Everything In Good Time: Chopard Co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele
Grand gestures are not necessarily a sign of success or the path there, particularly in watchmaking. Building a business layer by layer and ensuring that each layer is solid and operational before moving on may take more time, but it is most likely to reach the finish line. This is how the brand Chopard does it.
'Manufacture' status represents serious cred in the watch world, but many brands have lately sought to achieve it largely as an insurance against the threat of a diminishing supply of out-sourced movements. Yet Chopard co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele didn't establish the 'L.U.C' manufacture back in 1996 to ensure independence, but to add substance to Chopard's horological offering, revive its heritage and enhance its appeal to serious collectors.
During the recent celebrations held to mark the 20th anniversary of the L.U.C manufacture (which is named after Louis-Ulysse Chopard, who founded the firm in 1860) Watchonista caught up with Mr Scheufele at Phillips auction house in London, the venue for a comprehensive exhibition about the two decades of L.U.C, which has grown from an original team of three to a major operation employing 160 people in the historic Swiss watch making town of Fleurier.
Along the way, L.U.C. has developed no fewer than 11 base calibres that have given rise to many varieties of movement, including regulators, tourbillons and the brilliant four-barrel Quattro - and the manufacture now produces 4,500 L.U.C watches per year.
"When I decided to establish L.U.C, I was looking at increasing Chopard's credibility by putting some real substance behind the watches - the last consideration was to establish any sort of independence, but that did come when we founded Fleurier Ebauche [set up in 2008 to supply movement blanks to the Chopard group].
"Now, in fact, we are quite self-sufficient and we're aiming to launch a ladies' automatic watch at Baselworld 2017 which will use our own base movement. But I don't want to make only in-house pieces - I think it's important to offer people an entry to Chopard through watches in the Sfr 6,000 - 7,000 range. Ever since we introduced an automatic version of the Happy Sport, for example, mechanical pieces have almost surpassed the quartz models.
Chopard Happy Sport
"I think watch buyers have really come to recognise the importance of a mechanical movement in relation to long-term value , and that recognition is spreading all the time. I have no doubt that, in a decade, mechanical watches will still be as important as they are now in our segment, if not more so. Personally, I feel any brand that is over-exposing itself to the trend for 'connected' watches is making a mistake.
On wings of sound
"More and more we hear that people appreciate the feeling of having something on the wrist that isn't dependent on electricity and operates entirely from its own power source. And that, after all, is the magic of traditional watch making."
And, to celebrate 20 years of L.U.C, the manufacture has introduced three new watch models that demonstrate that 'magic' - the highlight of which is the fabulous Full Strike, the first minute repeater to emerge from L.U.C.
The innovative, Sfr 240,000 masterpiece features gongs made from sapphire crystal that are said to offer a clarity of sound far superior to any metallic material. Equally impressive is the fact that the minute repeater mechanism is activated not from a conventional slide at the side of the case, but from a small button integrated with the winding crown.
L.U.C's 20 year 'journey' is also marked with the introduction of the collection's first world time watch in the form of the Time Traveller One which displays the time simultaneously in 24 of the world's most important capital cities. Using the manufacture's specially developed Calibre 01.05-L, the watch is available in steel, rose gold and platinum versions.
For globe-trotting L.U.C fans with less to spend, meanwhile, the manufacture's 20th anniversary is marked with the launch of the GMT One model which uses the 01.10-L calibre enhanced with an integrated GMT function. It can be had in a choice of steel of rose gold.