3 Generations Of The Scheufele Family Created Chopard's Newest Watch, Alpine Eagle
“The easy way has never really been the Chopard way,” says Karl-Fritz Scheufele. The third‑generation scion, who is the son of Chopard co-president, Karl‑Friedrich Scheufele, and grandson of chairman Karl Scheufele, is the mastermind behind the brand’s newest watch, the Alpine Eagle.
And it is no wonder that Karl-Fritz said that it wasn’t easy. The birth of the watch started with objection, followed by a clandestine undertaking to create a reinterpretation of Chopard’s first sports watch, the iconic St Moritz that is no longer in production. It was his father Karl-Friedrich who designed the St Moritz at the age of 22.
Similarly, Karl-Fritz is 22 years old this year. The student at the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, a hospitality management school in Switzerland, tells us how it began: “About five years ago, I found the St Moritz watch on my father’s desk. I was immediately taken with its fresh design, functional screws, and incredibly comfortable bracelet that feels like second skin.”
The legendary St Moritz watch was first conceived in 1980 by Karl-Friedrich, and is named after the legendary Swiss alpine resort town which he loved deeply. The watch reflected the spirit of winter wonderland on the mountains—where nature, sports and glamour merged and the crème de la crème of society mingled, and was created to be worn both on the snowy slopes and to formal restaurants. For the first time ever, Chopard audaciously treated steel as if it were gold. The functional design was also a bold move; the eight screws that secured the dial were also the focal point.
“After wearing [the St Moritz] for a few days, I became convinced that it could be reinterpreted with a twist, without losing any of its essence or character. I went to see my father and tried to convince him, but he was not particularly interested,” reveals Karl-Fritz. “To him, this watch was an icon and you don’t touch an icon.”
Not one to take no for an answer, Karl-Fritz pressed on and got his grandfather Karl to come on board; the latter immediately saw that it was a case of history repeating itself. Karl recalls, “My son [Karl-Friedrich] has always had a strong sensitivity to art. I think that had he not joined the maison, he would have been an artist. When I look at him today, I am proud of the way he has devoted his talents to serving Chopard. And so, when he was 22, he came to my office with a concept that was incredibly innovative and modern. He wanted to launch a steel watch at a time when Chopard was working exclusively with gold. When I reminded him of that he answered: ‘But I want to work steel like gold, and that is precisely what is so innovative about this project’. He had a vision, and a typically entrepreneurial approach.” Then, Karl saw himself in his son Karl-Friedrich and then again in his grandson Karl-Fritz. Together, both grandson and grandfather worked on the first prototype and presented it to Karl-Friedrich.
Karl-Fritz had to be thoughtful with his second pitch: “I didn’t want to offend my father by saying, ‘What did you do there with the St Moritz?’ I had the pressure to bring something new, without offending him. We had the historical weight [of this iconic watch].”
When he was presented the prototype, “my father’s face lit up. He immediately saw the potential of the watch and agreed to launch the project”.
REBIRTH OF AN ICON
We headed down to Switzerland on the exclusive invitation of Chopard to meet the three generations of the Scheufele family: Karl, Karl-Friedrich and Karl-Fritz, who spoke to us about this very special project.
It is interesting to note that the private launch was not done in St Moritz, but in another equally beautiful and luxurious Swiss ski town, Gstaad. The family has also chosen another name for this timepiece—the Alpine Eagle.
“The new name reflects the philosophy of our times now. Plus, St Moritz is not exactly the way I experienced it when I was [Karl-Fritz’s] age. It was a lot more fun than it is today. It was really hip and ‘in’ at that time. It’s good to turn that page,” says the Karl-Friedrich, who is a hiking and skiing enthusiast.
The name “Alpine Eagle” evokes nature, the Alps and the powerful eagle on top of its game. Metaphorically, the watch is for the contemporary eagles: someone who outperforms themselves daily and feels the need to connect with nature.
“We haven’t exclusively marketed it to men or women because we are looking at a broad consumer spectrum. This watch can be worn by a 25-year-old or someone in their sixties. Anyone who associates themselves with the mountains or sporty activities,” explains Karl-Fritz. His father adds, “If you only own one watch, this could be it. Because you can do all kinds of water sports wearing it, as well as wear it to the office.”
The launch will issue 10 references, available in unisex models with two different sizes: 41 mm and 36 mm. Like the St Moritz watch, the Alpine Eagle is sensitive to American architect Louis Sullivan’s principles of harmony, which dictate that “form follows function”. The eight functional screws at the four cardinal points on the round bezel guarantees water resistance up to 100m.
There are several references to the magnificent eagle.
- The textured dial: The stamped brass dial is inspired by the iris of the eagle, the only bird that can look and fly directly into the sun. The dial also comes in white mother-of-pearl or Tahitian mother-of-pearl.
- The feathered hand: Look closer, and one will notice that the rhodium-plated arrow-tipped seconds hand is shaped like an eagle feather.
- The compass rose: The crown of the Alpine Eagle is engraved with a compass rose, an instrument that has guided adventurers since ancient times.
THE NEW STEEL
Chopard worked with Voestalpine in Austria, its historical metal-maker, to conceive a new type of steel. It took them four years to create it, and the result is Lucent Steel A223, a metal as rich and complex as gold. This new alloy features three unique properties: its hypoallergenic composition makes it comparable to surgical steel, it is 50 per cent more resistant to abrasion and, because it has the lowest degree of impurities, it is the shiniest steel ever created.
On the watch, this exclusive, light-reflecting Lucent Steel A223 is reminiscent of glaciers and the rocks of the Alps as the textures of the watch alternates between polished and matte finishes.
The heartbeat of the watch is a Chopard chronometer-certified movement: “As the Alpine Eagle is of a masculine orientation, we said it has to be chronometer-certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Control. The small frequency is 3.5 hertz, the larger one is 4 hertz. The smaller one was a bit more complicated to be certified, so it took a little while to achieve that,” says Karl-Friedrich.
The automatic winding was developed and created in Chopard’s in-house watchmaking workshops, as with all the components including its case and bracelet in both Lucent Steel A223 and gold.
“We have no intention to produce tens of thousands, because after all, we produce about 70,000 watches a year. Our capacity of production is not endless. Even if the demand exceeds our supply, we won’t be able to respond very quickly,” says Karl-Friedrich. What about the Alpine Eagle? “For the moment, we will launch about 3,000 Alpine Eagles all in all for the first year. It’s not a huge amount.”
DESIGN AS LEGACY
It is rare for the co-president of any watchmaking company to personally create a watch from scratch, much less a timepiece that was created jointly by three generations of the family.
When asked if it was easier or strategic to pull from the archives rather than invent something completely new, Karl-Friedrich replies, “I won’t qualify it as necessarily easier. It’s probably almost as hard to reinterpret something in a meaningful way than it is to start from scratch. The only advantage we had, as we started with the St Moritz, is the history behind it, which we can bring to the table. But a reinterpretation or the renaissance of a successful watch is not an easy thing to do. We asked ourselves hundreds of questions along the way.”
To close the interview, we ask a personal question to the youngest member of this trio: name a trait of your father and grandfather that you appreciate, especially now that you have worked on a project of this scale with them? Karl-Fritz thinks carefully and says in jest, “Maybe I won’t be getting any dessert tonight! But I have to say my dad’s eye for detail. Sometimes I would look at a prototype and I think it’s ready to go, let’s make it! And he would see the smallest detail that I would have completely missed, and say, ‘No, no, this has to be changed’.
“Of course, for my grandfather, it would be perseverance. If my father said no, and he said no too, I really don’t know what I would have done. My grandfather really pushed to make the Alpine Eagle happen.”
See also: Chopard's 2019 Red Carpet Collection: The Real Stars Of Cannes Film Festival