LA MAISON CHOPARD’S STORY

LOUIS-ULYSSE CHOPARD, THE FOUNDER

At just 24 years old, Louis-Ulysse Chopard (1836-1915) founded a high-precision watchmaking company specializing in pocket watches and chronometers in the Swiss town of Sonvilier. Louis-Ulysse, the son of a local farmer, quickly realized that his customers were looking for ultra-thin precision watches designed for everyday wear. He soon conquered Switzerland and made the leap to the rest of the world: this artisan watchmaker created authentic works of art with innovative designs that helped him export his products to such famous places as the court of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. As early as the 19th century, the most appreciated characteristics of a watch were its precision and reliability. Louis-Ulysse Chopard set out to go further and exceed the expectations of its customers with truly unique chronometers and pocket watches.

CHOPARD’S WATCH CREATIONS IN THE 19TH CENTURY

Chopard built a solid reputation for the reliability and high quality of its superb Swiss-made watches. It didn’t take long for the house to win two prestigious concessions: it became the official supplier of watches for the Federal Tire Championship and for the Swiss railway company. Louis-Ulysse Chopard took his designs to Russia and also landed in Poland, Hungary and the Baltic States. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was one of his clients. In addition, it started a business relationship with several Scandinavian distributors for the sale of its watches. Chopard thus entered the international market.

SONVILIER: THE ESSENCE OF SWISS WATCHMAKING

In Sonvilier, as in the rest of the Swiss Jura region, local farmers supplemented their meager winter income by mounting watches. This practice obeyed an established custom according to which watchmaking production was distributed among small independent and specialized units. In Chopard’s case, the master watchmaker himself would then collect the components, assemble them, and fit the final product.

FROM THE SWISS JURA TO GENEVA UNDER THE DIRECTION OF PAUL-LOUIS CHOPARD

Paul-Louis Chopard (1859-1940), son of Louis-Ulysse, took over the reins of the company in 1915 and opened a branch in the nearby industrial town of La-Chaux-de-Fonds, which later hosted the company . A few years later, in 1937, he moved the company to the business center of Geneva, the world capital of watchmaking.

PAUL-ANDRÉ CHOPARD

Paul-Louis handed the baton over to his son Paul-André Chopard (1898-1968) in 1943. The postwar period was difficult and the company, with a staff of just five workers, was in decline. In the 1960s, Paul-André began to think about selling the company, since none of his sons wanted to follow in his footsteps.

KARL SCHEUFELE Y LA COMPRA DE CHOPARD

At the same time, Karl-Scheufele III, a goldsmith, watchmaker, son and grandson of entrepreneurs, was trying to expand ESZEHA, the jewelery and watch company he owned in the German town of Pforzheim. Since its supply of watch movements depended on a supplier, it decided to acquire a Swiss manufacture. With this objective in mind, he published an advertisement in the press and went to Geneva to meet potential candidates. The day before he returned to Germany, he contacted the last name on his list: Paul-André Chopard. As soon as he met him, Karl Scheufele knew they were going to hit it off, and thirty minutes later the deal was done.

KARL SCHEUFELE III AND HIS WIFE KARIN

In 1957, young Karl married Karin Ruf. His father, Fritz Ruf, was a dynamic businessman and his support was key to the success of the young couple. The purchase of the manufactory gave the Pforzheim goldsmiths the opportunity to enter the closed circle of the big Swiss watchmakers. Thanks to the business acumen and passion for travel that he inherited from his father and grandfather, Karl Scheufele III was able to wake Chopard from his slumber and build an entire empire.

THE HEIRS OF THE SCHEUFELE FAMILY

Chopard is one of the few family businesses left in the jewelry and watch industry. Since the 1980s, Caroline and Karl-Friedrich – the sons of Karl and Karin – have been an active part of the firm. At present, they jointly hold the presidency. Although both show independence: Caroline Scheufele is in charge of the women’s collections and has been in charge of developing the jewelery section and the High Jewelery department. His brother, Karl-Friedrich, manages the men’s collections after having dedicated himself in the eighties to the creation of sports watches and having launched, in the nineties, the Chopard manufacture in Fleurier, where the L.U.C. movements are produced.