How to build a luxury brand: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele on Chopard

Chopard is one of the world’s few remaining independent, family-owned luxury super brands. The company’s long-serving president explains his mantra for success

If you know anything about watches, the name Karl-Friedrich Scheufele will ring a bell. Since the 1980s, the man behind Chopard has played a crucial role in his family’s business, facilitating innovative design while keeping the Geneva-based brand at the forefront of the watch world.

Karl-Friedrich and his sister Caroline have created some of the brand’s most iconic pieces – pieces such as the Mille Miglia and anything with the letters L.U.C on the dial – and are also responsible for reestablishing Chopard as mechanical movement manufacturer. They’ve also managed to keep the company independent, despite, one assumes, a flood of offers over the years. 

Together, the sibling duo act as co-presidents, with Scheufele steering the development side of the business. He oversees the L.U.C (the letters stand for Louis Ulysse Chopard) fine watchmaking division, alongside the Mille Miglia sports watches. But development isn’t the only sector where Scheufele’s expertise has flourished. The businessman is also a connoisseur of vintage automobiles, which has helped secure key partnerships with Porsche Motorsport and Zegato.

Since joining the industry at 25, Scheufele’s watchmaking innovations have consistently breathed new life into Chopard. He kindly sat down with The Jackal to explain the thinking behind the moments that have defined his career.

1. Recognise what you love doing – and then do it

‘I was 17 and I’d finished my schooling in Geneva, and I had to decide what to do next. I decided to learn how to make jewellery because I said to myself this is at least something to do with my family’s company and it’s still artistic. So I did it for a year and a half, before I went to business school.’

2. Learn by doing

‘While travelling with my father, I learned that in this business I could be creative and discover the world. So why should I continue to study? Why not try to be more practical and enter the family business? I decided to learn by doing.’

3. Have the courage of your convictions

‘As Chopard is a family company, we were not only able to express our ideas, but also to put them into practice. We proposed the idea to develop sports watches and steel watches. When we first put it forward, my father said: “We’ve never done a sports watch and we’ve never done one in steel, why should we?” And we said: “because we think it’s the right thing to do.” We were right.

4. If there’s something you can do yourself, do it

‘The next important development for me was launching the production of mechanical movements in-house. I was sure we weren’t convincing enough when it came to men’s watches because we were not making the movements ourselves. I convinced the family that this would be the right thing to do, and it turned out to be a guarantee of our independence.’

5. Build, build again, and then build some more

‘We have been building ever since I can remember. When we stop expanding one part of a factory or one part of the production, we will start somewhere else. It’s even a joke in the family. But it’s all part of the entrepreneurial experience.’

6. Always trust the next generation

‘The lesson that I’ve kept with me is that if you work with your family members, you have to give them a chance to express themselves and take responsibility. This helps define the relationship between two generations, and ensure that the family company survives.’

7. Take pride in what you do

‘We continually ask ourselves whether we want to continue making watches. But without any question everyone in the family keeps saying they enjoy what they’re doing. I think that’s the most important element in the equation: we enjoy what we do and we take pride in what we do.’