For the last three years, Chopard has adopted the graceful peony flower to decorate its L.U.C XP Esprit de Fleurier 35mm limited editions for women. This year is no exception and Chopard unveiled a beautiful 18k rose gold edition of eight watches decorated with the silhouette of black paper-cut peonies on the dial and exquisite Fleurisanne engraving on the bridges of the movement. As the female representative of the L.U.C XP family, the watch is fitted with a Chopard manufacture ultra-thin automatic movement.
The art of paper cutting
Chopard has recurred to the art of paper cutting to create the delicate black peonies on the dial, a technique that highlights the sensual shape of the ruffled petals of the peony flower and captures its fleeting bloom. Developed in many corners of the globe, the art of paper cutting probably originated in Ancient China following the invention of paper. Jianzhi, Chinese paper cutting, came to the fore in the sixth century AD and ten centuries later made its way to Switzerland and Germany where the decorative folk art of scherenschnitte (scissor cuts) is still practised to this day, especially in the Pays d’Enhaut region in the Vaudois Alps.
Set against a glossy white Grand Feu enamel dial, the artisan responsible for the black paper peonies on the dial has played with solids and negative spaces to capture the essence of the flower and emphasise its temporary nature. It’s one thing for a real flower to fade, but it would be terrible to see the same process occur on your watch and I was reassured by Chopard that the sapphire crystal glass on the dial has an anti-ultraviolet treatment to ensure a perennial black bloom over the years.
Floriography and the Asian connection
Many top luxury brands like to be associated with a particular variety of flower. Think about Chanel’s camellia, Chaumet’s hydrangea or even Dior’s roses. Floriography, or the secret language of flowers, flourished in the Victorian era allowing lovers to exchange messages that would have offended the prevailing etiquette. Although floriography has been replaced by more immediate forms of communication, flowers are still associated with certain symbolic values, and Chopard’s choice of the peony is revealing.
The peony, which originated in central Asia, is a powerful talisman in Chinese culture. Symbolising good luck, good health, honour and prosperity, the peony was intimately linked to the destiny of the country for centuries and was the national flower of China until 1929. Couple this strong symbolic tie to Chinese culture with the fact that the L.U.C XP Esprit de Fleurier is produced in a limited edition of just eight pieces – a lucky number in Asia – and you get the picture. The Chinese market is strategic to Chopard. During the brand’s presentation of its novelties at Baselworld 2018 a spokesman pointed out that 50% of L.U.C watches are destined to China.
Fleurier, a village in the Jura region of Switzerland is a historical cradle of watchmaking and renowned for certain decorative artistic skills, like the delicately engraved movements that have taken on the patronymic of Fleurisanne. Practised since the 19th century, the art of Fleurisanne engraving, with its beautiful scrolling and floral motifs, was much appreciated in China opening up a lucrative trade route. Since 1996, Fleurier has also been home to the Chopard Manufacture where Haute Horlogerie movements for the sophisticated L.U.C family are manufactured – as well as movements for the Ferdinand Berthoud brand.
The art of Fleurisanne engraving requires expert hands and years of training. To create its Esprit de Fleurier line, Chopard set out on a mission to revive this dying tradition and has trained in-house artisans to perform their magic on the movement of these watches. Working directly on the 18k bridges of the rose gold movement, the artisan removes metal to create a raised design, which in turn is lavishly and lovingly decorated with floral motifs or scrolling patterns and then polished to achieve a high shine.
The underlying area is stippled by hand with a hammer, dot by dot, to create a grainy background and then rhodium-coated to acquire its high contrast two-tone appearance. Using simple tools that haven’t changed from the original tools used in the past, the artisan takes a least two weeks to engrave the movement. A similar technique, deployed by Audemars Piguet on its Royal Oak Frosted Gold model, captures the icy frost of a winter’s morning, but the effect is achieved with a hand-guided machine tool.
An elite ultra-thin movement: L.U.C 96.23-L
Presented in a luxurious 18k rose gold case with a slim profile of just 7.70mm, the Esprit de Fleurier Peony is embellished with a setting of brilliant-cut diamonds along the bezel, lugs and case middle. Now in its fourth year, the first L.U.C watch for women was released in 2014 in a 35mm diameter and is equipped with a manufacture mechanical automatic movement – calibre L.U.C 96.23-L. A derivative of the original L.U.C Calibre 96.01-L, the first movement created by the Chopard Manufacture, this ultra-thin movement for the hours and minutes features a 22k gold stamped micro-rotor and benefits from the patented Twin technology ensuring a 65-hour power reserve.
The watch comes with a brushed black brushed fabric strap and an 18k rose gold pin buckle set with diamonds. Limited to eight pieces, the L.U.C XP Esprit de Fleurier Peony is available exclusively in Chopard boutiques and retails for CHF 102,000. More details on www.chopard.com.