Nothing brings a timepiece more vividly to life than a historical recollection or a personal tale, which is probably why watchmaking loves a good story. Of the kind behind the launch of Chopard’s new Alpine Eagle collection. Imagine: a 22-year-old student, Karl-Fritz Scheufele, comes across a watch that his father, Karl-Friedrich, imagined back in 1980. He loves the design, and suggests using it as the starting point for a completely new collection. Father doesn’t pick up on the idea, so Karl-Fritz turns instead to his grandfather, Karl. What happens next? “A wonderful journey shared by three generations, that reaches its conclusion with the launch of the Alpine Eagle sport watch collection,” says Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard.
Launching a new collection is always a complicated business; taking an existing watch as a basis makes it even more difficult.
Back to 1980. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele was just 22 when he took his first steps in the family business. Showing foresight beyond his years, he went to his father with an idea for a steel sports watch – a complete departure from the gold and diamond-set timepieces for which Chopard was renowned. The watch, launched as the St-Moritz, hit the nail on the head, selling in the region of 50,000 units over some fifteen years. It was this visionary thinking – the kind that earned Karl-Friedrich Scheufele this year’s Prix Gaïa for entrepreneurship – that has accompanied Chopard on the road to success. Other master strokes include the introduction, in 1988, of the Mille Miglia collection, with its ties to Chopard’s ongoing partnership with the eponymous classic car race. This same sense of discernment was behind Karl-Friedrich’s decision to give Chopard full legitimacy by setting up, in 1996, an independent manufacturing facility in Fleurier that is now home to Fleurier Ebauches.
It also takes a clear vision to admit one’s mistakes. “When my son came to see me to talk about a reworking of the St-Moritz, I was reticent at first,” says Karl-Friedrich Scheufele with a smile. “Launching a new collection is a complicated business in itself, and taking an existing model as a basis makes it even more difficult than starting from scratch.” Even so, Karl-Fritz, secretly encouraged by his grandfather, wouldn’t let the idea drop. Finally his insistence paid off and Chopard’s co-president agreed to revive the St-Moritz’s spirit as a contemporary sport watch: the Alpine Eagle.
The new timepiece, in steel, borrows the vigorous outline of the 80s/90s best-seller, the eight visible screws around the bezel, as well as the look and feel of the integrated steel bracelet with its ingot-shaped links and central ridge. The rest of this Alpine Eagle – named after the majestic bird of prey – is completely new. The texture of the dial suggests the eagle’s iris while the shape of the hands is inspired by its feathers. The design is also informed by the landscape of the Alps. The textures and play of light on snow, glistening rock or torrents of water are suggested in the satin finish of the case and bracelet, which goes from flashes of steel to a more matte aspect as light conditions change or the wrist moves.
Movement-wise, two in-house, chronometer-certified calibres power the ten references in the collection. The small, 36mm diameter model is driven by Calibre 09.01-C, one of the smallest movements to be given COSC certification. The large, 41mm version is equipped with Calibre 01.01-C, which is also COSC-certified.
We all have a responsibility towards nature and the environment. At Chopard, we have made an important commitment.
Sustainability and durability
A clear vision also implies concern for wider issues. “You don’t need me to remind you that we all have a responsibility towards nature and the environment,” insists Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. Turning words into action, Chopard is making an important commitment to environmental preservation through its decision to use only ethical gold for its gold watches and jewellery. Carrying on from this, the brand now introduces Lucent Steel A223, which is used for every model in the Alpine Eagle collection (except for a small number in gold or gold and steel). This exclusive metal’s environmental credentials are assured by the 70% recycled steel that enters into its composition, and the fact that 100% of residue is also reused. Further benefits are obtained from a second melting process which eliminates a maximum of impurities, as a result of which Lucent Steel A223 is comparable to surgical steel, with hypoallergenic properties and a brighter appearance than conventional steel. Additionally, a hardness of 223 Vickers means this alloy is 50% more abrasion-resistant than traditional steels, as well as uniquely hard-wearing: a guarantee of durability for the Alpine Eagle, which Chopard has designed as a watch to wear every day.
Of course, vision isn’t just about seeing; it is also about doing and, for Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, taking action in favour of nature conservation. Having been personally involved with the Alp Action programme, initiated by the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, he is now a founding member of Eagle Wings, a foundation working to raise public awareness of the importance and the fragility of the Alpine ecosystem. Its first project is the Alpine Eagle Race in which an eagle, carrying a camera on its back, takes off from five world-renowned Alpine summits, ending with St-Moritz. What more elegant way to bring this story full circle? As one eagle lands, another spreads its wings…