Chopard Interview with Karl-Friedrich Scheufele
In a comprehensive discussion with WorldTempus, Chopard’s co-CEO talks about certifications, in-house movements, motorsport, the outlook for the industry and Baselworld 2018.
Chopard offers models with triple certification. How important is it for you to combine certifications for precision, such as COSC, with those for aesthetic considerations?
Our entire L.U.C collection is COSC certified, apart from one model that doesn’t have a seconds hand. For me, external certifications, whether it is the Qualité Fleurier or the Poinçon de Genève, are a very good way of benchmarking our work in an objective way. It is also a validation from an external organisation of the work done by our teams. I have always been in favour of this rather than an internal certification. This is a personal choice, because some brands do things differently. But in the case of the L.U.C collection, for example, it allowed us to reach a very high level relatively quickly and to have permanent checks on what we are doing. Today this level of precision has almost become normality for our teams.
L.U.C Perpetual Chrono © Chopard
Chopard has for a long time been among the brands who certify the most chronometers each year. But as of this year the COSC no longer offers a break-down of figures by brand so that people cannot extrapolate annual production figures for Rolex, which certifies the majority of its production as chronometers. Is the fact that customers no longer see these figures a loss for Chopard in terms of marketing?
I think only collectors and specialists are interested in the figures published by the COSC, so I don’t really think it’s a problem. Generally speaking it is more important for the brands to explain the certifications that they have chosen so that it is understandable for the customer. For me this is where the challenge lies.
But does the fact that there are so many different certifications make this challenge even harder?
Yes, it is a little confusing. This is why I insist on the fact that we as a brand have to ensure sound communication for the models that offer this added value, starting at the point of sale and going across the board to our website. It’s important that our sales staff in Chopard stores are capable of explaining the differences between these certifications.
What do you think about your partner Porsche Motorsport’s withdrawal from Le Mans? Do you foresee any adaptations to your collection as a result?
Porsche Motorsport is only leaving the LMP1 category but will continue to race in the World Endurance Championship in the GT-PRO category. Already last year Audi withdrew from the LMP1 category and Porsche found itself up against just one competitor, Toyota. The cost of a season in LMP1 is more than that for a season in Formula 1 and the trend is towards new types of engines “that don’t make much noise”. Personally, I don’t like this idea for racing but it is of course a rational decision that Porsche joins Formula E in 2019. Our contract with Porsche continues bearing in mind that they will remain in traditional racing activities as before. For example, we sponsor the Porsche Cup in the UK and this is an opportunity for our customers to experience an approachable racing environment.
Porsche Motorsport at the 24 Hours of Le Mans © Chopard
Are you happy with the share of in-house movements in the collection?
Yes, I’m very happy that from this autumn we will start production of a self-winding movement suitable for ladies’ watches, which will be used in some products that we will present at Baselworld next year. This is a great addition to our collection of in-house movements as we have a lot of ladies’ models in the collection. It also represents an important step which allows us to increase production considerably at Fleurier Ebauches [Editor’s note: Chopard’s in-house movement production facility in Fleurier].
It looks like the slump in the industry has bottomed out and that things are picking up again. What is your outlook for the next year?
There are signals from various markets that things are looking up. It’s a little early to start celebrating but I think if things carry on as they are for a few more months then we can say that the worst is over and that we are moving back to growth. But I hope that it will be a more sustainable growth. Chopard’s development is in line with this general trend and we have seen increasing orders over the past few months compared with last year. We should nevertheless remain vigilant given the general geopolitical situation.
Do you see trouble ahead for a market like the UK with Brexit looming?
We are well represented all around the world, but we have a particularly strong presence in the United Kingdom and the situation is worrying. Due to tourism, we have had some very good months there, and I don’t think we are alone in that, but the question of what will happen in the local market remains. Additionally, will the UK, in particular London, remain a preferred foreign resident location?
Next year we will see Chopard and Ferdinand Berthoud at Baselworld, even though Ferdinand Berthoud will already be at the SIHH. What are your expectations from Baselworld next year given the many changes we will find there?
Baselworld is going through a period of transformation that, in my opinion, has been accelerated by the economic climate over the past 18 months. It is a complex situation but it is also an opportunity for the organisers to reconsider the show’s image and to make sure BaselWorld remains the leading watch & jewellery fair in the world. This was more difficult before when there were over 2,000 exhibitors while the SIHH has only around 20 brands all in the luxury segment, making the two incomparable. I think Baselworld 2018 will be less costly, more coherent, more focused and this will be beneficial to all the stakeholders concerned. The entire infrastructure associated with the show has also been given a wake-up call and I think this is important. I’m therefore looking forward to Baselworld next year because I think we will see a big improvement. Being on the exhibitors’ committee, I have always been very objective and critical and believe that the BaselWorld management has taken the right decisions to make changes happen.
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