Watches: Personal Matters
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, copresident of Chopard, agrees that the manufacture he established to produce the company’s connoisseur-class L.U.C. watches is hardly a commercial necessity. A decade after their debut, L.U.C. watches (so named for company founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard) still account for only 3,000 of the nearly 75,000 watches the company produces annually.
Furthermore, the L.U.C. collection, which includes the recently unveiled chronograph that marks the line’s 10th anniversary, projects a technical character and traditional Swiss construction that sharply contrast with the brand’s bold jewelry and jewelry watches designed by Scheufele’s sister, Caroline. However, the $24 million Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier, Switzerland, is Scheufele’s domain, and it stands as a testament to his watchmaking values.
The 48-year-old Scheufele, who always is immaculately dressed and groomed and carries himself with the quiet authority of an aristocrat, has allowed his personal interests to guide his career pursuits. Before his parents handed day-to-day management of Chopard to his sister and him, Scheufele owned a small wine distributorship and a shirtmaking business. As he became more involved in the family business during the late 1980s, his love of vintage automobiles led to Chopard’s producing the successful Mille Miglia–themed watch collection that commemorates the Italian vintage car rally in which he participates each year.
Scheufele, who has added to his grandfather’s collection of antique and modern timepieces, also has a longstanding passion for watches that influences the management of the L.U.C. factory and the pieces it creates. Scheufele became an early adapter of computer-aided milling technology, which allows small-volume manufactures to emulate the movement-making capacity of the larger established houses. First, though, he had to champion the idea of manufacturing movements to the other members of his family. “There wasn’t actually any opposition to the idea,” he says, “but neither was there any enthusiasm for the size of the investment.”
The new chronograph (which has an estimated price between $30,000 and $35,000) reflects Scheufele’s preferences as a watch collector. The column wheel chronograph movement, with its shock-resistant free-sprung balance assembly, pays homage to classic Swiss design ideals, as do previous L.U.C. movements, some of which qualify for the Geneva Seal, the prestigious aesthetic quality hallmark. Scheufele’s improvements to the basic chronograph—including the free-sprung balance system, vertical coupling for the chronograph engagement, and instant reset system—are not exactly groundbreaking, but they nonetheless enhance the piece’s reliability and its utility.
In the last few years, Scheufele gradually has introduced more modern designs to the L.U.C. collection. The chronograph’s cutaway subdials, which expose the movement below, give it a technical character that is subtle enough not to raise the eyebrows of purist connoisseurs such as Scheufele. “When I thought about showing one of the Chopard watches I had built,” he says, “I didn’t want to have to stand there red in the face.”