutes, the deal was signed and Chopard's future was secured.
Thanks to Scheufele's business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit, he successfully transformed Chopard from a struggling company whose better days were behind it into an empire with a glittering future. In the 1980s, Karl's children, Caroline and Karl-Friedrich, took on active roles in the business. Karl took on the management of the men's collection, overseeing Chopard's new range of sports watches in the 1980s. Caroline took charge of the ladies' collections, developing Chopard's jewelry collection and later overseeing its move into fine jewelry.
From Happy Sport to Happy Fish
In 1993, Caroline Scheufele designed Chopard's iconic Happy Sport watch. It was a watch that managed to be at once sophisticated and sporty. More than that, it was revolutionary; just a few years after stepping into the sports watch world, Chopard turned the market on its head by being the first Maison to combine steel and diamonds. With its timeless elegance and playful spirit, the Happy Sport was an overnight sensation. It tapped perfectly into the mood of the moment, embodying modernity, style, and Chopard's inimitable sense of chic. Over the years, Chopard has revised the original Happy Sport numerous times. Its basic design has inspired countless reinterpretations, one of which is the Happy Fish.
The Launch of the First Happy Fish Watch
Released in 2002, the Happy Fish was, as gmtpost.com notes, representative of another stopping point along the never-ending voyage undertaken by the Happy Sport, which has reinvented its peerless chic through each of its interpretations. Playfully exuberant yet relentlessly sophisticated, the Happy Fish gave us a stunning take on the underwater world. Its dial was crafted from a navy blue textured mother-of-pearl. Its subtle color nuances evoked images of glistening seabeds. At the center of the dial, a small white-gold fish swam between five moving diamonds in an ocean of shimmering sapphires. Offered in two different styles (a stainless steel version and a rose gold version with a diamond-set bezel) and complemented by a luxurious navy blue alligator leather strap, the Happy Fish watch was a thing of beauty. Customers lapped it up. The Happy Fish danced the line between watch and jewelry: sure, it kept perfect time, but it managed to look like nothing else in the process.
Since its launch in 2002, the Happy Fish watch has been an integral part of Chopard's catalog. Keen to capitalize on the watch's success, Chopard has periodically reimagined the watch over the years. While each reinvention has kept the playful exuberance of the original at its heart, each has bought a new dynamism to the collection. Some of the most significant versions of the watch have included:
The 2018 Collection
In 2018, Chopard welcomed a 250-piece limited edition series to the Happy Fish legacy. As Alfardan writes, the collection featured a classic navy blue mother of pearl textured dial. The dial's subtle color nuances vividly evoked the oceanic depths. A small fish danced between five glistening diamonds. By day, the fish stayed quietly discreet. By night, it lit up to reveal its true beauty. Completing the look was a navy blue strap that bought out the colors of the dial to perfection. A self-winding movement housed in a steel case ensured perfectly accurate timekeeping.
The 2015 Collection
In 2015, Chopard unveiled a new addition to the Happy Fish collection. As Haute Time writes, the watch married Chopard's “métiers d’art” with Happy Sport in an 18-karat rose gold case. A sapphire crystal allowed customers to admire the exquisite craftsmanship of the dial in all its glory. Along with the moving diamonds on the dial, the bezel featured a bevy of glittering jewels of varying sizes. A further diamond sat proudly on the crown. The swimming fish was bought to life with hand-applied gold leaf and a red jasper eye. Graded hues of blue sapphires on the dial bought to mind a glistening seabed. Gold-toned hour, minute, and seconds hands complimented the aesthetic of the dial perfectly. Water resistance to 30 meters, a power reserve of 42 hours, and a mechanical self-winding movement added function to the beauty.
The 2012 Collection
In 2012, Chopard released 2 different versions of the Happy Fish watch. As Luxury Facts writes, the new versions featured three little clownfish in 18ct rose and white gold in a choice of either a steel case or an 18ct rose gold case with a bezel set with diamonds. Each was set with yellow sapphires, tsavorites, rubies, and onyxes and featured a crown set with a blue sapphire. A blue satin strap completed the look to perfection.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker