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Over the past two decades, a new psychological bar has been set within the replica watch industry: in-house movements are regarded as the nec plus ultra - mechanical independence being the best way to legitimize a high-end brand in the eyes of demanding customers. These days, with more and more companies able to produce their own movements and claiming that coveted Manufacture status, the bar might be set differently: by the Midas touch. The star gold model in Chopard's 2013 collection: the L. U. C Perpetual Tourbillon. Miguel Seabra/Espiral do Tempo Few replica watch brands are capable of making their own cases, let alone gold cases. Chopard is one of the rare manufacturers mastering the gold case production process from A to Z, due to an in-house foundry where 24-carat fine yellow gold ingots are transformed into five different shades of 18-carat gold alloys, used to shape not only replica watch cases but also jewellery. Personality goes a long wayDie-hard aficionados will enthusiastically discuss the aesthetical and technical aspects of Manufacture movements and complications, but replica watch cases aren't nearly as fiercely debated - despite the fact that they contribute as much or even more to the personality of a timepiece. If a dial may be considered the face of a watch, the case certainly is the body. Much like in a movement or on a dial, a replica watch case also requires maximum precision and any replica watch company that is able to completely control the quality of production will not only save precious time by responding faster to its needs, but also gain an edge on the competition. Sculpted in the precious metal: the Happy Sport Medium Automatic with gold case & bracelet. Chopard Founded by young Swiss watchmaker Louis-Ulysse Chopard in 1860 and bought by a dynasty of German jewellers in 1963, Chopard has now acquired five full decades of expertise in smelting its own gold and creating precious alloys for the brand's timepieces. The company has three manufacturing sites; Pforzheim, in the German region from where the Scheufele family originally hails, has a facility mainly dedicated to jewellery; Fleurier is where the movements are manufactured; whereas Meyrin (on the outskirts of Geneva) comprises the headquarters and several watchmaking trades - including the workshop where gold cases and bracelets are produced. Five shades of goldEach year, Chopard buys at least 2. 5 tons of gold - that's 2,500 one-kilo certified gold bars (corresponding to a 999,9 fineness standard). Every gold bar is smelted and blended with other metals to create various hues of gold: white gold, two shades of yellow gold (2N, 3N) and two tones of rose gold (4N, 5N). Regarding yellow and rose gold hues, silver and copper are mixed in different proportions: for the yellow 2N, it's 75% gold, plus 16% silver and 9% copper; for the 4N rose shade, the silver amount goes down to 9% while the copper part ascends to 16%. In the case of white gold, palladium is added and then rhodium-plated. It all starts with a one-kilo certified 999,9 pure gold bar. Chopard The 18-carat alloy (or 750/1000 gold, meaning 750 grams of pure gold for 1 kilo of matter) instituted by law in most countries is greatly appreciated because it provides an excellent balance between resistance, excellence and fine gold content; it is also ideal for setting precious stones and stands up well to the impacts sustained in daily life, whereas 24-carat gold is too malleable. Pure gold has a hardness of 30 Vickers (2. 5 Mohs); while a gold alloy may be ten times as hard (up to 300 Vickers). Alchemy duoThe gold casting workshop involves two members of staff, headed by Portugal's Paulo Caetano, who confided in us that Chopard's 18-carat gold always has a little over the required 750 grams of fine gold. Besides the foundry, the workshop has been equipped with a second vacuum induction oven entirely computerised that serves to cast 6 to 20 kilos of gold at once. Even though new technologies are employed, the Midas touch is still needed: human expertise remains crucial, because gold is made according to a specific recipe and requires carefully controlled gestures in order to obtain the ideal chemistry. The flaming red liquid begins to bubble at the heart of the crucible: once fired, it pours like a flow of lava into a steel mould. Chopard To mix the various components of an alloy together, they are placed in a high heat (around 1000oC) crucible to combine them and then poured into a mould to form a larger bar. The original thicker bar passes several times through a machine to progressively become a thinner bar of 60x6 cm; further firings at an average temperature of 600C are needed in order to restore the ingot to its initial structure. It may then be rolled one last time in order to give it the necessary thickness that is required by the creations for which the gold is intended; then each one of those bars is labelled and one corner is cut out to be sent for verification (the amount of precious metal in an alloy) and certification (whether it qualifies for the hallmark) at the Precious Metal Control of the Swiss customs administration. A flamboyant sports watch: the 2013 version of the Mille Miglia chronograph in rose gold, cast at the Chopard foundry. Chopard Before the alloy is ready for usage, further firings at around 600C are needed. The lengthy stamping process generally involves 16 steps to make a replica watch case, and between each of those steps, the metal is annealed for more than half an hour at high temperature in an oven to relieve the stresses from the stamping and prevent the metal from breaking. Some 16 stamping steps are required in making a gold replica watch case. Miguel Seabra/Espiral do Tempo Since the dawn of time, gold has been the stuff of myths, legends and fairy tales - from the Philosopher's Stone to the famous El Dorado. While no one has yet discovered a way of turning any base metal into gold through mystic alchemical procedures, gold still has the Midas touch. It has been the investment phenomenon of the past decade, frequently hitting new highs, and during that period, investors in gold have made nearly five times their money while Wall Street has gone sideways. So maybe it's time to think about a gold watch! The L. U. C 1937 Classic: a precious timepiece manufactured in-house, from the movement right down to the gold case and bracelet. Chopard Traditionnelle calibre 2253 Moscow BoutiqueThe Traditionnelle Calibre 2253 Moscow Boutique is a Vacheron Constantin masterpiece. Crafted in a limited edition of one, in 950 platinum, this replica watch celebrates the inauguration of the new Moscow Boutique that has now taken up residence in Berlin House. It is equipped with a tourbillon, a perpetual calendar, an equation of time as well as sunrise and sunset times for the city of Moscow. Vacheron Constantin In addition to rigorously pure aesthetic, this one-of-a-kind model displays traditional style codes expressed in contemporary language: a slimmer case, a knurled motif surrounding the screw-down case-back fitted with a sapphire crystal, dauphine hands and an opaline black dial. An engraving on the case-back soberly indicates the exceptional - and indeed unique - nature of the Traditionnelle Calibre 2253 Moscow Boutique "N1/1". The Traditionnelle Calibre 2253 Moscow Boutique model bears the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva. It comes with a pair of 18-carat white gold and onyx cufflinks matching the Vacheron Constantin timepiece. Patrimony Perpetual Calendar Moscow BoutiqueThis timepiece is issued in a 30-piece limited edition. It is equipped with the legendary Calibre 1120 QP, acknowledged by connoisseurs as one of the most iconic perpetual calendar movements. This timepiece will be able to keep track of all the vagaries of the calendar and require no correction whatsoever until March 1st 2100. Vacheron Constantin Characterised by taut curves, a sleek profile, slender trapeze-shaped hour-markers, baton hands, a cambered dial and a minute track beaded with gold cabochons, the new Patrimony Perpetual Calendar Moscow Boutique model by Vacheron Constantin features all the distinctive characteristics of the Patrimony collection. Beneath its opaline black dial, the lunar disc portrays a golden moon set against a lapis lazuli sky. The 41 mm-diameter 18K white gold case is water-resistant to 30 metres and fitted with a sapphire crystal back revealing Calibre 1120 QP. This timepiece is equipped with an alligator leather strap secured by an 18K white gold folding clasp. It comes with a pair of 18-carat white gold and onyx cufflinks matching the Vacheron Constantin timepiece. Patrimony retrograde day and date Moscow BoutiqueThe Patrimony retrograde day and date Moscow Boutique replica watch is issued in a 20-piece limited edition. It is equipped with a double complication revealed by two retrograde indications. Vacheron Constantin At the heart of this timepiece forcefully proclaiming its pure, understated aesthetic, 283-part Calibre 2460R31R7 - a mechanical self-winding movement designed, developed and crafted by Vacheron Constantin - drives the hours and minutes as well as date and day of the week functions. Beating at the rhythm of 28,800 vibrations per hour, Calibre 2460R31R7 features an over 40-hour power reserve. The elegantly slender 18-carat white gold case - water-resistant to 30 metres - has a generous 42. 5 mm diameter and is fitted with a sapphire crystal back enabling one to admire the movement decoration and finishing. The timepiece comes with a pair of 18-carat white gold and onyx cufflinks matching the Vacheron Constantin timepiece. Traditionnelle Moscow BoutiqueThis elegant timepiece is issued in a 30-piece limited edition. Its pure lines and harmonious proportions display its classic and timeless character, enhanced by a slender bezel, a knurled motif surrounding the screw-down case-back fitted with a sapphire crystal, 18K white gold applied hour-markers and dauphine hands. Vacheron Constantin Its slate-grey dial is finely hand-guilloche and reflects a unique motif inspired by the fa? ade of Moscow's stellar landmark, the Kremlin. Developed and produced in-house by Vacheron Constantin, the ultra-thin self-winding 1120 movement beats at a frequency of 2. 75 Hz (19,800 vibrations/hour) and has an approximately 40-hour power reserve. Its finishing and construction are a testament to its finely crafted nature. Not only are the main flat surfaces of the movement adorned with a meticulous "C? tes de Geneve" motif, but all their sharp angles are bevelled and hand-polished - as too are the screw heads. Setting the perfect finishing touch to this model, Vacheron Constantin has equipped its new Traditionnelle Moscow Boutique Edition with a slate-grey Mississippiensis alligator strap secured by an 18K white gold pin buckle. The replica watch comes with a pair of 18-carat white gold cufflinks naturally hand-guilloche to match the Vacheron Constantin timepiece.