In the world of fine watchmaking, being a manufacture isn’t just about having the biggest brand cachet. It involves a tremendous amount of commitment, capital and nerve to decide that making most, if not all, of a watch’s components in-house is worth the trouble. Brands like Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Vacheron Constantin are famous examples, but they have had over a hundred years to develop their know-how and achieve manufacture status. Chopard did it in 25.
Granted, Chopard’s own history dates back to 1860, when its founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard was making ultra-thin, high-precision pocket watches for royals like Tsar Nicholas II. After the company was bought over by Karl Scheufele in 1976, the Chopard name was reinvigorated with joyful creations like the Happy Diamonds watch, racing-inspired Mille Miglia collection and red carpet-worthy high jewellery pieces. By any measure, Chopard was thriving. But it wasn’t enough for Karl’s son, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele.
“When I first dreamt of creating the Manufacture, it was with the conviction that we should return to the roots of our Maison,” he said. “Therefore, I launched a project to become once again a fully integrated movement manufacturer and in 1996, the Chopard Manufacture was inaugurated in Fleurier.”
On this 25th anniversary, the Chopard co-president has plenty to look back on with pride. “We started with a small team of only four people in a one-room workshop, and the biggest challenge was the development of our first calibre — the 1.96.” This debut movement proved a triumph, immediately setting itself apart with its micro-rotor, power reserve of 65 hours (42 hours was the standard at the time) and an overall thickness of just 3.3mm. It was also chronometer certified.
With workshops located in Fleurier and Geneva, the Chopard Manufacture takes care of the design, development, decoration and assembly for its superlative L.U.C collection, as well as the research and development and machining of movement components. Having a workshop in Geneva means that many watches in this line bear the Hallmark of Geneva, a certification that is only awarded to exceptional movements made in this canton.
Under the leadership of Karl-Friedrich, who is a firm believer that certification marks demonstrate a watch manufacture’s commitment to quality, Chopard eventually teamed up with Fleurier-based neighbours Bovet, Parmigiani and (later on) Vaucher Manufacture to launch their own Fondation Qualité Fleurier certification in 2004. This certification proves that the watch is wholly made in Switzerland, meets exacting finishing standards, is COSC-certified, and passes the “Chronofiable” test that focuses on durability and reliability of a watch in actual use, as well as a 24-hour stress test in the Fleuritest simulator.
The latest watch to bear this stamp of approval is, fittingly, an anniversary piece: the L.U.C QF Jubilee. Modern in design and straightforward in its function, the handsome time-only automatic watch is also the first one in the L.U.C collection to be cased in steel — an excellent introduction to the finest in Chopard’s stable.
Needless to say, the manufacture has accomplished far more than basic timekeeping in its quarter-century journey. It has already achieved all of horology’s most demanding complications — repeaters, perpetual calendars, chronographs, tourbillons and more — and recently added its very first jumping hours to its list of achievements in the form of the 100-piece limited edition L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25. Under that beautiful grand feu enamel dial beats a Hallmark of Geneva-certified movement that will run for an impressive eight days.
With more to be unveiled in the coming months, Chopard’s anniversary novelties reveal the maison’s dexterity in balancing heritage with modernity, while infusing each watch with its own personality.
“As one of the last family maisons in the haute horlogerie and haute joaillerie field, we can pursue long-term visions and projects without having to please investors seeking short-term profit,” Scheufele explained. “While we put a lot of emphasis on innovation and creativity, we strongly believe that tradition, respect of heritage and exceptional artisanship contribute to our success. We develop collections with passion.”