Chopard An interview with Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, CEO
Discreet, affable Karl-Friedrich Scheufele is the watchmaking soul of Chopard. He refers freely to subjects that are shaping the future of the family-owned Manufacture: its development, diversification, certifications and the Swiss Made label.
On this misty November morning, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele arrives on foot from his house. The man likes arranging to meet in this little hotel between Geneva and Fleurier. Simple geographical chance? Far from it: Chopard has a foot in both. In Fleurier, the Manufacture designs and produces its Manufacture timepieces, the famous L.U.C watches, as well as those that it assembles on its site at Fleurier Ebauches. In Geneva, Chopard assembles the models that will receive the precious Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark. Today, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele takes stock of the Manufacture that he has been heading for nearly 30 years. One by one, he talks freely about his ranges, trends and watchmaking ecology.
Constant but increasingly independent production
“We have two sites, with two very different, albeit complementary approaches. This year, Chopard will produce around 80,000 watches, with about half of them driven by mechanical movements. That’s a good balance, but it does not hold by segment, with a client base that is 65% feminine. Nevertheless, I can sense a slight shift: I think that we will soon reach a 60/40 ratio. As regards our L.U.C watches, we produce around 4,000 a year and I don’t want to increase that. And in terms of models bearing the Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark, their number does not exceed 800 a year.”
Sights set on 2016
“In 2016, we will launch a major, complicated piece, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the L.U.C collection. Between now and then, in 2015, we will introduce a new Mille Miglia, notably a model with an in-house movement. As regards materials, we are keeping titanium and ceramic for high frequency. It doesn’t seem relevant to me anywhere else. The question of the pocket watch remains… we made one in 2010 and again in 2014 but I don’t see this as a long-term trend.”
“We are currently dealing with three certifications: the Fleurier Quality Foundation certification, which incorporates submission to the COSC, as well as the Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark. In ten years, we have earned Fleurier Quality Foundation certification for 1,000 watches. That makes us the biggest contributor to this label. We have learnt a lot; it is very stringent, much more so than the others, with real wearer tests. Models with all three certifications are rare and we have so far only produced 100 such watches, two years ago.”
Fairmined, a longterm project
“Equitable gold is a difficult process, which requires a design and production circuit that is completely separate from the other models. For the time being, not many of us have adopted the Fairmined label. However, I have heard that the initiative is gaining ground. What needs to happen is real pressure from industrialists in order to make things happen, which will in turn force mines to get involved. Some clients are sensitive to this principle and ready to order even at additional cost, which we estimate at between +10 and +15%. As far as we are concerned, we are conducting research with a view to working on a broader scale towards respect for this certification.”
The Swiss Made, a complex balance
“Personally, I wanted to increase its level to 70% (currently 60% today, Editor’s note). Yes, it is an initiative that I upheld, even travelling to Bern personally to lobby. Nevertheless, I understand the problem for certain industrialists. I have an acquaintance in railroad construction who would have to shut up shop if he was forced to apply this rate. It’s complicated.”
Maison Chopard epitomises the alliance between watchmaking and jewellery. It has always known how to meet the expectations of its day, relying on four essential values: expertise, tradition, innovation and commitment to philanthropy, whilst working hard to pass on knowhow and skills to future generations.Find out more
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