Lasting Legacy

The brother-sister duo keeping Chopard timeless through the generations

Chopard: Keeping it in the family
Chopard: Keeping it in the family

Siblings Caroline and Karl-Freidrich Scheufele are the fourth generation owners and co-presidents of the Chopard brand.

They may share similar paths of how they fell into the family business, but their different personalities meant they have complementary relationships in running the watchmaking and jewelry empire.

"I'm always the dynamic one, very impatient, and he has the patience to construct movements which I think I would not have, and I admire him for that," said Caroline, who is creative director and responsible for the women's watches and high jewelry collections.

Her elder brother, Karl-Friedrich, runs the men's collections and factory operations.

"We had the unique opportunity to have to help my parents building the business, which really I call it opportunity... We didn't step into something that was already built. We were actually helping my parents shaping it and so that was very exciting for both of us," said Karl-Freidrich.

The Chopard story started in 1860 in the Swiss village of Sonvilier, where founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard established his workshop and worked on his craft. Beyond the third generation, there was no interest in taking over the family business and that's when Caroline and Karl-Freidrich's father — Karl Scheufele — stepped in and purchased the brand in 1963.

"Mr. Chopard had two sons and they didn't want to take over all — one was a banker, the other was a missionary in Africa. That's why we found each other — two family businesses," said Karl.


A third-generation owner from Pfozheim, Germany, Karl was keen to expand his family's watchmaking and jewelry business to Geneva after an apprenticeship in Switzerland. His search started with an advertisement in the local newspaper and with 20 responses, Karl made his pick after visiting all the watchmakers' ateliers and finding the perfect purchase in LU Chopard.

Karl and his wife Karin, orchestrated Chopard's expansion both locally and internationally. They established two manufacturing facilities in Meyrin and Fleurier, while expanding their retail network from one store in the 1980s to the network of over 160 boutiques today.

However, it has been a challenging economic environment for luxury brands, with declining demand from the key U.S. and China markets. Consultancy Bain and Company predicted that 2016 was a low point for the luxury industry, which is an optimistic sign for the year ahead.

"We are looking at an environment where the only certainty is uncertainty… We definitely had a challenging 18 months behind us. But we feel that, actually, 2017 may become a bit of a better year," Karl-Freidrich said.

When it comes to expanding the brand's presence worldwide, Caroline said she would like to see Chopard in more South American and Middle Eastern countries as well as further establish its recognition in the United States and China.

But when it comes down to the core, even with an expanding global footprint and workforce, the company's values remain a constant. For the Scheufeles, remaining a family-run business is a crucial part of their value proposition.

"I think the fact that we ... remained (a) family run company is certainly a characteristic for Chopard. We really cherish our independence in terms of vertical integration of our production, in terms of our distribution," Karl-Freidrich said.

That's a point his father Karl also stressed: "In other big companies the management change every two to three years, and in our case, we're always there, so the customers have a very close relationship with the family... Because many of our customers are also family businesses, so there's value for both sides."

Looking to the future, Karl-Freidrich said he hopes the same passion for the craft is shared by both his family and the growing 2,000-strong family that is Chopard.

When the company celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2010, the family came up with a slogan: passion for excellence.

"We are all very passionate about what we do — and ... to be passionate is also to be emotional. So the importance is to always strike the right balance between staying passionate about your business and remaining rational about your decisions," Karl-Freidrich said.

For Karl-Friedrich and Caroline, maintaining that balance is crucial as the family looks to the future and continues the centuries-old legacy of Chopard.

Catch the second season of Lasting Legacy, Thursdays in June, on CNBC Asia at 17:30 SIN/HK and on CNBC EMEA at 23:30 CET.