7 Signs Chopard is Serious About High Watchmaking


Recently, WatchTime was among a select group of media outlets invited to tour and explore Chopard’s Swiss watchmaking operations in Geneva and Fleurier. By the end of the comprehensive visit, it was clear that Chopard, a brand still known more for high jewelry than high horology, is devoted to making its mark on the men’s luxury watch market. Here are seven reasons why.

1. Chopard has three facilities, in two Swiss watchmaking cities, devoted to making its watches. Chopard’s main headquarters is in Meyrin, near Geneva. The facility, which comprises 10 buildings with a total surface of 26,000 square meters of space — 5,000 square meters devoted exclusively to production — was built in 1974 and sits on a 40,000-square-meter plot of land. The Scheufele family, headed by the brother-sister management team of Karl-Friedrich and Caroline Scheufele, bought Chopard in 1963 and moved the company into its current digs in 1976. The Meyrin building employs 750 people, representing more than 30 different watch- and jewelry-making specialties. It is in this facility that many of the final stages of the watchmaking process occur: casing of movements, refining of cases, polishing, jewelry setting, and assembly of all Chopard watches that receive the Geneva Hallmark. Chopard HQ also features one of the few in-house gold foundries in the watch and jewelry industry (more on which below). The bulk of watchmaking activity takes place at two Chopard-owned factories in the quiet Swiss town of Fleurier, each with its own specialty — Chopard Manufacture and Fleurier Ébauches.

Chopard Headquarters - Meyrin
Chopard headquarters in Meyrin

2. Chopard Manufacture, its facility devoted to high watchmaking, has grown from three employees in 1996 to 136 today. The original structure, located at Rue des Moulins 20 in Fleurier, was erected in 1903 and is an important historical symbol of the town due to the fact that it has been used for watchmaking from its earliest days, beginning in 1920. It underwent two expansions, of its east-west wing in 1947 and of its south wing in 1966, and became a part of Chopard in 1996. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele had been interested from the start in creating horological legitimacy for his brand, and began work on the first Chopard mechanical movements as early as 1993. Under its old name, Fabrique d’ébauches de Fleurier, the factory made movement blanks for Swiss watch manufacturers and was owned by the firm Ebauches SA, which later became part of the movement-making colossus ETA. (ETA, of course, is part of the Swatch Group, from whom Chopard bought the building in 2000.)

Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier - exterior
Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier

The renovated, refurbished Chopard Manufacture, at first consisting of one workshop with three watchmakers, now comprises 3,300 square meters of floor space and employs 136 employees in 15 different professions – from R&D engineers to watchmakers (including a handful of grand complication specialists) to movement decorators to case-fitters and inspectors. It is here that Chopard’s L.U.C. base calibers (named for the initials of brand founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard), used in its haute horlogerie L.U.C. watch collection, are produced, largely by hand. Production and casing for certain other Chopard models — including some Happy Sport ladies’ watches and Mille Miglia men’s sport watches — also take place here, under a subcontracting arrangement with Chopard’s Geneva HQ. Each year, Chopard Manufacture produces 5,000 L.U.C. timepieces, all of which are COSC-certified chronometers (and all of whose movements are sent to Meyrin for the final assembly in order to qualify for the Geneva Hallmark). All in all, nine L.U.C. base calibers have been created at the manufacture since its founding.

Chopard Manufacture - movement CU
Adjusting a complicated movement at Chopard Manufacture
Chopard manufacture - caseback attachment
Attaching the caseback to an L.U.C. watch
Chopard Manufacture - tourbillon bridge finishing
Above and below: filing a tourbillon bridge
Chopard Manufacture - tourbillon bridge polishing
13 Responses to “7 Signs Chopard is Serious About High Watchmaking”

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  1. Kasing

    Dear Mark,

    Thank you for this article that helped me to learn more about Chopard. I am the proud owner of a Mille Miglia GTS Automatic, my first automatic movement watch. Glad to know it includes its own manufacture movements and not an ETA. Cheers!

    Reply
  2. Nicolas

    Bought a Quattro LUCbin HK last week end and discovered after 3 days the watch is running faster by 1 min every day (30 times COSC standards). How can this happen for a watch coming from the shop directly? Chopard very slow to answer, unprofessional staff and poor service. First and last Chopard watch for sure.

    Reply
  3. Debashish

    Unfortunately, Chopard is an extremely under-rated watch brand, yet some of the watches created by Chopard is truly outstanding.

    I do not know why the journalists ignore Chopard most of the time and go gaga over some of the lesser watch brands with over-hyped marketing programmes.

    Reply
    • joseph

      I’m not so sure about Chopard. I have owned quality Swiss watches, with high level complicated movements (valjoux 7751 and more) for many years. IWC, Dubey & Shallenbrand, Omega, and Breathing are some examples. As a general rule, these watches last for more than a lifetime, and rarely need “tune ups” and keep excellent time. My only Chopard watch, a Mille Miglia, purchased in 2008 (from Beyer in Zurich) has been my most troublesome timepiece. While under warranty, a chronograph pusher just fell off. Post warranty, the clasp has broken, and it has not kept good time for the last two years. Chopped now wants to charge me $700 for a full tune up, fix the timekeeping problem, and replace the hands, which look fine. I’m not sure if it will be worth the fix. I know I will never spend the money on a Chopard watch in the future. The Chopard company talks the talk, but their products are inferior to other Swiss watchmakers.

      Reply
      • Debashish

        Dear Joseph,

        I am extremely sorry to hear about your predicament with Chopard, as my experience with Chopard watches are totally different.

        I am a proud owner of two Chopard watches and I am highly satisfied with performance of those 2 Chopard watches in every respect, till date.

        Reply
  4. hey thanks
    the way i see it
    people find the time to go on line and complain about negative brand experiences
    why not when something positive actually happens?
    I’m in advertising–the creative strategic end , if I ever wanted to give it up to do damage control for clients taking unwarranted hits on line
    I’d be making way more money–and be way less happy
    as doing that would be like someone saying they got into the serious timepiece business but ONLY with quartz movements–

    BTW great name. any relation to a certain brand who offered
    a very cool stone faced watch?
    (among others)

    Reply
  5. Hi Mark,

    This is a great and detailed article about an amazing watch company Chopard. Thank you. I have enjoyed it immensely. This company has truly become a Manufacture and the quality of its watches are amazing. Yes I am a collector and I also like Sam own a Mille Miglia but fortunately for me I have had no problems with mine at all. It is so relieving to know that I would get outstanding service should the need arise. As a matter of fact the watch runs ridiculously accurate and way above chronometer standards whether worn or off the wrist and manually wound several times. I do not have a watch winder and should probably get one. Sam’s 8th Reason story is a great one and other watch companies should take note.
    As long as Chopard stays in the hands of the Scheufele family it will go from strength to strength. It’s ties to the historic Italian Mille Miglia race hosted yearly only adds prestige and class to its highly prized horological status and I can only see my watch sample becoming a prized collectors item in the distant future.

    Thanks again
    Mr Tissot

    Reply
  6. THE EIGHT REASON
    While these 7 are impressive, I only need one–the one I experienced firsthand earlier this week, as that confirmed (to me anyway) that from “C-Level” management down, Chopard is seriously committed to being a “high watch”brand. Though in my “case, the conformation” came from their handing of a “complication” of a different kind…

    Recently I had a bit of a problem with my Mille Miglia, This problem (which was non-mechanical) recurred even after getting it factory serviced. Because one doesn’t expect this with Chopard, my next step was calling “corporate’s” attention to this via email. Once they saw the issue I was having, they offered to resolve it in a manner that far exceeded my expectations. Considering the fact, we’re hardly Chopard “regulars” (the only Chopard products we own is my MM and my wife’s Happy Diamond necklace) this responsiveness was to say the least, gratifying.

    But it didn’t stop there, as a few days later I get an email from the personal assistant of Marc Hruschka, President/CEO of Chopard US. The email informed me that Mr Hruschka would like to speak with me personally at my convenience. Even the NY cynic in me was impressed by this new level of follow through.

    The call, which took place earlier this week, wasn’t a glorified hand-holding or “passing he buck” call, it was a call from someone who is genuinely concerned about his brand’s image and understands that every customer matters all the time.

    Customer service has become a casualty (fatality actually) in today’s “price is everything” retail world. And that’s even true in the world of “”high watchmaking”. Though if you ask me (or even if you don’t) consumers who pay the “premium” for a high end timepiece, do so because of the craftsmanship of the watch, AND because they expect a certain level of “craftsmanship” to the ownership experience as well.

    Mr. Hruschka’s call to me says more about the brand, than any complication, design innovation or “7 signs” as a lot of that stuff can be “acquired”. What can’t be acquired is the takeaway a call like this has on a brand’s employees . Think about it, if the man (or woman) in charge is this concerned about customer satisfaction, you’d better make sure you’re on top of your game as well.

    Make no mistake, the events that preceded this call, were frustrating & for a brand like Chopard surprising. But as the saying goes “stuff happens”, so you try & resolve it and move on. While I’ve experienced similar situations with products from Apple, Volvo, Panerai, Canon and a few others, I’ve never experienced the level of authentic concern and responsiveness that I did on that call (and definitely not from someone that senior) . .

    These days, most of us are thrilled when a brand simply lives up to our expectations. Today Mr. Hruschka proved that Chopard’s a brand that’s committed about doing way more than that .

    To me, that makes for an equally compelling proof of “high watchmaking” on par with Mark’s very informative 7 reasons. The way I look at it, to readers of blogs like this, the art of high watchmaking creates way less of a high when it’s backed by low-end concern. Brands don’t grow one complication at a time, they grow one (obsessively passionate, appreciative) customer at a time . At Chopard the boss gets it…and when the boss gets it, so does the staff.

    Reply
    • Mark Bernardo

      Sam, thanks so much for your comments. We’re glad your experience with the company was a positive one, and glad you enjoyed the story. We’ll be sure to pass your compliments on to Mr. Hruschka and his team.

      Reply
      • Mark

        Thanks so much for the kind words, I’ve been writing for a living since 8mhz computers were considered “blazing” and 38mm watches were considered “big” –while its mainly ads & related “marketing” type stuff, every year around CES –i “ghost out” some stuff on “real” audio, SLR photography and whats cool off the main convention center floor…

        My point? I know and appreciate a well crafted article and writer especially when it’s about my “addiction” (Yes, I mean watches…what’d you think?…forget it, not sure if I want to know)… do I still have non -chopard watches on my bucket list? Yep…but between my experience and your article, my perception of the brand (much like the brand) has totally evolved. Thanks again for reaching out and keep coming out with stuff that I find fascinating and my wife finds worrisome.

        Remember the ONLY things that should come in quartz are milk and orange juice (sounds better when you say it than when you read it, i know–thats the problem when you think in headlines like i do)

        Reply
    • Hi Sam,

      Your comment ” Brands don\’t grow one complication at a time, they grow one (obsessively passionate, appreciative) customer at a time . At Chopard the boss gets it…and when the boss gets it, so does the staff. ” is so true. This is an amazing example of where action has spoken louder than words. Much more in fact. Your story and comments are very inspiring and will probably convince you to maybe look at another Chopard timepiece in the future. Who knows, your story may also cause others to come along for the ride with you.

      Cheers
      MrTissot

      Reply
      • Thanks
        I hope it does get people to revisit their perceptions about the brand(not that I never heard anything negative per se’, just the “watch side of the house” isn’t as “key” as the jewelry side…even without Mark Bernardos really well crafted article–personal experience tells me that’s far from the case. The impression I get is that at Chopard (nothing product or customer wise) is an afterthought

        Reply
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