Time After Time
Swiss family-owned jeweller and watchmaker Chopard is ramping up its sustainable sourcing efforts.
Sustainability and ethics have long been core practices of Swiss family-owned jeweller and watchmaker Chopard. But six years ago, it made it official, with the announcement of a programme to support gold-mining communities reach Fairmined certification: the ‘Journey to Sustainable Luxury’.
The programme (which includes a relationship with South American mining NGO The Alliance for Responsible Mining [ARM]), sees Chopard commit funds for social welfare and environmental practices to gold-mining communities in places such as Colombia and Bolivia.
Last year, it became one of the few luxury jewellery and watchmakers to use 100 percent ethical gold in its products. It also works with miner Gemfields to use responsibly mined and sourced diamonds and other gems, with verifiable chains of custody and ethical provenance.
As Chopard co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele says: “It is not an easy journey, but it is the right one.”
We sat down to ask a few questions.
Billionaire: What is the next step to becoming the most ethical watch and jewellery maker?
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: The year 2018 was a special milestone, as we committed to using 100 percent ethical gold for all of our watch and jewellery collections, starting from July 2018. It is a bold commitment, but one that we must pursue if we are to make a difference to the lives of people who make our business possible.
We have been able to achieve this because, over 40 years ago, we developed a vertically integrated in-house production, and invested in mastering all our crafts internally, from creating a rare in-house gold foundry as early as 1978 to integrating the skills of high-jewellery artisans and expert watchmakers.
The next step will be to commit to ethically sourced coloured stones.
When did you make the decision to align Chopard with sustainability?
Ethics have always been an important part of our family values. Therefore, we started the ‘Journey to Sustainable Luxury’ in 2013. Our in-house multi-year programme is committed to sourcing responsibly and helping the ‘real people’ involved in its supply chain, who are all too often overlooked. We forged a philanthropic relationship with The Alliance for Responsible Mining in order to directly support and enable gold mining communities to reach Fairmined certification and provide training, social welfare and environmental support.
We are proud to say that Chopard has become the world’s first watch and luxury jewellery company to support and enable gold-mining communities to reach Fairmined certification and provide training, social welfare and environmental support.
We are continuously aiming to increase our sustainability approach to all the aspects of our business. In these times, it is capital that the luxury industry leads the way for more transparency.
When it comes to designing new watches, how do you keep innovating?
At Chopard, creativity is fuelled by the family members’ passions, which inspire our collections.
Let me give you an example: when I was 22, I went to my father’s office with a concept that, in my opinion, was incredibly innovative and modern: I wanted to create a stainless-steel sports watch. At that time, Chopard worked exclusively with gold. My father accepted the challenge and the St. Moritz soon became a bestseller and one of our icons.
About five years ago, my son Karl-Fritz discovered a model of the St. Moritz watch in the drawer of my desk. After wearing it for a few days, he was certain that it could be reinterpreted without losing its character. He came to see me trying to convince me about his idea. To be honest, I wasn’t at first particularly interested because I believed that the St. Moritz watch was an icon and icons must be preserved as such. Karl-Fritz insisted and asked my father for help. With the Alpine Eagle, we faced a major creative challenge, because it is a complex process to invent a new timepiece, but it is sometimes even more difficult to reinterpret a great design. We wanted to keep the essence of the St. Moritz but add a modern twist with new and sharper designs to the watch. Key elements that we focused on were the dials, the bezel, functionalities and the aesthetic look of the watch. Another important innovation, for which the development required four years of research, is the new Lucent Steel A223, exclusively used for this watch.
It is also the first time that my father, my son, and myself have been working together on a new watch. I believe that it is quite unique in the industry to have three generations of the same family co-developing a new creation.
Which of Chopard's watches is your favourite and the one you personally wear the most?
It is hard to choose one, but I must admit that the LUC Full Strike is particularly dear to me. It won the 2017 Aiguille d’Or at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève and I am very proud of this achievement. Indeed, the LUC Full Strike was launched as a crowning point of the celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of Chopard manufacture. For more than six years we had been working on this model, which is one of the most sophisticated chiming watches to date.
At the moment, the watch I wear the most is definitely the Alpine Eagle. Since we launched it two months ago, it has not left my wrist. The watch itself not only holds great sentimental value with both creative and emotional involvement of three generations of my family but it is also the perfect watch for every day.
What is the best piece of advice you were given?
To be patient! I strongly believe in Auguste Rodin’s famous words: “Ce que l’on fait avec le temps, le temps le respecte.” [“What one does with time, time respects.”]