The Sins of the Fathers
1st October 2019
Today sees the launch of a whole collection of watches from Chopard: the new Alpine Eagle “sportive and chic” watch collection is a state-of-the-art reinterpretation of the St. Moritz, the first watch project in 1980 by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, now co-president of Chopard. Alpine Eagle is inspired by the eponymous eagle and driven by his passion for the Alps. Featuring an exclusive, ultra-resistant and light-reflecting metal named Lucent Steel A223, a Chopard chronometer-certified movement is the heartbeat within. The Alpine Eagle Collection allows Chopard to reveal a new commitment to protect the Alpine environment with the simultaneous launch of the Eagle Wings Foundation that Karl-Friedrich Scheufele is also a founding member of, and in keeping with Chopard’s ethical approach.
Redux of a Family Affair
When you consider his youth during that prevailing era of doom and gloom in the Swiss watch industry, the St Moritz watch was perhaps the first notable project that 22-year old Karl-Friedrich Scheufele produced. He also carved up a niche market: ‘Sporting Chic’. In 1980, Chopard surprised observers by creating a steel sports watch: St. Moritz. He had understood a change in “lifestyle” where the borders between formal evening dress, smart city suits and casual wear were becoming increasingly blurred. It took some persuasion to overcome the resistance of his father, Karl Scheufele, to produce the St Moritz and even more satisfying when receiving tacit approval after 50,000 watches were sold!
The St. Moritz featured an original interpretation of the octagonal shape with eight screws securing the gasket between the bezel and case. It was protected from damp and temperature variations – an impressive technical feat at that time. This grand première proved an instant success and was followed by models evoking other famous resorts: Monte Carlo and Gstaad. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele loves to ski and through that developed his love for the Alpine environment.
There is an apocryphal story of the Audacity of Youth told about how he “sold” the St. Moritz watch concept to sceptical retailers in Hong Kong. Whilst presenting the prototype at a gathering of dealers, Karl-Friedrich perceived an air of disbelief regarding water resistance. He countered this with a bold move that he now admits was impetuous and risky: he tossed his watch into the champagne ice bucket. At the end of dinner, the watch was retrieved in working order and sales were clinched!
Fast forward to 2019, when another 22-year old, Karl-Fritz Scheufele, joins his father and grandfather to launch another ‘sports chic’ watch – Alpine Eagle – and we can see the redux of a family affair. Karl-Fritz first approached his grandfather a few years ago asking why there were no metal bracelet sports watches offered by Chopard for the youth of today. Karl Scheufele vaguely remembered that a design study on “St. Moritz II” may have been done and suggested Karl-Fritz consult his aunt Caroline for the sketches.
Next stop: Make the pitch to his father, Karl-Fredrich…
Proverbs 23:24 The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.
Design by Nature
From his passion for the Alps and following Louis Sullivan’s principles of harmony which dictate that “form follows function”, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele created a new collection: Alpine Eagle. What Karl-Fritz and the youth market wanted was a watch with an integrated case and bracelet.
In keeping with ‘Sports Chic’, the design is both refined and contemporary, incorporating motifs referencing the Alpine eagle and its habitat. The rock-like textured dial evokes an eagle’s iris, the hands remind you of the feathers and the cold glinting steel is reminiscent of glaciers.
The gently tapered Alpine Eagle bracelet is constructed from ingot-shaped links, topped by raised central caps. The case is distinctive and shaped to protect the crown that is engraved with a ancient compass rose symbol. Today, it is an emblem of contemporary eagles that fly in any direction in the pursuit of their destiny.
Alpine Eagle’s round bezel features the iconic eight screws, grouped in pairs at the four cardinal points. In particular, the screw slots are set at a tangent to the circle of the bezel, demonstrating high-quality finishing and sophistication that surpasses rival brands. These screws serve a technical function by guaranteeing the water resistance of the watch to 100 metres.
Unlike on other bezels, these are functional screws and yet allow precise alignment of the slots for aesthetic balance. Alpine Eagle even surpasses the St. Moritz on this point!
All Alpine Eagle’s flat surfaces are satin-brushed, handcrafted to produce light effects further enhanced by polished chamfers. The hours and minutes hands, like the hour-markers, are coated with Super-LumiNova® Grade X1 to enhance night legibility.
The snow, torrents and rock of the Alps change their appearance according to the light conditions; that is recreated in the Alpine Eagle with alternating polished and matt finishes.
The Manufacture has been running at a frantic pace to ensure a collection launch with ten references in steel, gold, bi-material or diamond-set gold, available as unisex models in two different diameters (41 mm and 36 mm).
Lucent Steel A223
To achieve the function and form of the Alpine Eagle, Chopard used a new material – Lucent Steel A223 – a steel resulting from a re-smelting process to give three unique characteristics: Hardness, Brightness and Hypo-allergenicity.
As implied by its name, it’s a steel with 223 Vickers hardness rating that glows brighter (lucent) than ordinary 316L steel of ordinary watches. The hardness allows 50% more resistance to abrasion. The patented and exclusive re-smelting process makes for a superior homogeneous crystal structure, its purity enables it to reflect light in a unique way. This innovative steel has far less impurities than conventional steel, guaranteeing brilliance and brightness comparable to that of gold. Lucent Steel A223 has hypoallergenic properties comparable to surgical steel, making it super kind to skin.
It took four years of research and development to industrialise this new alloy as its desirable characteristics also posed a real challenge to manufacture to extremely strict specifications, significantly increasing manufacturing time as well as wear and tear on tools.
A Manufacture-made movement
Back in 1980, Chopard utilised high-quality movements supplied by specialist makers such as Frederic Piguet but today, the two movements with automatic winding at the heart of Alpine Eagle watches have been developed in Chopard’s watchmaking workshops and chronometer-certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Control – rarely achieved by other brands for this category of watches.
Alpine Eagle 41 mm is driven by the 01.01-C calibre with a 60-hour power reserve, while the 36 mm models use the 09.01-C calibre with a 42-hour power reserve. Notably, the 8-ligne 09.01-C movement is one of the smallest to receive COSC certification. Both are visible through a transparent sapphire crystal back.
With a vertically integrated production process, Chopard produced and assembled all Alpine Eagle components in-house, from all the components of its movements to the making of case and bracelet, whether in steel and/or gold.
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele is a hiking and skiing enthusiast who finds inspiration and serenity in the high altitudes of Switzerland, which open his eyes, clear his mind and initiate action. Sensitive to Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s initiative, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele joined the Alp Action programme in the 2000’s. Today, in unveiling the new Alpine Eagle collection, whose design bears the imprint of nature’s influence, he sought to associate this collection with a new sustainable approach.
The co-president of Chopard became founding member of the newly formed Eagle Wings Foundation together with an Alpine photographer, entrepreneur, falconer and Alpine guide. This innovative and multidisciplinary environmental project – designed to raise awareness and galvanise the public with respect to the importance, beauty and fragility of Alpine biotopes – will offer a new vision of the Alps through the eyes of human beings, satellites as well as the eagle – the latter being especially renowned for its piercing gaze. Through the eyes of photographer Nomi Baumgartl, the Alps looks like this…
The first project for this organisation is the Alpine Eagle Race, during which participants will be able to observe images taken by a camera on an eagle, launched from five mythical Alpine peaks spread over five countries: Zugspitze in Germany, Dachstein in Austria, Marmolada in Italy, Aiguille du Midi in France and Piz Corvatsch in Switzerland. The race will end in St. Moritz, in tribute to the creation that inspired Alpine Eagle.
In the watch collecting world, it is literally a once-a-generation occurrence that a major luxury brand launches a major collection like the Alpine Eagle. We have to go back a generation to the 1972 – 1980 period when the last wave of famous sports watches with integrated bracelets were introduced and became the icons of today: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (1972), Girard-Perregaux Laureato (1975), Patek Philippe Nautilus (1976), IWC Ingenieur (1976), Vacheron Constantin Model 222 (1977) and Chopard St. Moritz (1980).
Despite the Enthusiasm of Youth that Karl-Fritz showed to revive the Chopard St. Moritz II project quickly, his father Karl-Fredrich was adamant that the Alpine Eagle must be more than a cosmetic revamp of an old name. That is why the development has taken nearly 5 years to proffer meaningful and coherent improvement in function and form. The Alpine Eagle has both intrinsic and extrinsic raison d’être.
Purely as a ‘sports chic’ watch, it has extrinsic reasons for the elegant, lines and coherent design befitting a Chopard. The 8-screw 4-cardinal point motif has been modernised and they addressed the main complaint about other watches with non-aligned screw slots or non-functional screws. This simple attention to detail shows the serious horological technique serving aesthetics at Chopard. A new case compression system had to be incorporated.
More than just bird and alpine motifs on the dial and hands, the Alpine Eagle has intrinsic meaning for the majestic eagle and its Alpine biotope. The Eagle Wings Foundation and Alpine protection receive revenue from sale of Alpine Eagle watches.
Lucent A223 steel is made from 70% recycled steel and Chopard also recycles 100% of its steel production waste to further demonstrate Chopard’s commitment to Responsible and Sustainable Luxury as reported before on AlphaLuxe HERE and THERE.
The integrated bracelet is the “killer app” of the Alpine Eagle being flexible and comfortable on the wrist without the usual “hair-trapping” characteristics of it’s rivals. Chopard is superlative at bracelet expertise and can thank the jewellery division based in the same Geneva manufacture as the watchmakers.
This is an important and significant new collection for Chopard because 60% of wristwatch demand today is for a sports watch, especially from the younger active demographic, who also appreciate the versality of using the same watch when the sun sets to party into the night. For the sports chic market, the Alpine Eagle is set to soar to great heights.
With 40 years’ more modern materials and precision production technologies, the Alpine Eagle brings improvements to the market segment currently dominated by models introduced between 1972 and 1980. Even better for the customer, the Alpine Eagle is cunningly priced just below the main rivals: Royal Oak and Nautilus. More for Less; it’s a Winner!
Further development could offer future novelties like chronographs and wrist straps made of softer materials such as rubber, leather, canvas and other sustainable fabrics.
Of the ten inaugural Alpine Eagle watches, my favourite is the 41mm Lucent Steel with slate grey dial (Ref. 298600-3002) that embodies the majesty of the alpine granite.
Alpine Eagle Inaugural Collection
Alpine Eagle Steel Watches (Clockwise from Top Left)
41mm Ref. 298600-3001 – Lucent Steel A223 with blue dial.
36mm Ref. 298601-3001 – Lucent Steel A223 with blue dial.
36mm Ref. 298601-3002 – Lucent Steel A223 with mother-of-pearl dial and diamond-set bezel.
41mm Ref. 298600-3002 – in Lucent Steel A223 with slate grey dial.
Alpine Gold or Gem-Set Watches (Clockwise from Top Left)
41mm Ref. 298600-6001 – Lucent Steel A223 and 18-carat ethical rose gold with slate grey dial.
36mm Ref. 298601-6001 – Lucent Steel A223 and ethical 18-carat rose gold with slate grey dial.
36mm Ref. 295370-5001 – ethical 18-carat rose gold with slate grey dial.
36mm Ref. 295370-5003 – ethical 18-carat rose gold with Tahitian mother-of-pearl dial, diamond-set bezel and partially diamond-set bracelet.
36mm Ref. 295370-5002 – ethical 18-carat rose gold with white mother-of-pearl dial and diamond-set bezel.
36mm Ref. 298601-6002 – Lucent Steel A223 and ethical 18-carat rose gold with white mother-of-pearl dial and diamond-set bezel.
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web magazine. He was former CEO of PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).