Brand History: Chopard – A passion for excellence Featured

150 years of premier design jewelry and luxury sport watches

by 30 April 2010

The jewelry and watchmaking company Chopard celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. With its exquisite designs, renowned precision and loyalty to its traditions, the Maison has grown over the years to become a highly respected name in both jewelry and watchmaking. The hallmarks of the brand are the same today as they always have been: fine craftsmanship, innovative technological developments and of course, the constant quest for perfection.

The history of a watchmaking match
Louis-Ulysse Chopard was born on May 4, 1836, in the Swiss town of Sonvilier. His father persuaded him to learn watchmaking at a very young age. In 1860, at the age of just 24, he started his own company, the L.U.C watch manufactory, which specialized in innovative precision watches with intricate decoration. The watches acquired the praise of customers all over Europe, including many distinguished personalities such as Czar Nicolas II of Russia.

After the death of Louis-Ulysse in 1915, the company was taken over by his son Paul-Louis and grandson Paul-André. They continued to produce elegant pocket chronometers and jeweled ladies’ wristwatches. Art Deco had become the latest fashion by the 1920s, and Chopard quickly adopted the latest style. As business flourished, the company relocated to Geneva, Europe's watchmaking capital, in 1937.

Post-World War II was a difficult period in Europe. Many companies struggled, and Chopard was no exception. Though a gifted watchmaker, Paul-André's business skills were not as impressive, and by the 1960s he was prepared to sell his grandfather’s company. Among the potential purchasers was Karl Scheufele III who himself came from a respectable watchmaking family.

Karl's grandfather, Karl Scheufele I, was born on August 6, 1877, in the town of Pforzheim, Germany. He lost his parents at an early age and learned the trade of watchmaking during his youth in an orphanage. In 1904 he founded his own company, Eszeha (the is simply the spelling of the first three letters of his surname as pronounced in German), which produced watches and exquisite jewelry that quickly began conquering an international audience.

By 1912 he revolutionized the way pocket-watches were designed, allowing the owner to wear the watch as a necklace or a bracelet, thus making it a popular accessory among women. Foreseeing the climate that would spread across Europe during the World War, Karl Scheufele I limited jewelry production and began producing watches with a more discreet, though still supremely elegant look. However, times changed, and the 1920s Art Deco period welcomed times of prosperity. One of Eszeha's signature designs, the famous ‘wallet watches,’ watches enclosed in decorated cases.

Karl Scheufele I died in 1941, and leadership of the company passed to his son, Karl Scheufele II. Under Karl II's guidance, Eszeha continued to prosper. The family tradition for flawless jewelry watches continued in the next generation, headed by Karl Scheufele III.

This brings us back to the Chopard story. In 1963, Karl III met Paul-André and purchased Chopard, fulfilling the wishes of his grandfather Karl Scheufele I.

Under its new management, Chopard emerged as a leading global watch and jewelry brand, combining the creations of Karl Scheufele III with the principles of its founder. 1972 marked the birth of the Chopard look, which drew inspiration from the fashions of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

Over the following years, Karl Scheufele III designed several memorable collections; Belle Epoque, Cascade, Happy Diamonds, Moonlight and Paradiso, that would perpetuate Chopard’s status as a powerful and world-leading brand. From 1970 to 1980, Chopard was awarded the Baden-Baden Golden Rose fifteen times, once for its 1976 signature Happy Diamonds model.

By 1990, Karl Scheufele III’s children, the new Chopard heirs, took their place in the company, producing numerous trend-setting pieces. Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele became the artistic manager of the Haute Joaillerie sector. Her first design, Happy Diamonds Clown, was an immediate hit. The lovely jeweled clown with a belly full of colored stones became a mascot for the brand. She continues to design exceptional collections that invariably attract massive public and media acclaim. Her creations are given global visibility by film stars on red carpets in Cannes, partly because the company became an official partner of the Cannes Film Festival in 1998.

Caroline's brother Karl-Friedrich Scheufele took charge of watchmaking, and supervised the production of yet more superb timepieces. He combined his two true passions, watchmaking and cars, and he has created numerous exquisite sports watches such as the St. Moritz, Monte Carlo, and the 1000 Miglia. Over the years, Chopard has developed an ongoing business partnership with the organizers of the legendary 1000 Miglia race.

 In 1997, Chopard launched the Chopardissimo, at the time the world’s most expensive watch.

Today, to mark its 150th anniversary, Chopard is presenting a new Haute Joaillerie collection – the Animal World Collection.

The collection comprises Caroline’s original designs for 150 unique animal-themed pieces, featuring animals from different parts of the world. Highlights of the collection include Frog with Crown Ring recalling childhood fairy tales, with a frog awaiting a magical kiss from a Princess, the ring is set in chite gold with emeralds and black and white diamonds; the Turtle Ring, a unique ring that majestically portrays a sea turtle with an 11.43 carat brown diamond for a shell; the Koala Ring is made from 18 carat rose gold set with two 4 carat round colored diamonds and other multi-colored diamonds (16 carats) and onyx; the exquisite Parrot Necklace in 18 carat white gold set with 13 carat pear shaped rose-cut diamonds, 69 carat acquamarines, 17 carat white diamonds and blue sapphieres; and the Owl Watch in 18 carat white and rose gold set with diamonds between 2 and 7 carats.

 

Developments in the watchmaking department for this occasion include four new limited edition Chopard models.

The L.U.C. 150 ‘all in one', which follows the Equation of Time series, is a true work of art, enhanced by the Tourbillon feature. It is chronometer-certified by the COSC, and it is embellished by Poinçon de Genève craftsmanship. The L.U.C. 1937 is a model issued by Chopard in order to highlight its watchmaking traditions: 1937 marks the year in which the company moved to Geneva. 

The L.U.C. Engine One Tourbillon is a masterpiece built according to the principles of traditional watchmaking, powered by a L.U.C. Calibre 1TRM ‘engine.’ This model is a fine demonstration of the close links between Chopard and motor sports. The superb movement is built according to an approach characteristic of the automotive industry: it is machined like an engine block.
The L.U.C. Louis-Ulysse is a tribute that commemorates Chopard’s founder, Louis-Ulysse, in the Maison's 150th anniversary year. This watch has a unique design, and it can be switched from pocket-watch to wristwatch, just like the early models designed by Karl Scheufele I.