Power Individuals: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele Shares How Chopard Is Driving Sustainability In The Luxury Industry

“I’m very fond of nature—mountains in particular,” says Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard. Chopard, founded as a Swiss watch manufacture in 1860 before becoming a modern-day stalwart of timepieces and jewellery, has been a Scheufele family business since 1963. Today, the 65-year-old jointly heads the company with his sister, Caroline; he oversees the watches, while his sister’s purview is jewellery. “We can, and should, do something for sustainability, Chopard included,” he continues. “We started quite early. It’s important to help as best as we can in an effort that should be everybody’s concern—to preserve our planet.”

Chopard has been a leader in this regard for some time. In the early 2010s, the company began using ethical gold—gold that has been sourced from responsible, artisanal and small-scale mines, and that meets both social and environmental standards. The company has been using ethical gold exclusively since 2018. “Ethical gold is more about community issues and the way people are treated,” Scheufele explains. “But it is also fundamentally a nature-preserving tool. It all goes together. It’s connected.”

As a young man, one of the first watch projects Scheufele oversaw was St Moritz, an elegant sports watch released in 1980 as Chopard’s first timepiece collection in steel. Nearly 40 years later, his son, Karl-Fritz, spearheaded the launch of Alpine Eagle in 2019, standing today as Chopard’s contemporary luxury-sports timepiece. Alpine Eagle also saw the debut of a new proprietary material, Lucent Steel. Selected for its hardness, unique warm lustre and hypoallergenic qualities, it consists of at least 80 per cent recycled steel.

Earlier this year, Chopard announced that it would dramatically expand its use of Lucent Steel, introducing not only new variations of Alpine Eagle but also for the first time using it in other collections including the tradition-minded L.U.C, the ladies’ Happy Sport and the racing-inspired Mille Miglia. The brand also committed to transitioning entirely to Lucent Steel for the production of its watches by the end of the year and is planning on increasing the recycled steel content to 90 per cent by 2025.

“I see it as a symbol or a messenger for something that every watch brand could embrace,” Scheufele says. “Lucent Steel is not meant to be an exclusivity for Chopard. It’s there for others to pick up if they want.”

Supply chain accountability is often a sticking point for initiatives such as these and Scheufele stresses the importance of trust and good partners. 

“In terms of the steel, it’s relatively simple. We have one trusted partner. We know that our scraps of steel go back to them and we know how they make Lucent Steel. So basically, from the first chunk of steel to the next, there is a circuit we know and can follow back to our supplier—a very trusted company in Austria,” he explains. “I have absolutely no reserve when it comes to them. And with the ethical gold, you have several controlling institutions that are following-up on different levels. The supply chain is quite tightly organised. And then within our own company, gold is being remelted, but that’s happening in-house.” 

Scheufele does believe that, given equal choice, consumers will naturally gravitate towards the more ethical one. “The offer can bring about the demand and the demand can drive the offering. In our case, if you make it known that you have a product that is more sustainable than before, then you will wake the demand,” he says. “But if no such product is around, nobody may ask for it.” Someone is more likely to buy the watch that they feel better about, he reasons.

“I happen to make wine in the southwest of France,” Scheufele adds as another example. Having refined an appreciation for wine since youth, in 2012 he acquired Château Monestier La Tour, a winery in the Bergerac region. Under his tenure, it converted to biodynamic methods, which emphasises quality and natural, holistic practices over high yields, and was certified organic in 2017. 

“If I had the choice today, looking at a wine menu, and I see an organic wine versus wine that is made in the traditional way, I prefer to drink an organic wine,” Scheufele says. “One, because I know that the wine is more natural. And two, I know that somebody is making an effort to save the planet.”


Illustrations by Tan Eng Huat

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