An inside look at Fleurier, Switzerland’s Chopard Manufacture.
By: Jonathan Bues
Chopard Manufacture began as Karl-Friedrich Scheufele’s dream. Established 20 years ago, after the Chopard copresident concluded that his company would not be taken seriously in the men’s watch arena until it could make its own in-house movements. A true watch aficionado and connoisseur, Scheufele’s ambition to create his own watchmaking factory from the ground up was way ahead of its time in the mid-1990s.
At a time when the majority of fine watchmakers were content sourcing movement components from the handful of suppliers servicing the industry, Chopard bucked the trend and set itself on the expensive and difficult path of going vertical. Without Chopard Manufacture, the Fleurier outpost of the Geneva-based company, Chopard could not have realized its line of L.U.C Manufacture movements and watches.
Despite its relatively small size, Chopard Manufacture is one of the few bona-fide manufactures of Switzerland. The company even fabricates the tooling for its CNCs in-house. The only components it doesn’t make are the balance springs and other escapement parts, though those are fine tuned and adjusted in-house by a single expert. Everything else is carefully crafted from beginning to end in the Fleurier facilities.
A handful of watches designated to receive the prestigious Poinçon de Genève get their finishing touches and final assembly at the Chopard factory in Geneva. The majority of Chopard’s L.U.C watches—short for the company’s founder, Louis-Ulysse Chopard—are certified by the recently launched Qualité Fleurier hallmark, a strict code that mandates fine finishing and chronometric accuracy, as well as durability in real-life conditions of wear and tear.
Over the next eight pages, we take a close look at Chopard Manufacture through the eyes of its engravers, its watchmakers, its bevelers, its finishers, and its technicians. It is these skilled craftsmen-and-women who are responsible for elevating a watch from a utilitarian tool to an artwork of exceptional handmade provenance.
Chopard Manufacture occupies a modern factory in the heart of Fleurier. The building has been the home of the company’s L.U.C line since 1996, when Chopard leased a single room from what was then a Swatch Group-owned ETA production facility. Chopard purchased the entire building from Swatch in order to grow L.U.C.
While Chopard Manufacture does not craft balance springs and escapements in-house, it does precisely adjust and fit every escapement that makes its way into an L.U.C timepiece. Here, a watchmaker can be seen pairing a spring to a balance wheel and ensuring that it is properly poised.
A fine watch is judged not only by its accuracy but by the attention to detail that goes into its finishing. Here, an artisan ensures that all of the exposed edges of the movement are beveled.
A watchmaker takes the finely finished components and fits them together into a movement that will accurately keep time.
As one of the few fine watchmakers to call the town of Fleurier home, Chopard adorns some of its timepieces with Fleurisanne-style engraving. As its name implies, this type of decoration depicts a floral motif. Fleurier is, after all, the village of Flowers. One skilled engraver at the factory is responsible for all of the Fleurisanne engraving at Chopard Manufacture.
Even though modern movement components are machined in precision CNC machines, a trimming operator must still remove any small burrs or imperfections from the edges before the movements can be approved for further finishing.