For Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, haute horlogerie is in his blood. More than fifty years after his father Karl Scheufele – himself the descendant of watchmakers from Pforzheim – purchased Chopard, the family tradition at the Swiss manufacture is stronger than ever.
Today, Chopard is managed by two co-presidents; Karl-Friedrich, who is responsible for the men’s collections and the Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier, and his sister Caroline, who is responsible for the ladies’ collections and high jewelry. Together they steer this iconic brand, which remains one of just a handful of independent manufactures, into the future.
Though he is practically steeped in the traditions of the Swiss watchmaking industry, Karl-Friedrich has brought passion and a collector’s eye to Chopard. To wit, the manufacture’s new facility, which is located not in Switzerland as tradition might dictate, but rather in Miami, Florida. Far from willful rebellion, the decision is purely strategic, giving Chopard a local base for its ever-growing clientele in the Americas.
On the occasion of the opening of the new state-of-the-art service center in Miami, Haute Time spoke with Karl-Friedrich about the future of the L.U.C, his vintage car collection and what life is like for a scion of the watchmaking industry.
Haute Time: First of all, congratulations on your new service center. Tell us a little about why you chose Miami over, say, New York.
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: First of all, we’ve been here for over ten years, servicing South America, the Caribbean and Latin America. We also have a boutique in Bal Harbour. There is a good expertise in watchmaking here, actually. So while we already had a service facility here in the US – in New York – we couldn’t expand the facility because of space requirements. Here in Miami we had the possibility to actually buy the premises, which allowed us to do what we wanted to do – to group together the service activities for North and South America. So that’s the reason why we chose Miami over New York.
HT: When you think of Chopard you think of the Happy Sport and other ladies’ watches, but the L.U.C collection is really stepping up the men’s collection. Tell us how important the L.U.C Collection is to the brand.
KFS: L.U.C really allowed us to do two things. First, to re-launch the production of movements in-house. Now this is branching out into producing movements for other collections, whether it’s the Mille Miglia Collection or the Imperiale Ladies’ Collection, and one of these days, the Happy Sport Collection. We acquired all the know-how by re-launching the movement making in-house by working on the L.U.C. It was the re-entry of Chopard into the world of serious watchmaking. And now it’s been almost fifteen years that we are working on the L.U.C, and it has really repositioned us.
We set ourselves some serious goals – we wanted to offer, in each category, one of the most innovative pieces. As we went along, the public, the collectors, the people who are interested in watchmaking were really appreciative of the collection. It became an interesting interaction, and we are now truly appreciated by collectors all over the world. Which was my goal in the beginning.
HT: You yourself are a collector – you collect wine, antiques, and watches.
KFS: I am a collector, but mainly for the Chopard museum. We specialize in pocket watches. The important thing is to recognize that whatever you do, it’s not just a product for the moment. When you’re a collector you realize what stands the test of time and what doesn’t. Things that last versus things that are more easily forgotten, let’s say. So when you set out designing watches, this is something you always have to have in mind. That’s the fascinating thing about designing watches – not only do you want to be up to speed in terms of design today, but you want this to be interesting to look at tomorrow.
Personally, the only watch I own outside of Chopard is A. Lange & Söhne. I have a personal relationship to it – it is the first Lange watch – because of our history. A while back, we won the best Swiss watch, and when I was on stage receiving the watch of the year for the L.U.C, there was Lange receiving the prize for the best non-Swiss. So we both made a deal to buy each other’s watches. We did, and I still am a collector.
HT: What is a typical day for you in Switzerland as Co-President of Chopard?
KFS: No day is really alike, first of all. Most of the time, obviously you have some activities set, not only for tomorrow, but also for the next week, and for the months to come. But you always find out that there are surprises along the way. This being said, I usually wake up around 7am – I’m not a very early riser. On the contrary, I can spend all night reading books about watchmaking and other collecting. If it’s a good day, I may take one of my old cars in to work and have some fun driving up.
But then working-wise, I can be spending an hour with the research and development team, talking about a new movement, and the next hour I may spend talking distribution with our teams or subsidiaries. Then I might have a visitor from China, or a watch collector from Japan. Then I sit down with our CFO and talk about a recent problem in a subsidiary or one of our boutiques. Then there are all the emails. There are also family meetings, where we discuss something like whether we’re going to open a new boutique in the Dorchester Hotel in London, and a lot of other discussions.
You’re sitting in Geneva, you’re doing things very locally – my wife always says, you always look happy when you’re working on movements or creating watches. But at the same time you’re in contact with the whole world, whether it’s a subsidiary in Shanghai or Hong Kong or Moscow. They all have their questions, and they all want their answers. This is what’s going on, on a daily basis, and when I travel.
Whenever I can, I try to spend time with my family. Now, my kids are getting older, so they seem to have their programs. Many times we have customers coming in, or dinners with journalists. Maybe one or two nights a week we’re at home, and we spend time with the kids.
HT: One of Chopard’s most important relationships is with the Mille Miglia. Most watch brands, when they’re entering the auto world, they team up with new brands, but Chopard went for classic cars. How come?
KFS: In the beginning, it really started off with my personal passion for classic cars. I’ve always enjoyed classic cars more than modern cars, because I find the modern cars a bit boring. Most of them are too fast to be driven on the road today anyways, because you get caught speeding. I was just without my license for one month. My wife had to drive me!
I always liked the spirit of classic cars. It’s been 25 years now since we connected with the Mille Miglia organization. I saw the opportunity of being recognized as the one brand that is really connected with classic car racing. The fact is, you have all the car brands represented – those who are still active today and also those who don’t exist anymore. It gives a sporty, but also very elegant, chic image to our brand. There’s also an exchange of ideas and design that we’ve had through the years thanks to our connection to these beautiful cars. For example, the story of the Dunlop tire thread on our Mille Miglia watch. The Dunlop tire was from the 60s. I was lying in the grass next to this classic Porsche Spyder – the James Dean car. I was looking at this tire, and I said, ‘Why don’t we make a rubber bracelet with a tire tread?’ So we contacted Dunlop and they agreed, so we were able to do that. And that’s one of the features on the Mille Miglia watch today, that tire tread.
HT: What watch are you wearing?
KFS: I’m wearing a Chopard L.U.C Tourbillon SL. This is a lightweight tourbillon – the tourbillon itself is made of aluminum. The watch case is titanium. I like the combination and the lightweight feel of the watch.
HT: What’s your favorite watch in your collection?
KFS: There’s always a favorite watch that is the next one coming up. But if I had to pick one of my favorites, it would have to be the first L.U.C. But it’s like asking someone who has three children, who is your favorite child!
Photo credit: Nick Garcia/Blindlight Studio for Haute Time.