Interview: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele for Chopard

The dapper Chopard Co-President has a candid conversation with us about the true meaning of luxury, what makes Chopard tick and his love for old school mechanical machines

Not many luxury companies can boast having a true gentleman such as Karl-Friedrich Scheufele at the helm; one for whom luxury is not a mere means to a financial end but a way of life. Jeweler and watchmaker Chopard is one such firm, thanks in large part to the fact that the company is family-owned. We have particularly enjoyed our chats with Chopard Co-Presidents Caroline Scheufele and her brother Karl-Friedrich over the years. Their joint stewardship of Chopard is one of the reasons behind the brand's association with film festivals such as Cannes and classic motor racing events such as the Mille Miglia.

On this occasion, we get reacquainted with Karl-Friedrich Scheufele as he waxes lyrical about his start in the family business, the Mille Miglia race, classic cars and, of course watchmaking. Those who wonder why Chopard is involved at all with motor racing have clearly never met or indeed even heard of Chopard's dapper Co-President and Managing Director of its Watch Division. In this role, Scheufele marries horology and a need for speed in the Mille Miglia collection of sportswatches and elements of the L.U.C collection, in particular the Engine One.

Aside from his fastidious and faultless sense of style, Scheufele is also quite passionate about classic cars and, unsurprisingly, he is the man behind not only Chopard being a major sponsor of the Mille Miglia but also its enthusiasm for classic cars in general. In fact, Scheufele himself races in the Mille Miglia alongside his trusty co-driver, who’s a little bit famous in his own right, Jacky Ickx.

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The motor racing styling of the L.U.C Engine One Tourbillon is down to Karl-Friedrich Scheufele's passion for motorsports

Considering Chopard is a family business, how much of the business is in your DNA?

I remember, from a very young age, I already went around the factory and was looking at what people were doing. It was almost like being born into the company. However, I was never under any pressure to join the company; it was more a leisurely discovery.

It was much later that I made my decision to go into the family business. This was when I was in my early 20s and I was deciding between continuing university (and the business). My father took me on a business trip to the USA and I found it really exciting and interesting. I told him that I really wanted to deal with something real, not two more years of school. That was when I decided to join the company.

What is it that you love about watches?

At the beginning, I was more interested in the design aspect of the product but today I find I’ve become a little more detail oriented – and movement-oriented, of course. When I discovered my passion for mechanical movements, this aspect took over and really became my focus.

 

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The Mille Miglia Jacky Ickx Edition

It isn’t easy to understand a passion for watches, as opposed to a passion for cars for example. Give us your perspective.

The passion for watches is more private, more hidden. It is not so easily shared. A bottle of wine, for example, you can share with people and talk about the experience. A car is something you can sit in, drive and so on…. A watch is more intricate and intimate in a way. It is the ultimate expression of detail.

Speaking of cars, what got you into classic cars?

It was really a love for the cars of my youth, when I was 10 to 15 years old. My own first car was a Porsche 356. From that moment on, I was hooked on the pleasure of driving, of experiencing the drive. You know, you have to be very forgiving, to be more attentive when it comes to these cars... To be honest, I find driving modern cars boring. Even a modern supercar doesn't give me the same pleasure as driving a pre-War (World War II) Bentley.

Is that because driving contemporary cars isn’t challenging?

A car where everything is electronic, basically you can't go wrong. Of course you eventually discover the beauty of what's under the hood, the way the car has been built... In those days, they were less restricted. There was no concern about safety, emissions and, well, you name it. In fact, the driver was really secondary. Even driver comfort was not important. As a driver you had to fit the car, not the other way around.

Tell us about the relationship between mechanical watches and classic cars.

Think about it this way: if you try to collect modern supercars, I wish you good luck in 20 years! I don’t know if you will be on the road but me, I can go to my garage and start my 1929 Bentley with no problems. Even if I had to replace parts, I can manage somehow. You could say that a mechanical watch is a survivor, or a relic of the past that is out of place in our electronic age. It demands a lot of attention from the owner, as you have to wind and adjust it. However, this is very rewarding because you have a living object that accompanies you for many years to come.

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Scheufele with co-driver Jacky Ickx at the Mille Miglia

 

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Chopard though uses new materials and technologies in watches. Do you think you will face some of the same issues as the modern supercars?

It has to be proven of course but theoretically, silicium escapements are made to last close to indefinitely. One generation will not be able to destroy them and probably not the next. At the same time, reproducing components, whatever they might be, is always possible. True it can be a challenge but it is always possible. It will probably more difficult for (these new materials), that is 9also) true but the advantages of using these outweigh the difficulties.

What’s the importance of the Mille Miglia to Chopard?

In our opinion, a company like Chopard has a certain responsibility to support cultural events, be it the Cannes Film Festival or the Mille Miglia, which represents almost a hundred years of automobile history.

You are both a luxury business executive and a person with what could be called a luxury lifestyle. How would you define luxury?

By definition, luxury is something you don’t really need. It’s superfluous. However, luxury is like a spice… It adds something special. It is a bit necessary, I think, because it is compensation for the more difficult moments, more stressful times. It is not very rational for sure but it is an experience that makes your daily worries and such better… something that soothes you.

Of course if your life were constant luxury then you would not appreciate it. Luxury should always be administered in smaller portions to be really appreciated.

For me, luxury is to be in command of my own time. To start the day without a fixed schedule… to decide what I want to do in the moment… to spend time with my family because I am travelling half my life.

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Chopard

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