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Chopard, the gentleman watchmaker
Point of View

Chopard, the gentleman watchmaker

Friday, 16 May 2014
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

“The desire to learn is the key to understanding.”

“Thirty years in journalism are a powerful stimulant for curiosity”.

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4 min read

L.U.C, Mille Miglia, Happy Diamonds, Imperiale… aficionados are familiar with Chopard’s Fine Watch collections, but what about the philosophy behind them? An interview with Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Co-President of Chopard.

Everything Chopard does, it does with a style and flair that command admiration. While the brand may not be at the forefront of innovation and next-generation technologies, it nonetheless has a voice in every domain: industrialised production, high frequencies, grandes complications, sustainable development, métiers d’art. With the Cannes Film Festival in full swing, all eyes are on the brand, official partner to the event since 1998. Co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele offers insight into what the year has in store.

What prompted Chopard's acquisition of the Ferdinand Berthoud name?

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: I first learned of Ferdinand Berthoud, an eighteenth-century watchmaker, when I was researching historical timepieces for Chopard’s museum, the Luceum, in Fleurier. I was able to purchase certain pieces by him as well as literature pertaining to his work. From that point on, I became fascinated by the man and his achievements. Around six years ago, an investor expressed an interest in launching a brand that would bear his name, but as the idea never went any further, I acquired the rights to the Ferdinand Berthoud name. There can be no doubt that Berthoud deserves our closest attention and we will present watches worthy of his name. They will be made by our Manufacture in Fleurier, but will definitely not be adaptations of the Chopard L.U.C.

When I learned that after sixteen years away from the circuit, Porsche was planning its return to the World Endurance Championship, my heart skipped a beat.
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele
You now have a partnership with Porsche. Given that Porsche Design no longer works under licence with Eterna, can we expect to see Porsche by Chopard watches any time soon?

Definitely not. Our partnership is with Porsche Motorsport, which is a completely separate entity to Porsche Design. I’ve actually been a Porsche fan for many years, in fact I even own a vintage Porsche tractor, which really says it all! When I learned that after sixteen years away from the circuit, Porsche was planning its return to the World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans, my heart skipped a beat. Hence this new partnership. Motor racing means a lot to me, as evidenced by Chopard’s association with the Mille Miglia and the Monaco Historic Grand Prix. It all went so quickly with Porsche Motorsport that we haven’t really had a chance to present the results of this new partnership. So watch this space!

Coming back to Chopard, what's the situation at Fleurier Ebauches, the Group's latest unit that will supply the brand with base movements?

We’re forging ahead. We expect to produce 10,000 movements this year, which is a lot but at the same time not enough. Having said that, we are on-target, although problems of industrialisation for these base movements are just as complex to resolve as the difficulties that may arise when manufacturing our L.U.C movements in the Haute Horlogerie segment. There can be no doubting that Swatch Group’s decision to phase out deliveries of parts and movements has forced the profession to reorganise. We were fortunate in that this was already our direction.

How self-sufficient are you?

We produce around 80,000 watches a year, more than half of which are equipped with mechanical movements. Of this half, between a fifth and a quarter are fitted with Chopard calibres. This now includes women’s timepieces such as the Happy Sport Automatic that we presented in 2013, and which this year lends itself to a gold and steel version. Our female customers are more and more interested in mechanical timepieces.

This year you're introducing a L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined as a limited edition of 25. Can you tell us more about it?

QF stands for Qualité Fleurier. This quality certification is extremely important in our eyes. Of all the brands that use it, Chopard has had the most watches certified. So far, a thousand Chopard watches have obtained Qualité Fleurier approval. Its standards are probably among the most stringent in the profession, and for this reason we intend not only promoting it more, but also increasing the number of Chopard watches that pass its tests. The final control by the Fleuritest machine, which provides the most authentic possible simulation of the watch being worn, has been invaluable when developing our new products in terms of reliability.

L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined
And what does "fairmined" mean?

As a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council, we are already committed to sustainable development in gold mining. We asked ourselves if we couldn’t go further in ensuring the traceability of this precious metal. After all, we use several thousand kilos of gold each year. We found out that we could directly support mines that work with NGOs to promote sustainable practices. Fairmined gold is part of this philosophy. For the moment these are just symbolic amounts compared with our total needs. Fairmined gold also costs slightly more because of the programmes that have to be put in place. But this is very much a step in the right direction and the type of initiative that Chopard is prepared to support.

Your thoughts on 2014?

Definitely a good year, like last year, with business slightly up.

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