An interview with Chopard co-director Caroline Scheufele

Words by
Sphere Life

28th April 2020

In the first of our new Tastemaker series, we talk to Scheufele about her plans to change the industry by placing sustainability at the core of her family business

With her parents purchasing then-watchmaker Chopard in 1963, Caroline Scheufele's upbringing was immersed in the world of horology. She took up the reins of the family firm, becoming co-president along with her brother Karl-Friedrich in 2001, as well as artistic director. In 1985, she introduced the Happy Diamonds jewellery collection, the first jewellery line made by Chopard. She subsequently brought Chopard into the world of haute joallerie and forged a partnership with Cannes Film Festival in 1998, redesigning the Palme D’Or. In 2013, she launched “The Journey to Sustainability” initiative, which puts ethics at the heart of the company. 

It must have been an experience growing up around your parents' company. Describe some of your memories. 

I have so many beautiful memories. As a child I used to play in the workshops, drawing all kinds of jewellery and funny watches in hundreds of colours that came straight out of my imagination. Sometimes, my mother allowed me to help her in the “stone room”. For me, this was the most magical place in the world, where I could touch and feel all the precious gemstones. 

What was the first piece that you owned yourself (and who gave it to you)?

As a teenager, I designed my first piece of jewellery, the “Happy Clown” pendant, which is an articulated clown with moving diamonds and colourful precious stones dancing in its belly. My father manufactured the very first one secretly and gave it to me as a gift. It was a wonderful surprise and I still cherish it — it also propelled me into the creative world. In 1985, it formed the basis for the Happy Diamonds collection and turned out to be the start of jewellery at Chopard. 

An interview with Chopard co-director Caroline Scheufele
Bracelet in 18-carat white “Fairmined” gold set with brilliant-cut and pear-shaped diamonds from the Green Carpet Collection. All diamonds are sourced from a producer who is a Responsible Jewellery Council certified member.
What are your favourite memories from the Cannes Film Festival? 

I have met many outstanding actresses and actors throughout the years there, but my most memorable story was when Elizabeth Taylor asked me to visit her home and bring jewellery to have a look at. It was a very unique moment — a little dog was running around and all I could think of was whether the dog might swallow one of the rings I had brought to show Elizabeth! 

What has been your proudest moment as co-president? 

As a family-run business, ethics have always been an important part of our family philosophy. I am extremely proud of our in-house multi-year initiative “The Journey to Sustainable Luxury” that we launched in 2013. It commits to responsible sourcing and helps the people in the supply chain who are too often overlooked — it has a direct impact on the lives of the people in artisanal mining communities. When actress Marion Cotillard wore the first Chopard Green Carpet Collection creation on the red carpet during the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, it was most definitely my proudest moment as co-president. 

2018 was also a special milestone for Chopard as we committed to use 100% ethical gold for the production of all our watches and jewellery — the first watch and jewellery maison to do so. Being in a profitable business and practicing good stewardship of environmental and social justice is essential. I sincerely hope that more companies from our industry will join us in this movement to sustainable luxury by putting ethics at the heart of aesthetics.

What is it like working with your co-director brother Karl-Friedrich so closely? 

Our main strengths and the reason behind our success is teamwork and family work. My brother and I work very much hand in hand — we even share the same office. He takes care of the men's world and I am in charge of the women's world of Chopard. We always work together to make decisions about business development, global strategy, production, distribution, new designs or new products — along with our parents, of course.

How has the brand evolved since you took over? 

We were always known as a watchmaking company, but I am now very happy to see the evolution into jewellery and success thanks to our talented and passionate artisans working in our workshops. I initiated the jewellery and high jewellery ranges at Chopard, while my brother created Chopard Manufacture and the LUC Collection of watches, a great achievement: today Chopard is one of the only manufacturers mastering high jewellery and
fine watchmaking in-house. Another milestone I’m very proud of is our partnership with the Cannes Film Festival, which I initiated in 1998 when I took the opportunity to redesign the Palme d’Or. Since then, this famous trophy is manufactured every year in our workshops in Geneva. 

How did the Cannes collaboration come about? 

It all began in 1997 when I met Pierre Viot, then director of the Cannes Film Festival. I was having a good look at the Palme d’Or displayed in his office and he invited me to redesign it. — a fantastic challenge and one that I took up with great enthusiasm. The following year, at the closing ceremony of the 1998 Cannes Festival, the new Palme d’Or by Chopard was unveiled to the world in the form it still takes to this day.

An interview with Chopard co-director Caroline Scheufele
Pendant necklace with one dancing diamond from the Happy Hearts — Golden Hearts Collection, made from 18-carat ethical gold.
How did you discover an interest in ethical gold? 

It all started at the Oscars in 2012 when I met with Livia Firth, the founder and creative director of Eco Age. She asked me where our gold came from and I immediately replied “from the banks”, but her question went deeper than that and put the spotlight on humanitarian concerns. When you learn that there are millions of men, women and children digging up gold, often working in unsafe conditions and unable to get a fair price for their work, you’d better do something about it. Personally, I was shocked. From that point, I was determined to embark on a mission to change not only Chopard as a company and brand, but also the entire industry.

The new Bond collaboration is very exciting — how did that come about? 

It is indeed very exciting — we worked with the Elton John movie Rocketman last year and a year later we are collaborating with the new James Bond movie, No Time To Die! I took this opportunity to share my own vision
of the James Bond woman: a determined and courageous female. I also decided to reinterpret Chopard’s iconic Happy Hearts collection by filling the hearts with ethical rose gold, as gold is a leitmotif embedded in the James Bond DNA. The Happy Hearts — Golden Hearts Collection is ethical, light, supple and easy-to-wear. 

Being in a profitable business and practicing good stewardship of environmental and social justice is essential. I sincerely hope that more companies from our industry will join us in this movement

What are some of your favourite Chopard pieces from over the years? 

It is hard to choose, but if I have to name a few, the Happy Clown pendant, of course, would definitely
be one of my favourites. In 1997, I fell in love with an exceptional, high-quality batch of rare deep pink diamonds.
I bought them, even though I wasn’t sure how to use them. On 23 December 1997, the invoice arrived on my father’s desk and he was not happy. Over Christmas dinner, he was rather distant and ended up saying: “You’d better have a good idea for your awful stones!” The admonishment resulted in a particularly appealing haute joaillerie collection, La Vie En Rose, which is one of our most successful high jewellery collections. 

Another masterpiece that is very dear to me is the Queen of Kalahari. This very rare and exceptional 342-carat rough diamond of perfect colour and absolute purity has resulted in The Garden of Kalahari, a set of 23 diamonds of which five weigh over 20 carats. It is one of the most precious jewellery sets ever manufactured by Chopard. 

What are your three most treasured possessions? 

Family, health and love are life's most precious gifts.  

What do you like to do in your free time?

When I am not travelling, I love spending my time at home near Geneva and walking my dogs. I also
love gardening — I cherish my beautiful rose garden in particular. 

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