Chopard Co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele reveals how the Maison keeps leading the race in exceptional craftsmanship.
How would you describe chopard’s market performance recently?
There are signals from various markets that things are still looking up this year. It is a little early to start celebrating but I think if this trend persists for a few more months, we will then be able to say that we are on a positive track. In general, our watch and jewellery part increased at a healthy rate in the first semester of 2018. Regarding the Middle East, which is a well- established market for Chopard, we are amongst the top selling brands in the region with a more stable growth than other emerging markets.
Is there a specific profile associated with chopard’s customers? How would you define your clientele?
All Chopard clients appreciate our quality, fine craftsmanship, exclusivity (Chopard’s yearly production of timepieces is limited) and of course contemporary yet classic designs. They are knowledgeable and discerning, not just followers of mainstream brands. This stands true for all collections within the Chopard range, whether you look at our sports or dress watches. Different collections target specific customer age profiles, for example “Happy Sport” which focuses on the younger, trendy ladies or “L.U.C” for the modern gentleman.
The l.u.c full strike featured several firsts, particularly with its use of sapphire as an amplifier. How long did it take to develop such an exceptional watch? Can you take us through the process and the type of challenges you faced before it became a reality?
The L.U.C Full Strike was launched as a crowning point of the celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of the Chopard Manufacture. For more than six years, we have been working on this model, which is the most sophisticated chiming watch to date. Obviously, the challenges involved the materials that should be used to improve the sound quality and volume. We had to put the sapphire gong through one and a half million knocks by steel hammer to ensure that it did not give way. Even more difficult is working with such a hard material. Machining a tiny set of its parts, without breaking the connection between the gongs and the watch glass, called for tools that are powerful and precise. Machining the gongs/glass set alone took more than three years of development, representing a technical and human feat. Besides, it was of course costly. 17,000 hours of development, plus all the experimental parts we had to make, plus our collaboration with a university in Lyon, France. But after all, it is worth it. It was a success and the entire series of 20 is already sold out.
“As one of the last family owned and run businesses in the Fine Watchmaking and High Jewelery field, we can pursue long-term visions without having to please investors"
In your opinion, what has been the most exceptional product from chopard so far?
As mentioned before, the L.U.C Full Strike which won the 2017 “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. I knew that we had created a truly unique model, but I did not anticipate such a great honor. We are very proud of this achievement. Chopard has made numerous partnerships throughout its history.
Which of these partnerships would you say has come to be synonymous with chopard?
And are there any events or high-profile names we should expect to see wearing chopard soon? We strongly believe in partnership as the way to amplify positive change we can make in the world. Therefore, we build alliances with whom we share common values and those whose competencies complement our own efforts. Chopard notably share common values with classic racing and this year marked our 30-year partnership anniversary with the Mille Miglia, the most important and prestigious historical regularity race. Our love for cinema is also expressed in the Cannes Film Festival. As official partner of the Cannes Film Festival, not only do we craft the Palme d’Or which, since 2014 is made of Fairmined gold, but we also create the Chopard Trophy in order to reward young acting talents each year. Recently, we believe that we have reached one of our greatest achievements with our in-house program The Journey to Sustainable Luxury, which started in 2013 to achieve sustainable luxury in partnership with the company Eco-Age managed by Livia Firth and the influential South American mining NGO Alliance for Responsible Mining “ARM”. We are proud to announce that as of July 2018, all of Chopard creations of watches and jewelry are made of 100% ethical gold. To answer your second part of the question, we always have celebrities and high-profile names wearing our pieces on the global scene. So just keep an eye on upcoming appearances!
With many global competitors offering luxury, what qualities does chopard focus on to stand out from the competition?
Chopard is acknowledged to be amongst the best Fine Watchmaking and High Jewelery Maison with a very deep vertical integration in production as well as in distribution. Our strength is our independence. As one of the last family owned and run businesses in the Fine Watchmaking and High Jewelery field, we can pursue long-term visions without having to please investors who are looking for short-term profit. While we put a lot of emphasis on innovation and creativity, we strongly believe that tradition, respect of heritage, and exceptional artisanship are also key to our success.
In this age of online connectivity, where does a traditionally brick- and-mortar brand like chopard stand? Are there plans to be more involved online in terms of sales, publicity, etc. Or does that conflict with chopard’s image of exclusivity?
Online retailing still represents a relatively small percentage of the Chopard Group’s business and there is definitely potential for growth in some parts of the world. So far, we operate two Chopard e-boutiques, one in the USA and one in Great Britain, and we are evaluating further opportunities. A selection of creations are also available on the high-end exclusive websites JD.com, NET-A-PORTER and Farfetch. We value online communication as an essential tool. As a leading luxury brand, Chopard needs to have a strong presence there in particular to reach millennials. However, the experience of going to a store, touching and feeling a product, especially watches and jewellery, cannot be reproduced online. Therefore, we do not believe that internet retailing will entirely change our business, but rather complement the brick-and-mortar sales. This being said, today, many clients or potential customers use the internet to inform themselves before visiting a store. For the moment, we have our global website and we are also focusing more on online advertising.
Do you remember your first ever watch? Is there a story behind it?
It was a Heuer Autavia chronograph that was offered to me by my father when I was 15. It had special functions for sailing.
Are there markets or demographics that chopard is hoping to focus on in the near future?
We always keep focused on traditional market places but we also aim to expand our presence in the new emerging markets.