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CHOPARD

Chopard is a Switzerland based watchmaking & Jewellery brand founded by Louis-Ulysse Chopard in 1860.

The company has been owned by the Scheufele family of Germany since 1963. In 2020 Chopard celebrated its its 160’th anniversary and the firm is still pervaded by the spirit instilled in it by its founder and nurtured by a blend of fine hand craftsmanship and daring technical developments.

From the founding family to that of Karl Scheufele which took it over in 1963, Chopard continues to be governed by its enduring principles, including a taste for excellence, the pursuit of quality, creativity, innovation, independence, and fundamental human respect.

After modest beginnings, Chopard established itself in the 19th century as a benchmark in the field of precision watches. However, it subsequently experienced a decline that lasted until 1963 when it was bought up by Karl Scheufele.

Along with his wife Karin and his two children, Karl-Friedrich and Caroline, he has shaped the firm’s meteoric and constant growth: from the first Happy Diamonds model to the latest Haute Joaillerie watches stemming from the fertile imagination of Caroline; and right through to the ultra-sophisticated L.U.C watches resulting from the unswerving determination of Karl-Friedrich, the whole world knows and wears Chopard.

Over the past few decades, Chopard has explored global horizons while remaining true to its two core fields of competence: watchmaking and jewellery.

The three Chopard production sites in Meyrin, Pforzheim and Fleurier are dynamic and vibrant hubs where skills are handed down and expertise is cultivated. They provide a setting in which various personalities can express a shared vision and values.

Under the impetus of Karl Scheufele, Chopard’s design and distribution strategy was established in the 1970s and subsequently amplified by his children, Karl-Friedrich and Caroline. Karin and Karl Scheufele continue to chair the group, while Karl-Friedrich and Caroline have been appointed co-presidents.

Karl-Friedrich, a trained goldsmith and watchmaker, is responsible for the men’s watch division, Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier and its related developments, as well as handling the technological and commercial aspects of the company. Caroline, who is fascinated by precious stones and a trained gemmologist, is in charge of design, Haute Joaillerie, boutique organisation and management, along with fragrances and accessories.

History of Chopard

Chopard & Scheufele (1860-1919)

Their respective births in Sonvilier and Pforzheim determined the destiny of Louis-Ulysse Chopard and Karl Scheufele. Fate would one day lead them to cross paths, but for the time being the Chopard family settled in Sonvilier at the heart of the Swiss Jura, while the Scheufeles lived in Pforzheim in the Black Forest region of Germany.

The father of Louis-Ulysse Chopard, Félicien, was an experienced farmer and a man of tradition who encouraged his sons to learn the watchmaking trade. The younger of the two, born on May 4th 1836, showed a particular gift for watchmaking. The ambitious Louis-Ulysse quickly grasped the fact that it was the “comptoirs” or watch dealers that earned the greatest profit from the work of the farmers who assembled movement blanks during the winter season: each spring, the agents picked them up, cased them up and then marketed the finished watches. It was therefore better to work independently, and in 1860, at the age of just 24, he accordingly set up his own L.U.C watch manufactory in Sonvilier.

In order to stand out from its numerous competitors, Chopard specialised in making innovative precision watches featuring sophisticated decoration. The company canvassed customers in Eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia to show its finest creations, and the Tsar of Russia soon became a loyal client.

In 1913, Louis-Ulysse placed its first ad for the “Fabrique de montres L.U.C L.-U. Chopard, maison fondée en 1860”. His son Paul-Louis took over the firm shortly afterwards.

At the heart of the Black Forest in Germany, the jewellery industry flourished in the small town of Pforzheim. August 6th 1877 saw the birth of a boy christened Karl Gotthilf, son of Johannes and Sophie Scheufele, in Pforzheim. His parents instilled in him several fundamental values such as boldness, perseverance, an entrepreneurial spirit, as well as a love of fine craftsmanship and of nature. However, his life was turned upside down by the death of his parents and he was placed in an orphanage in Pforzheim, where he learned watchmaking.

Having started out as a sales representative, he launched out on his own in 1904. The contacts he established in the Far East and in Russia lent his company an international dimension. ESZEHA (spelling out the first three letters of his family name as pronounced in German), the manufacturing company run by Karl Scheufele I, made pendants, medals, bracelets, as well as brooches in gold, diamonds and pearls adorned with floral motifs inspired by Art Nouveau.

In 1911, rather than delivering cases and bracelets to Swiss firms, Karl Scheufele I began assembling watches and marketing articles in platinum and gold watches.

In 1912, he scored a great commercial success with a clip serving to attach a pocket-watch to the wrist or to wear it as a necklace. An innovative system at the centre of the bracelet served to house and secure the watch firmly between two ‘paws’. Women were quick to adopt this new way of wearing jewellery.

The Art Deco Craze (1919-1938)

Following the founder’s death on January 30th 1915 in Sonvilier, his son Paul-Louis and his grand-son Paul-André took over the family business. Chopard’s pocket chronometers were extremely popular with elegant men, and its gem-set ladies’ wristwatches were both practical and attractive. Chopard produced extremely accurate timepieces with a high degree of technical sophistication. In 1937, having realised that Sonvilier was virtually unknown on the world map, Chopard relocated to Geneva, a renowned international watchmaking centre.

After World War I had bled Europe dry, Karl Scheufele I anticipated the shift in demand by eliminating jewellery models from his product catalogue and replacing them with watches. He presented his collections in Germany, Austria, Eastern Europe and as far afield as China.

The Art Deco movement revolutionised the decorative arts during the 1920s. Chopard and the Scheufeles made full use of this new trend. The Art Deco influence is particularly visible in Eszeha “wallet watches”, meaning watches incorporated into dedicated cases. The latter, made from Chinese-lacquered or enamelled silver and gold adorned with precious stones and geometrical motifs, concealed tiny travel clocks that were genuine pieces of jewellery.

Karl Scheufele I was considering buying up a watch factory in Switzerland, but the Third Reich made such a move impossible. On August 5th 1941, while out on a walk in the Black Forest with his grandsons Johan and Rüthchen, he died after a heart attack on the eve of his 64th birthday. That same day, his son was wounded on the Russian front. Upon his return in 1942, Karl Scheufele II succeeded his father at the head of the company.

Modern times (1945-1963)

The 1950s saw the birth of highly sought-after Eszeha models featuring original shapes: dials that were hidden or set into small crowns, undulating lugs, bracelets embellished by tiny bows, or broader versions with articulated links.

Weakened by his exertions, Karl Scheufele II entrusted the factory and its 35 employees to the care of his 20 year-old son, Karl III, also a goldsmith and a watchmaker. He passed away in Heidelberg on April 8th 1966.Having inherited his grandfather’s creative bent, Karl Scheufele III began designing impeccably crafted dainty jewellery models and watches. He was keen to make his own movements, and realised the only solution would be to buy up a Swiss manufacturer.

An unexpected event hastened the onset of this new challenge. In 1962, Karl Scheufele III learned that the Geneva-based company with which he had been dealing for years also delivered movement blanks to one of his fiercest competitors. He immediately revoked the contract with this supplier and had an advert published in a number of newspapers, openly stating his intention to purchase a Swiss manufacturing company.

After a period of commercial prosperity, Chopard was clearly on the decline: Paul-André, representing the third generation and undoubtedly an extremely talented watchmaker, was no businessman. This 70 year-old owner was looking to sell the firm and agreed to meet Karl Scheufele III, with whom he shared the same determined attitude, the same practical good sense and innate creativity, as well as the same love of fine craftsmanship. In acquiring this manufacturing company, Karl Scheufele III entered the extremely exclusive club of great Swiss watchmakers.

Karin and Karl Scheufele (1963-1985)

Thanks to his salesmanship skills and his passion for travel, Karl Scheufele III revived Chopard and transformed it into a truly international watch and jewellery brand. The new creations proved both playful and original, as well as of impeccable quality, bringing with them a genuinely innovative touch.

The Chopard look was nurtured by the company roots in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements. In 1972, Karl Scheufele III reinterpreted Art Nouveau in a series of plant life-themed watches, starting with Belle Epoque and following on with other nature-inspired collections such as Cascade, Happy Diamonds in 1976, Moonlight and Paradiso.

The Chopard style signature was as multi-facetted as the men and women it won over: deliberately round watches reflected the sensual curves and vivid colours of the 1970s; while broad cuff-watches in onyx, malachite, coral and turquoise combined daring shapes and beautiful gemstones.

In 1972-74, women readily adopted the Jeans watch and its famous denim strap. Between 1970 and 1980, the jewellery industry equivalent of an “Oscar” was annually awarded by German professionals: the Golden Rose of Baden-Baden. Chopard won 15 trophies during this decade, including one for the Happy Diamonds jewellery watch in 1976.

In 1976, inspired by the Concorde, Karl Scheufele created the Concord watch in white gold set with onyx and diamonds. The model was distinguished by a Diamonds International Award – of which Karl Scheufele was to win three in all.

Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele and Karl-Friedrich Scheufele (1985/90 – )

During the 1990s, Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele and Karl-Friedrich Scheufele formed a new leadership tandem, just as their parents had done before them.

Each reinterpreted the family tradition in their own way: Caroline reinvented the ancestral Pforzheim jewellery-making tradition by launching splendid Haute Joaillerie collections, while Karl-Friedrich did the same for watchmaking in Sonvilier by founding a fine watchmaking “Manufacture” in Fleurier 1996. The two complementary partners already shared the same office as they wrote a new chapter in the epic Chopard adventure.

Timeline

Chopard & Classic Racing

Devotees of fine automobiles tend to have a weakness for beautiful timepieces, and vice versa. In both cases, sporting elegance and the quest for performance play a decisive role.

Lifting the hood of a car provides an understanding of what is going on inside the engine, and the same goes for horological mechanisms that may be admired through a watch case-back. Today, true aficionados can be recognised by their choice of watch: a technical enthusiast will go for a complicate mechanical watch, while car-lovers will opt for a 1000 Miglia, a Jacky Ickx or a Grand Prix de Monaco Historique model.

Karl-Friedrich shares his father’s hobby. Together, they have built up a collection of remarkable cars, with the son showing a preference for pre-war and post-war English and German Cars (Bentley, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche… and Mini Cooper); and the father for elegant post-war sports models.

It was thus obvious that Chopard would become involved in the world of classic car racing. In addition to the Mille Miglia and the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique, the brand’s commitment to Classic Racing goes back to the 1980s – and in fact even earlier, since Karl Scheufele’s grandfather was already fascinated by these finely tuned mechanisms. Historical highlights include Chopard’s participation in the Rallye des Alpes in 1993; and an unexpected race around Moscow’s Red Square in 1994.

Rebirth of the “Manufacture”

Watch companies that develop and produce their own components and watches entirely in-house are a rarity. Convinced that the company should make its own watch movements in order to honour its horological past, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele persuaded his father – and the family council – that the future lay in mechanical watches. Karl Scheufele allowed his son to proceed with preparations, and the project was secretly launched in 1993.

In order to create an original calibre, Karl-Schuefele chose the most complex path: the movement was to be equipped with a micro-rotor to ensure maximum flexibility; automatic winding in both directions to enhance reliability; a substantial power reserve; and the possibility of integrating complications. It was also to feature original execution and aesthetics. The fledgling “Manufacture” was set up in the Val-de-Travers to ensure discretion, and work on Calibre ASP 94 began in 1993.

However, having proved to be far too noisy and unsuited to the desired production strategy, it was subsequently abandoned. The final version of the new movement was presented at Christmas 2005 in the form of 20 prototypes of Calibre 1.96.

Operational testing on the new movement was conducted in Fleurier, where modest rented premises accommodated the ultra-modern production unit in 1996. As activities began to expand, the building was bought up and completely restored in 2000. From the initial dozen or so employees, the workforce in Fleurier has grown to 145 people.

Over 45 million Swiss francs have been invested. In 2006, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Chopard Manufacture, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, an avid timepiece collector, inaugurated the L.U.CEUM, where historical watches and clocks dating from 1500 to the present day rub shoulders with models from the Chopard L.U.C collection.

In keeping with its determination to achieve vertical integration, Chopard has created Fleurier Ebauches, an entity owned by the Chopard group and producing watch movements blanks in order to enhance verticalisation and increase its movement and component production.

Official website: http://www.chopard.com

 

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