Thirty years ago, a seventeen-year-old Karl-Friedrich Scheufele made his first trip to Dubai. The city had just one hotel and a fish market, and no-one thought twice about inviting the guests of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the region’s foremost retailer and organiser of Dubai Watch Week, into the desert to talk business and sleep under the stars. The kind of experience from which lasting friendships grow. Decades later, the Seddiqi family remain the preferred partner in the Middle East of the Scheufeles, who own Chopard. In November, the Geneva watchmaker paid homage to their collaboration by coming to Dubai with the first two Ferdinand Berthoud FB1 Chronometers to emerge from the workshop in Fleurier.
Prior to this, the self-same timepiece, the first offering from a brand that is named after one of the eighteenth century’s most illustrious watchmakers, a man whose marine chronometers proved essential to navigators at high sea, carried off the Aiguille d’Or, the highest award given by the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. “This distinction crowns a fabulous project that we began five years ago,” comments Chopard Co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, in Dubai. “It confirms our vision and proves we have achieved our goal to produce, under the Ferdinand Berthoud name, contemporary watches that are nonetheless true to Berthoud’s pioneering mindset, and to do so independently of Chopard.”
So is Ferdinand Berthoud the antidote to current woes? “A project of this scope can’t produce a return on investment before three to five years. We are fortunate to have the support of the Chopard group, for finance but also for logistics. As a family-owned group, we are more flexible and able to react faster than large groups, which in the present crisis is a point in our favour. In addition, we are an established name in the jewellery sector which helps offset the dip in sales currently observed in watchmaking. Not that we waited until the last minute to react, for example with L.U.C watches in steel, including our perpetual calendar, which are proving highly successful. However, this changes nothing of the fact that watchmakers are facing an accumulation of difficulties on a scale rarely seen before, particularly in the markets. Adding to this, in recent years Swiss watchmaking has let itself get carried away by pushing up prices, at the risk of losing its focus along the way. Hence why the current soul-searching is both healthy and necessary. We need to return to a reasonable rate of growth and remember that at the end of the day, the customer is always right.”
World-first for the L.U.C Full Strike
This year, which marks the 20th anniversary of the L.U.C Manufacture, has plenty to satisfy those who dream of exclusivity in their watches, and who were promised a timepiece worthy of the occasion. They have been rewarded with the L.U.C Full Strike, unveiled mid-November. An exploit that arrives just in time, and one that was well worth waiting for after the six years it took to develop. Only 20, of course, will be made. This is the Manufacture’s first minute repeater, replete with technical innovation and cased in Fairmined rose gold. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele wore one in Dubai where, before elaborating on its development, preferred to let the watch “speak for itself” with a demonstration of its chimes. These acoustic asides usually end with polite congratulations intended to hide the anticlimax of gongs that struggle to make themselves heard above the surrounding brouhaha, not to mention the mechanical humming that renders the strikes even harder to distinguish. Not so the L.U.C Full Strike, which marks time with an uncommonly powerful sound and perfect clarity.
As Chopard’s Co-President explained, this exceptional sound signature arises from Chopard’s desire to develop an innovative solution for this minute repeater, which sounds the hours, quarters and minutes. Hence the gongs are made not from metal but from sapphire crystal, and machined from a single block to form an integral part of the sapphire crystal. This patented world-first is joined by ingenious technical solutions to ensure the mechanism cannot be mishandled by its user, a common drawback of this particular complication. Two barrels deliver a 60-hour power reserve and sufficient energy to strike the longest chiming sequence twelve times. The 08.01-L movement is both COSC-certified and hallmarked Poinçon de Genève. It took 17,000 hours to develop and made one of its first appearances in Dubai. A tradition Karl-Friedrich Scheufele is pleased to uphold.