Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: Passion and Respect for High Speed
The Vice-President of Chopard, well-known for his passion for vintage racing cars, is also renowned for his wisdom. He stands for what we call the ‘calm force’ in Haute Horlogerie. We clearly see the ref lection of his personality in the L.U.Chopard collection of movements. Among them, there is a watch released in 2012, which beats at 8Hz!
First published on veryimportantwatches.com
Constantin Stikas: In the sphere of high frequency, there was only a single protagonist since 1969, operating at 5Hz. In recent years we have seen watches beating at 5, 8, 10 even at 50, 500, or 1000Hz! So how can we define high frequency in relation to watchmaking mechanics today?
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: The high frequency movements that you have just cited were made possible thanks to new technologies that were not yet available during the ’70s. We can mention the components made of silicon, which offers the benefit of not requiring any lubrication. This is already a basis allowing one to work on a high frequency movement.
CS: What do we gain with high frequency?
KFS: High frequency, if we make use of it in a rather conservative manner, the way we do at Chopard, represents more advantages than disadvantages. By using high frequency we gain in precision, especially in sport watches that are frequently submitted to many shocks. Every time the balancer receives a blow, it imperceptibly slows down or speeds up. A high frequency movement will be a lot less perturbed and it will revert to its original beating more quickly than a movement beating at a lower frequency.
This is the biggest advantage represented by high frequency movements, since they offer a higher degree of precision in everyday activities, especially for sportspeople.
You may not realise this difference if you make normal usage of the watch, but only if you use it under extreme conditions.
To us, the principal advantage is that the system that we have developed can be adapted to various movements in our line and truly endows them with added value in terms of reliability and shock-resistance.
One must also not neglect its advantage of allowing the measurement of much shorter time spans, which is especially significant when talking about chronographs.
And I will not hide from you that, for us, the logical development will be the development of a chronograph also beating at 8Hz!...
CS: What is at risk with a high frequency watch?
KFS: At the outset of our research, we thought that we would lose out in terms of power reserve, but in fact we ascertained that the power reserve of the movement in question did not change in the least. We have the same power reserve as in the movement beating at 4Hz.
Therefore, to my knowledge and to date, I do not find any disadvantage in high frequency movements. All the tests that we were able to conduct until the present were positive. We began delivering the first pieces in our first series out of 100 of the L.U.C 8HF, at the close of 2012.
CS: How difficult was it to produce a manufacture movement beating at 8Hz?
KFS: It necessitated an enormous amount of research and development, over a period of numerous years, but I can’t say that it is more difficult to produce this movement today, compared to another. I would say that it is the process that was quite long and difficult in terms of research and development.
This is all the more so since we had to manage to measure the various data of the movement, since there were no measurement instrument capable of testing a movement beating at 8Hz, given that all measurement instruments in watchmaking have been made for 4Hz and therefore we had to invent and create new measurement instruments in order to be able to test our prototypes.
I emphasise that we are not engaged in a high-speed race, nor in a competition as to ‘who makes the highest frequency?’ Our interest is more fundamental than that. That is to say, it is more about us being engaged in seeking our own self-improvement as regards the production of our already existing movements, through the use of high frequency.
The second question we asked ourselves is whether we are able to implement a high frequency system that will adapt itself to existing L.U.C movements. Once we were able to answer ‘yes’ to these two questions, we launched the project.
Our aim was not to create a prototype, just for the sake of presenting something somewhat out of the ordinary. On the contrary, for us it entailed fundamental research.
CS: The Chopard L.U.C 8HF is the only high frequency watch to have obtained COSC certification. What does this represent?
KFS: Let me go back to the advantages that I mentioned at the outset. From the beginning, I told our engineers that if we intend to claim to have manufactured a high frequency movement offering advantages such as superior precision etc., it would be necessary, at the minimum, that this movement also obtains COSC certification. To me, this was a non-negotiable condition that had to be met before I would begin developing this movement. It would not be worthwhile to develop a movement that would not obtain COSC, which is a certification that we have already been awarded on other of our movements.
Therefore, to us COSC certification stands for an objective guarantee of our high frequency movement.
CS: Chopard is associated with the Mille Miglia vintage car race. Would you like to talk to us about this long-established adventure?
KFS: I will not hide that fast driving has always fascinated me, but what fascinates me even more are vintage cars that took part in the Mille Miglia race. Chopard has been the sponsor of Mille Miglia for more than twenty years and it has been a long-standing history marked by passion, a history that is also personal, as it regards me personally, as well as professional.
I also missed a single event during this entire period. Mille Miglia is an absolutely perfect link between the measurement of time and exceptional automobiles. It represents a magnificent adventure for Chopard and a partnership that has caused many people to talk about Chopard, as well as stirring lively discussion on the Mille Miglia event, which a lot of people around the world had hitherto not been aware of.
CS: To most people, Switzerland is a ‘slow’ country. However, the CERN is located in Switzerland and today we see watchmaking regularly beating high frequency records… What is your opinion on this?
KFS: I think that there are two sides to this. Speed always has a physical aspect, but at the same time it also has a symbolic meaning. It is true that in Switzerland we have the tendency to ensure and move forward in a controlled and well-thought out manner, but this is often qualitative. Regardless of whether this is in watchmaking or in the activities of CERN –in fact here at Meyrin we neighbour CERN and we can even nearly see what they are doing– I think that advancing slowly but surely is a very positive quality of Switzerland, which moreover suits our image. Evidently this does not prevent us from being very quick at times, as regards certain developments.
CS: What is your personal relationship to speed?
KFS: I believe that regardless of whether it was cars, skis or bicycles, from a very young age I have always felt –simultaneously– a passion and a respect for speed. I will not hide that, also in cars; I am a fan of high speed, as long as one exercises caution and as long as it takes place on a race track and not a public road. Speed is something that fascinates me. Thus, my relationship to speed is a rather impassioned one.
CS: Do you believe that a speed limit should be imposed on motorways and, if so, that it should be set at how many km/h?
KFS: I think that the speed limits in effect today and that are imposed in quasi-draconian manner in Switzerland are thoroughly well-adapted. It is difficult to do something else, because not all drivers have the same skills and, moreover, today drivers are not always careful enough when it comes to controlling the speed of their car, since cars are more and more comfortable and easy to drive and, unfortunately, many people make use of communication devices while driving.
Therefore, I believe that the speed limits as they are enforced today are largely justified and that the person who effectively wants to have some fun will go to a race track to amuse himself, but on the road it is becoming more and more risky to drive at higher speeds.
CS: Is it different in Germany?
KFS: On German motorways there are still sections where one is allowed to drive at higher speeds, but these sections are becoming more and rarer and, given the traffic, honestly fast driving is no longer a pleasure. This is one of the reasons that I so love driving a vintage car, because even at a slower speed, one has great fun, since one has the impression that one is driving faster!...