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Fashionism
Apr / May 2011
Old Legacy, New Leaders

WRITER: Sara White Wilson

Chopard is a Swiss based luxury watch, jewellery, and accessories company founded in 1860 by Louis-Ulysse Chopard. Having been sold to Karl Scheufele in 1963, the company is now run by his children Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele and Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. Bespoke meets them both.

 

“We are a hard working family,” Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele states, on behalf of the Chopard legacy that her immediate kin both upkeep and advance. Alongside her brother Karl-Friedrich Scheufele as Chopard co-presidents since 1998, these siblings advance the jewellery and watchmaking segments in tandem. Their father Karl Scheufele, who remains active in the company as President, appropriated the Swiss-based company from Paul-Andre Chopard in 1963, roughly one hundred years after its founding. 

The circumstance under which the young Scheufele had the opportunity to buy Chopard is the inverse of what presently drives his son and daughter. As the last master watchmaker in the family line, Paul-Andre Chopard’s children were uninterested and unwilling to assume leadership of the family business. Today, for Karl Scheufele, nothing could be farther from the truth. 

The crux, Gruosi-Scheufele says, is passion. “Both my parents taught us various values, as well as ambitions and wisdom. In their opinion, the most important virtue is definitely to have passion for our profession; once one is passionate in what they do then they simply excel in it, leading to innovation.” As simple it all may sound, this universal truth – if diligently followed - is all-powerful.

Even the silliest passions can lead to novel innovations. “I have a passion for clowns,” Gruosi-Scheufele continues, “I have always loved them from a very young age, so when I was 16, I made a few sketches of a clown with hinged legs and a tummy full of diamonds and coloured stones. As a surprise, my father decided to have a few clowns made. It then became a big commercial success, as it was playful and amusing.”

Passion, play and innovation are deeply intertwined and are essentially creative enterprises. As Karl-Friedrich Scheufele recalls, “At a young age we always participated in the business ‘over lunch and dinner’ with our parents and even met customers at these occasions. One day, Caroline and I decided to repaint a miniature ‘carriage’ [toy car], to the greatest happiness of our parents, having VIP clients for dinner right at that time! Both of us were covered with paint all over…”

Figuratively, one could say, these siblings are still covered in paint, navigating their leadership roles with the same creative yet conscientious spirit. Never forced to enter the family business, they came to their positions via their own paths, and today respectively advance the jewellery and watch segments hand-in-hand, as the core of Chopard’s offerings. “You have a better stance on two legs,” quips Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. 

Friedrich Scheufele had established a strong base. Today, Chopard is a major player within the fields of Haute Horlogerie and Haute Joallerie in Switzerland with in-house manufacturing, integrated production across three facilities in Geneva, Fleurier (Switzerland), and Pforzheim (Germany) and possesses one of the most dynamic international distribution and marketing networks.

In addition to innovation, one of the finer by-products of passion is happiness and a sense of freedom. Fittingly named, then, is one of Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele’s major projects as creative director of Chopard jewellery and ladies’ timepieces: the Happy Diamonds Collection, first launched in 1985. Its innovative design entailed diamonds floating freely between two sapphire crystal surfaces; since, it has evolved into further collections such as Happy Sport Collection (including Chopard’s best-selling ladies’ watch) and Happy Spirit Collection.

In 1990, the Casmir Collection heralded Chopard’s entry into the stratospheres of Haute Joallerie, offering “a breath of fresh air and freedom in our designs”, explains Gruosi-Scheufele, in light of the very classical Swiss High Jewellery tradition. The High Jewellery Animal World Collection, launched to celebrate Chopard’s 150th anniversary in 2010, consists of some of its most iconic pieces to date, for example, the exquisite tiger necklace with a spectacular show of emerald. 

On the gentlemanly side of things, Chopard chronographs are deeply respected in this rarified milieu. In 1996, after years of planning and development, Chopard produced its first in-house movement of the late 20th century, the calibre 1.96, to mark their re-entry into manufacture status and return to their essential roots.

In 2000, Chopard produced the L.U.C. Quattro watch and, a year later the L.U.C. Tonneau, with further developments going to this date. “Since we created Chopard Manufacture in 1996, we acquired the legitimacy in the field of Haute Horlogerie,” states Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. “All our L.U.C watches are developed, produced and assembled in-house.”

What every watch enthusiast would really want to know, of course, is what does Karl-Friedrich Scheufele wear on his own wrist? The next watch in the course of development, ever in the spirit of passion and innovation, “to test them and to determine the precision and functionality of the watch. So I keep on changing,” he says. Or, naturally the latest, “Right now I am wearing the L.U.C Engine One, which we launched in 2010 to celebrate Chopard’s 150th anniversary collection.”

After over 150 years, it is natural that history and posterity are abiding priorities. “The greatest contribution is on a global span, the importance of sharing and safekeeping certain skills is extremely important for craftsmanship continuity and positive growth of generations to come, to preserve our traditions and history for now and to take them into the future,” states Karl-Friedrich Scheufele.

Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele expands, referring to her father: “He emphasises the continuity of human activity and maintaining an inspiration to continue to innovate over generations…We also believe in transmitting traditions: we have an educational program for apprentices that lasts four years, and often these students stay on with us to pursue their acquired profession within the company.” And the results are in. As Karl-Friedrich Scheufele notes, “By the way, every year several employees celebrate their 25 years jubilee at Chopard.”

When a company is unified and investing, like one does with family, such internal health comes forth in a genuine sense of dynamism and engagement. Chopard’s fleet of activities is impressive, including several long-standing partnerships. With Cannes International Film Festival, running since 1998, Chopard has redesigned the Palme d’Or, created the Chopard Trophy, as well as designed 60 High Jewellery pieces for its 60th anniversary in 2007, and generally contributed to the event’s red-carpet wattage and sparkling brilliance. Also in 1998, Chopard established an association with Mille Miglia, an annual Italian vintage and classic rally, developing a new special edition Mille Miglia timepiece every year.  

“Sharing is also an important virtue, as well, that my family is attached to,” furthers Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele. Chopard’s charity involvement is difficult to exhaust, across medicine, art, the Jose Carreras Leukaemia Foundation, the Elton John Aids Foundation and, in 2010, starting a partnership to support WWF, among others. 

In 2010 and 2011, the Imperiale Dinners celebrate its range of Imperiale ladies’ watches, by staging spectacular invitation-only gastronomic events worldwide - seven cities with seven stellar chefs –to share exceptional moments and to highlight the subtle association between timing and the art of cooking. 

Such is their global perspective. “In 2010, Asia has been an important direction for us,” says Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele, with her brother adding, “Our generation needs to extend our worldwide presence even further and continue investing; we are firmly convinced that we want to stay independent.”

In the face of globalisation, companies based on a legacy of craftsmanship tend to turn to holding companies, such as LVMH and PPR in the luxury sector, as a means of survival, which for many is what is needed for the transmission of artisan skill. Chopard, however, has kept it in the family and kept it thriving, simply through a legacy of core values based on passion and excellence.

“Ever since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to work within the family business. I always imagined and drew jewellery, for example, once I made a watch out of paper and offered it to my father as a gift.” And today, Caroline and Karl-Freidrich have grown to give to their father a more significant gift indeed, that of taking forth a well-crafted legacy.

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