In feature articles on Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, one word keeps popping up when it comes to describing the co-president of Chopard and founder/president of ultra-high-horology brand Ferdinand Berthoud: gentleman. Aside from his interest in cultural forms such as music, art, and wine, another reason for this compliment is his mannerisms: Considered, to the point, and understated. Scheufele demonstrated these qualities during The Peak’s interview with him at the launch of Ferdinand Berthoud’s new Chronomètre FB 3SPC watch.
In addition, these characteristics appear to manifest in how he markets his watches, and apply across the board. From the ultra-high-end Ferdinand Berthoud timepieces with their complex movements featuring fusee-and-chain mechanisms and tourbillons, or a cylindrical hairspring (the highlight of the new FB 3 watches), to the refined technical timepieces of Chopard’s L.U.C collection or the brand’s distinctive sport-chic model the Alpine Eagle, there is a sentiment among connoisseurs that these timepieces are gravely under-appreciated by a market that can seem driven by hype.
Despite Scheufele’s relatively reserved manner, do not be fooled. At times, when one least expects it, he unleashes a zinger. Here, he discusses the inspirations behind Ferdinand Berthoud, letting his watches speak for themselves, and why he believes that “paying premiums for watches made in the thousands” is illogical.
Ferdinand Berthoud is named after the 18th-century master watchmaker who created marine chronometers for the French navy. In terms of inspiration, how far can this historical figure take the brand?
The inspiration for any Ferdinand Berthoud watch has to come from something Ferdinand Berthoud wrote or spoke about, or made. Derived from the past, it has been reinterpreted in a contemporary way. You know, there are 4,000 pages of notes and plans. We bought everything he ever wrote. That’s a lot of inspiration. Just following up on [the FB 3], there are already five different variations or additional functions that we are working on.
The new FB 3 watches feature cylindrical hairsprings, similar to that used in a pocket watch created by Louis Berthoud, who worked in his uncle Ferdinand Berthoud’s workshop in Paris. What elements do you choose to incorporate into the watches, or does Vincent Lapaire, the brand’s GM, choose them?
We look at a whole list of things and discover more as we go along. [What we liked here was] the architecture of the different components combined and the cylindrical hairspring, which is unique. The cylindrical hairspring has never been used in a wristwatch of this size (42.3mm by 9.43mm) that is also chronometer-certified.
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Ferdinand Berthoud and Chopard both produce award-winning timepieces. Some collectors feel your watches are underappreciated. Would you agree?
Our watches are slowly but surely being appreciated for what they are. It should be a natural process. Of course, you can artificially help things along, but we have never done that. I truly believe in the long term. Our L.U.C line has been around for 25 years. The first L.U.C watch is very sought after now, to the extent that people are willing to pay multiples of what it used to sell for. It’s a natural occurrence, and it’s not us who bought all the stocks of the watches. I think that’s more sustainable.
Another model that is doing well for Chopard is the Alpine Eagle sport watch with an integrated bracelet. There are some fine watch brands whose sports models have become so popular that they have overshadowed their more classical offerings. Do you worry about this?
It’s a matter of fashion today. It just so happens that many younger people with active lifestyles think that a watch with an integrated metal strap is what their friends are wearing and what they need to wear. I’m not worried because what we see is that the Alpine Eagle has brought us new customers — different customers, younger customers — who have gone on to discover and purchase L.U.C.
Some people believe that the recent drop in prices on the watch resale market is a sign of decreasing demand for Swiss luxury watches. What are your thoughts on this?
There has been a lot of speculation, and many people buying watches were not collectors. It’s good that we are witnessing a correction. Why would you pay such premiums for watches produced in the thousands? I can understand [high prices] for watches that were made in limited editions or that have been discontinued. But for watches that are still being made, where thousands of pieces are eventually made available, what is the point?