Rooftop events are all the rage at Cannes: lounge spaces sitting atop the city's 5-star establishments with their breathtaking views. Up here, there's little fear of the festival-going crowds impeding the increased security measures in place for the stars while they're out for a night on the town. It's the high places that are now home to private parties, although every yacht moored in the neighbouring bays, or private beaches are also likely to have their share of hand-picked guests and trendy get-togethers, come sundown. The stage is set, from the rooftops down to the street, nightfall is set ablaze with magic and a thousand sparkling lights and sequins. It's May 2017 and the Cannes Film Festival is celebrating its own 70th anniversary, as well as the 20th anniversary of its alliance with main sponsor, Chopard.
The watchmaking brand has taken up residence in its rooftop suite at the Martinez hotel. Day and night, it receives its myriad visitors, primping, preening and bejewelling some of the most inaccessible stars. They throng at the entrance, lured by the hope of visibility, to receive the inimitable Chopard starlet treatment. Journalists, likewise, jostle for position amid privileged suppliers and clients. Twenty years ago, the brand became associated mind, body and soul with the internationally publicized event, and has unstintingly adorned celebrity necks, wrists and ears with its haute jewellery designs ever since.
Red Carpet Collection: "Shine bright like a diamond..."
Everything here is a bewildering riot of greenery and… colour. Needless to say, the pieces designed in a collaboration of mega star proportions with the new muse for the brand, including the famous Red Carpet jewellery collection (70 one-of-a-kind pieces in 2017), are bursting with buzzy, carnival colours. The muse is, of course, singer, Rihanna. She was born in Barbados, an island in the Caribbean, where the hot Bajan sun and natural world leave their indelible mark on the island-dwellers' lives.
Together with Caroline Scheufele, co-president of Chopard, she has designed a sumptuous array of jewels to match the first ever ankle bracelet to be produced by the brand. The air is still redolent with her magnetic presence and international status following her visit just two days earlier. I would have loved her to linger a while longer, perhaps for the duration of a selfie, so that she might further illuminate Annabel’s X Chopard Gent’s Night to which I'd been invited. Amid the muggy heat of the night and the hip-swaying displays of festive ostentation, the DJane for the evening could have treated us to a remix of "Shine bright like a diamond...". But I'm sure there will be another time. No matter, the new collection to emerge from this partnership, soberly entitled "Rihanna loves Chopard", is bursting with references and promise.
Black Tie, the male of the species and La Croisette
Hidden high up among the rooftops, on top of the world, there is a private lounge brimming with mechanical treasures, timepieces housing the mothers of all complications and certified precision watchworks, illustrating the most sophisticated accomplishments of the watchmaking art. We gentlemen have not been forgotten. Precious platinum is the metal of choice, coated with baguette diamonds. Two "Cannes Film Festival" limited editions have been unveiled especially for the occasion. The L.U.C Lunar One Black Tie and the L.U.C XPS 1860 Black Tie, produced in two series of 8 and 20 pieces respectively. The latter is an automatic concentrate of pure minimalism, shot through with a discreet elegance with its 40 mm diameter case setting the intense black dial face a-shimmer with sunny reflections and harbouring hidden guilloché depths.
The former model, the 43 mm diameter L.U.C Lunar One Black Tie, is the one that scoops the palm to my mind. It is a demonstration of complicational prestige and chronometric science validated by the Poinçon de Genève hallmark and certified by the COSC, the Official Swiss chronometer testing institute. Crafted in platinum 950, it features a perpetual calendar with orbital moon phases, a large date, a power reserve of 65 hours replenished by the back-and-forth motion of 22 K gold micro-rotor, and houses a workshop-crafted calibre L.U.C 96.13-L, a genuine watchmaking achievement comprised of 355 parts and beating at a rate of 28,800 vibrations an hour.
Lit up against the galvanic black satin-brushed sunburst dial, little white triangles point to the day-night indicator and year numerals. The L.U.CHOPARD logo is in gleaming gold, while the reverse reveals a complex ballet of interlocking cogwheels visible through a screw-down back adorned with the golden palm motif. The hour and minute hands are at the centre, the small seconds is at 6 o'clock. Two symmetrically positioned sub-counters at the East and West extremities of the dial house indicators pertaining to the perpetual calendar, day, date, month and year cycle, while a third sub-dial housing the index at 6 o'clock depicts the subtle moon phases orbiting against a starry blue night.
Karl and Caroline Scheufele with Jacky Ickx
Where passions meet
The party mood reaches boiling point. Plunging necklines precede the long, languorous trains of designer gowns. Among the stars, I catch sight of someone I know leaning on his wife's arm: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard, with his self-effacing smile. He rubs the gold-dust from his eyes after the 1000 miles he has just travelled behind the wheel of an old sports car, with his friend, the former racing driver, Jacky Ickx, at his side. He is just back from the Mille Miglia, the legendary Italian race and inspiration for his eponymous watch collection, whose celebrity exceeds that of the name that spawned it. "Cannes and Calibres", to my mind embodies all at once the calibres, the Fleurier Manufacture, the Ferdinand Berthoud museum and every major complication or drop of industrial know-how to have ever emerged from the mechanical watchmaking planet. Here is the mastermind behind LUC, the three letters that stand for the name of the man who founded the brand in Sonvillier back in 1860: Louis-Ulysse Chopard.
LUC and Rihanna, an unlikely encounter?
A question begins to form on my lips. As VIP guests and starlets melt into the heat of the festival night, as a big fan of Rihanna's music and, of course, Swiss watchmaking, I find myself drifting into a daydream in which I'm saying: "Mr. Scheufele, have you ever thought of introducing LUC to Rihanna?" You never know. In fact, I'd love to see a collection of mechanical watches one day sporting the colours of one of the Caribbean's most fascinating representatives…