A family-owned business is a rarity in watchmaking; one whose success, led by consecutive generations, makes it a prime target for industry giants or investment companies always on the prowl. A run of acquisitions in recent years – the last in 2017 when CVC Capital Partners took over Breitling from the Schneider family – and the resulting concentration means there are even fewer of these rare gems for the taking. Particularly as those watch companies that are still in family hands are determined to remain independent, with the healthy balance sheet that enables them to do so. Chopard is one, with 2020 revenues estimated by Vontobel at CHF 430 million. Co-presided by Karl-Friedrich and Caroline Scheufele, whose parents bought the brand in 1963, in the medium term it looks set to welcome the third generation at its head.
Interviewed in Hong Kong Tatler about his vision for the next 25 years, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele couldn’t have been clearer: “We’re in the middle of a journey, which I think is a critical moment when we have to make sure that our brand, products and everything that we do also appeal to the younger generation. They are our link to the future. That said, we don’t want to expand our production or over-expand our footprint as a brand because I believe that quality always has to come first. The other goal I have is to ensure that Chopard continues to operate as a family company. This is something we cherish very much.”
This all-important independence is, in no small part, the result of some wise and visionary strategic decisions. For example, when Chopard began its Journey to Sustainable Luxury back in 2013, transparency and sustainability had yet to become a concern, not to say a matter of survival, for luxury brands. The decision to open the Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier, which this year celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, is equally revealing. Fully operational in 1996 after years of preparation and major investment, its first movement was nothing less than the COSC-certified, Poinçon de Genève Calibre 1.96, combining a bi-directional rotor with twin barrels. To open a manufacturing facility at a time when very few brands were measuring the importance of in-house movements was a bold move. “First and foremost, I wanted our watches to be really authentic and have integrity. Second, it was important for us to become independent when it comes to sourcing for movements. And third, we managed to integrate a whole world of craftsmanship which we wouldn’t be able to if there hadn’t been a manufacture. The response—from clients, journalists and partners—proved that we were perfectly right in doing so, and doing it an early stage.”
Chopard is releasing two limited series for this anniversary. One is the L.U.C QF Jubilee, a 25-piece limited edition with delicious Art Deco accents. Doubly certified COSC and Qualité Fleurier, it respects Chopard’s three fundamental values: certified quality, technical performance and aesthetic refinement. The second is the L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 Poinçon de Genève, the first Chopard Manufacture watch with jumping hours. Proposed as a 100-piece limited edition in ethical rose gold with a Grand Feu enamel dial, it is fitted with the L.U.C 98.06-L calibre whose four barrels provide up to eight days of power reserve.
Alongside Chopard Manufacture, Fleurier Ebauches is another equally important cornerstone of Chopard’s watchmaking, as Karl-Friedrich Scheufele confirms when asked about the milestones of the past 25 years: “The first is undoubtedly the release of Calibre 1.96. The second, and this is probably an answer you didn’t expect, is Fleurier Ebauches. We founded this second manufacture for a more industrial production of movements and this took us a big step closer to total independence. Last but not least, the Full Strike. It’s actually hard to single out one watch as we’ve had a number of great watches but if I had to pinpoint one, the Full Strike would be it.” Winner of the Aiguille d’Or at the 2017 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, the L.U.C Full Strike – the first ever minute repeater with sapphire crystal gongs – was produced in honour of Chopard Manufacture’s twentieth anniversary. Some stories are meant to last, now brightened by the smile of Julia Roberts, the face of the new Happy Sport The First collection.