I’ve heard many draw the line between men’s and women’s watches at the use of diamonds — a touchy subject, for sure. Meanwhile, in recent years, a whole new gang of watch enthusiasts has emerged campaigning for the eradication of the gender-based distinction between wristwatches altogether but, thankfully, none of these serve as the subject of this article. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that I will present a third way of looking at things today, with an open mind, courtesy of this frankly incredible Chopard Imperiale Jumping Hour watch. So, if you are a collector with about $180,000 lying around in one of your many bank accounts, you might want to consider trying this one on for size, whatever your gender.

It is fair to say that the Chopard Imperiale Jumping Hour watch is dripping with diamonds — no less than 7.9 karats in total, in fact. The smaller inner ring of the bezel, the outer ring of the bezel, the entire profile of the case, the tip as well as the inner edge of the winding crown, the complex lug structure, and even the edge and profile of the gorgeous drop-shaped lugs are all adorned with hand-set diamonds — mostly with brilliant-cut stones that are so white and reflective they burn white spots into the pictures. Therefore, if diamond-set watches were women’s watches as many say, then few watches could ever get any more feminine than this one. . . which is why I must nevertheless try to convey how fantastically cool, dark, and powerful it is to wear this watch — which is not something that can be said about most watches the industry officially labels as “women’s watches.”

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The Chopard Imperiale Jumping Hour watch in this specification (reference 384651-0001) measures 38mm wide and 10.48mm thick — every bit as large as many of today’s fan-favorite men’s watches. When seen in person, the dial paints a dark picture and feels like something one would find deep inside a serious Japanese home or institution, etched and painted into a picture on a wall or an heirloom piece of furniture. The base of the dial is indeed Japanese Urushi lacquer, as dark, reflective, and menacing as a bottomless lake in a Hitchcock picture, with flakes of gold to disguise its scary depths even more. The birds aren’t colorful or particularly charming either, and the flora presented on the rest of the dial is, again, of a rather serious and mysterious sort. There is arguably nothing on this dial that one would choose when designing a watch intended for a gender-specific segment. On a related note, whereas many watches in this category with a painted dial look rather tame and appear as a more or less random assortment of “nice and inoffensive things to look at,” these Chopard Imperiale Jumping Hour watches appear to have stretched for a rather more calculated presentation.

Hours are displayed by a white-on-black disc revealed by a cut-out in the dial at the 12 o’clock position, while minutes are indicated by the single black petal of a hand-etched flower in gold — again, a rather gloomy element of the design of the Imperiale Jumping Hours watch. In the sea of black Urushi lacquer float water lilies formed in mother of pearl that either shows a pearlescent color palette or looks dark purple, depending on how light meets it. Playing around with the watch on the wrist, it often happens that part of the lilies are dark while some others light up, as they do in the photo directly above. The Chopard branding and the Swiss Made text are printed on the inside of the sapphire crystal — leaving the latter off could potentially make this piece all the more mysterious and hence powerful.

As part watch brand and part jewelry brand, one would expect Chopard to get the setting of the precious stones right, and it’s easy to see that its craftspeople have delivered on that expectation. In fact, they outperformed the vast majority of the (already very impressive) gem-set watches I have ever seen and photographed. Every element looks hand-set and hand-adjusted with the slightest inconsistencies found in the only place where it is acceptable in a high-jewelry piece: in the splitting and shape of the individual beads that hold each diamond along the profile of the case (these are pavé-set because the diamonds are close together and are held by beads formed from the base metal leaving no room for error). You will likely also spot the hand-adjusted shape of the prongs that hold the larger diamonds along the edge of the bezel — this one is called cathedral setting and it’s used here because it allows light to enter the stones not just from the top but also the side.

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Perfection is, however, required in the positioning of the stones so as to place every table (the top facet on a brilliant-cut diamond) on exactly the same plane as the one next to it and achieve this across hundreds of stones set around the bezel, case profile, lugs, and so on. It is an immensely challenging task that requires tireless adjusting and painstaking effort. Once you have developed an eye for this sort of execution (which many Chopard high-jewelry customers have) watches on which corners have been cut will stand out with absolute certainty and immediacy. Yes, these watches are very expensive and there is more than enough going on to distract one from compromises, but, again, these watches only truly ever work if their execution is nothing short of perfect.

Little details on the Chopard Imperiale Jumping Hour watch, like the smaller diamond just next to the crown in the top right corner of the photo above, are the sort that would likely go unnoticed for long — it was only while editing my hands-on photos that I discovered it, squeezed into the corner and surrounded by hand-shaped and hand-polished beads. Each of the diamonds sits against a polished gold background and is surrounded by high-polished, rounded-off beads, which come together with the thousands of reflections created by the facets of the stones, ultimately making for a bedazzled and indeed dazzling effect. Despite the perfection of the execution, there nevertheless is a natural or organic quality to the end result. In other words, the Imperiale makes the rarely encountered impression of a watch that appears to have just “come into existence” as one complete whole, disguising the tens of thousands of operations that have actually turned this block of gold, a handful of diamonds, and a small puddle of lacquer into this singular item.

The Imperiale is rather tall in the sense that the lugs extend far away from the case, thus making it suitable for thicker or wider wrists. On the wrist, its aforementioned dark mood is every bit as powerful as it was off it. Flip the watch around and you’ll discover a special rendition of the Calibre L.U.C 98.06-L1 — fans of Chopard and Chopard in-house movements will immediately recognize it as a Quattro from the shape of the upper plate and the teeth of the massive barrels peaking out from underneath. Chopard Quattro technology uses a pair of two stacked barrels, so four in total, to provide a whopping 192-hour (8-day) power reserve even with the high-energy consumption of the jumping hours display and the heavy minutes disc. The plates and mainplate are crafted from solid 18k “ethical gold” and are engraved with motifs matching the dial, each hand-crafted and painted by the Manufacture’s movement-decorating Artisan. There is a small power reserve display right at the top with eight turquoise stones to align with the eight days of power reserve.

All in all, the Chopard Imperiale Jumping Hour watch with Urushi dial and diamonds (reference 384651-0001) is a watch like few others. It is exemplary in the quality of its execution and outstanding in the dark mood it reveals once one manages to focus their vision beyond the sea of shiny diamonds and the first impression of a pretty-picture dial. I see it being worn either by those completely oblivious to its qualities as a piece of jewelry or by those with whom this rather unique mood resonates. I’m sure you can already tell, but I’d be thrilled to wear this around. The Chopard Imperiale Jumping Hour watch is priced at 180,000 Swiss francs including taxes and it is limited to eight pieces. You can learn more at the brand’s website.

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