Karl-Friedrich Scheufele of Chopard is a Man of Taste

A MAN OF TASTE. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard, talks about producing some of the world’s most elegant timepieces for men

 

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Karl-Friedrich Scheufele

Great companies often arise from a singular vision. Chopard, extraordinarily, has two. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele and his younger sister, Caroline, have presided over the family business for several decades now. He himself is the living epitome of elegance—from the manner in which he carries himself to his obsession with fine wines, classic cars and, of course, exquisite timepieces.
More importantly, the Scheufeles really know how to incorporate their wonderful lifestyle into the business: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele has taken part in the Mille Miglia race since late 1980s, hence the unique creation of the Mille Miglia collection. He also used to run several wine shops in Switzerland, and that is why every Chopard party is always filled with the most impressive vintages. As the talk moved to watches, Scheufele isn’t shy in professing his affinity for sophisticated antiques and perfection in craftsmanship. Then again, he is the heart and soul of the brand’s L.U.C collections, one of the most elegant watch collections for modern men.
Despite unfavorable conditions for the retail market in recent years, Chopard’s manufacture in Fleurier has been able to produce some of the most enterprising pieces under Scheufele’s direction. The L.U.C Full Strike watch featuring a minute repeater, released late last year, marked the manufacture’s 20th anniversary. At Baselworld 2017, Chopard showcased a beautiful exhibition of the L.U.C XP Urushi collection that shines with Japanese lacquer on the dial. Scheufele talks about all that and much more with DAMAN during the festive fair in Switzerland.

Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph - 2 - Black - 168589-3002 178588-3001_1 - DA MAN Caliber 2017

The Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph

DA MAN: This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Mille Miglia’s race. Will Chopard also commemorate this milestone?
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: The Mille Miglia is already internationally known together with Chopard, so we’ll make some local events around the world for this momentous occasion.

DA MAN: Since last year, the high-end L.U.C  collection has incorporated a stainless steel case model. Will this be a permanent fixture?
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: We think that the stainless steel case will be a permanent fixture in the collection because we want to have some affordable models in it. Last year’s stainless steel piece was very successful and catering to young clients who were on the lookout for their first serious watch purchase.

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The front of the Superfast Chrono Porsche Motorsport 919 Black Edition

DA MAN: Will Chopard add more entry-level pieces considering current market conditions?
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: We already have a very nice offering of L.U.C. watches in steel, from the Time Traveler model to the XP to the Perpetual Chrono. For the moment, there’s nothing to add. We’re quite well positioned, not to mention the Mille Miglia and other more affordable ranges we currently have. And what we have experienced so far is that we continue selling the complicated pieces as long as they are rare, exclusive and beautiful. Let’s not forget that Chopard does not produce 200,000 watches a year like some other companies. It’s not right to completely change your philosophy only because of a particular economic trend. We tend to be more consistent, and I believe the offering in stainless steel can already be an answer to the market.

DA MAN: On the other hand, Chopard has pioneered the use of Fairmined gold in watchmaking and jewelry since last year. What’s the big picture?
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: Some clients really appreciate it and even ask for it. Other clients don’t buy a L.U.C watch because it uses Fairmined [gold], but because they like the aesthetics. We’ve been doing it to attract attention to the issue [of fair trade in gold mining] and hope that our suppliers will catch on—and this is actually happening. Right now, organizing the supply for just ourselves is cumbersome and complicated. We have to keep the different types of gold separate, administratively and logistically. But we’ve been doing it because we believe that, in the long run, more clients will ask for it, and the professional suppliers will have to catch on.

“We’re in a unique position of representing a family-owned brand in a world full of conglomerates”

DA MAN: What about other brands? Will Chopard try to influence them to use Fairmined gold?
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: The only one who can influence the brands is the customers themselves. So, what we do is we try to inform the consumers about the possibility of buying sustainable Fairmined gold instead of other types of gold. I think the more people know about it, the more they will be asking from other brands, too. One of our major suppliers is considering the same service but on a bigger scale. If that happens, we will have completed a big part of our journey to sustainable luxury.

DA MAN: Speaking of luxury, the exhibition of the L.U.C XP Urushi at Baselworld is really beautiful. How important is enameling to the Chopard manufacture?
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: Unfortunately, we don’t have an in-house enameling department at the manufacture yet. We are working on that. It really is the only craftsmanship that we don’t have at the moment. Talking about Urushi, it’s important to showcase this craftsmanship properly since we’ve been doing that for a while. Even for myself, when I see the collection, it reminds me of how much hard work poured into the creative production. It’s just amazing craftsmanship.

Superfast Chrono Porsche Motorsport 919 Black Edition - 3. - DA MAN Caliber 2017

Caseback of the Superfast Chrono Porsche Motorsport 919 Black Edition

DA MAN: Will there be a brand ambassador for the L.U.C collection this year?
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: We never believe in having permanent ambassadors for the men’s collection. We have some ambassadors for an event or two at Cannes, but it’s not an idea that we entertain all year round. Our men’s products should sell on their own. I don’t think that men are so much drawn to fashion and symbols like the ladies. If I understand the context, the craftsmanship, the background, the quality, how it’s made, I’d buy the product not because somebody else is wearing it.

DA MAN: How do you expand the brand to reach out to the online generation?
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: We have doubled, if not tripled, our efforts [to expand our] social media reach. We have e-commerce initiatives in the U.S. and now in the U.K. I think that it won’t be long before we spread that to Europe. It doesn’t replace a visit to the stores, mind you. In fact, it’s an addition to that because when you buy luxury goods, you want to touch and feel the products. Going to a boutique will continue to represent the main mode of purchase. The clients expect more of an experience. We have to be more creative. This may involve a manufacture visit, wine tasting—there’s so many things you can think of and each is very much appreciated by the client. There’s not one day in a week that you don’t receive someone from somewhere around the world for a tour around the manufacture in Fleurier.

L.U.C XP Urushi - Year of the rooster - 2 - Black - 161902-5064 - DA MAN Caliber 2017

The L.U.C XP Urushi – Year of the Rooster

DA MAN: Is there the slightest possibility of the brand venturing into digital watches?
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: I really don’t believe in digital watches. I don’t see their value as luxury goods; it’s simply electronics. We cannot compare what we do to a smartwatch; it’s a different business altogether.

“We’ve been doing Fairmined gold to attract attention to the issue [of fair trade in gold mining]”

DA MAN: All in all, where is Chopard in the luxury industry right now?
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: We’re in a unique position of representing a family-owned brand in a world full of conglomerates. We also have a strong offering in both watches and jewelry, and I think this is a pretty good position to be in today. We’re not under pressure to please the shareholders. We can look after our own quality; we don’t need to double sales, etc. We can simply continue our course and try to stand among the best.

DA MAN: How’s the manufacture going? Any hint of the new movement to be introduced soon aside from what’s shown at Baselworld?
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: We are always working on new movements. I can’t tell you what will come in two or three years’ time, because we would like this to remain a surprise. What I can tell you now is that we’re working on a ladies’ automatic movement, which will be introduced next year. It’s not for an L.U.C watch, and it’s going to be a strategic element for us.

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Creation of the L.U.C XP Urushi – Year of the Rooster

008 - The lines of the designs being highlighted with charcoal - DA MAN Caliber 2017

Creation of the L.U.C XP Urushi – Year of the Rooster

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Creation of the L.U.C XP Urushi – Year of the Rooster

L.U.C XP Urushi - Year of the rooster - 3 - Black - 161902-5064 - DA MAN Caliber 2017

Case-back of the L.U.C XP Urushi – Year of the Rooster