Revolution journeys to France with Chopard, to discover new watches amidst the splendour of the Scheufele family’s summer residence.
By Adam Hay-Nicholls
The sky over France’s Bergerac wine region is moody, the colour of tungsten, and cattle are lying down in anticipation of rain. We drive swiftly along quiet country lanes, past tumbledown farmhouses and vineyards. Red roses sprout from the end of each row of vines. Soon we enter the tiny village of Monestier and pause at an iron and stone gateway, with state-of-the-art intercom and cameras fielding calls. We are granted entry and drive up to the Château Monestier La Tour.
This is the summer home of Christine and Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, where the château’s eponymous wine is produced. But it is to admire the production of Karl-Friedrich’s main enterprise that we are in this rural enclave of the beautiful Dordogne today. The co-president of Chopard, Scheufele has invited Revolution to proffer its wrist and try on his latest editions; the L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru and L.U.C XPS, two new designs that draw heavily on Chopard’s DNA, just as the Scheufele’s grapes rely on their clay-limestone soil.
The L.U.C name is a nod to the Swiss company’s founder, Louis-Ulysse Chopard, but the Grand Cru title hints at Karl-Friedrich’s extra-curricular interest; to be the horologist’s finest harvest. “We knew, when we searched for a property, that it had to be in France and it had to have wine,” Scheufele, 59, explains. “That is my passion. That, and watchmaking.”
Actually, those are just two of the interests he and I share. The third is the motor car. Though the majority of Herr Scheufele’s cars are to be found in Switzerland, I sneak into the Château’s garage when no one’s looking to see what treasures he keeps here in France.
There is a black 1990s Mercedes G-wagon in mint condition, like it just drove off out of the Stuttgart factory; a pistachio green limited-edition Land Rover Defender, one of the last ever made; a white Renault 5, perfect for running out to provincial markets; a vintage noir Citroen Traction Avant, which should really come included with any grand Château; and the most gorgeous two-tone blue Delahaye 135 Chapron cabriolet, recently restored under Scheufele’s eye.
This is a very small sample of Scheufele’s cross-continental collection, which includes a 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza, a 1929 Bentley 4 ½ litre, and… a Porsche tractor. He’s almost as big on the classic car circuit as he is in horology, and his brand sponsors a number of motor racing events including the famous Mille Miglia, in which he and his wife compete. Karl-Friedrich and Christine’s other homes include a large residence on Lake Geneva and a modern farmhouse in Gstaad for winter skiing.
They bought the Château Monestier La Tour, which was previously owned by famous Kiwi soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, in 2012, and ploughed a lot of their extra-curricular energy into biodynamic wine, building a new vat room and barrel cellar to allow for the calm and temperature-controlled ageing of their Côtes de Bergerac. Monestier’s 25 hectares of vines yield merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, sémillon, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle grapes. They produce 136,000 bottles of red, white, rosé and sweet wine each year, mainly for the French, Chinese and Swiss markets. There are parallels, Karl-Friedrich offers, between winemaking and watchmaking. “You need to be disciplined, flexible and hardworking. A watch takes five years to develop from scratch, and wine takes about ten years to perfect. Patience and attention to detail span all areas of my life.”
Inside his viticulture facility, Chopard’s boss presents me with two new editions that have been inspired by fine wine. The L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru is an 18-carat rose gold tonneau chronograph with seductive and pronounced curves reminiscent of the oak barrels in the Château’s cellar. The resulting shape is both masculine and sensual. Ultra-slim (7.74mm at its thickest), it is a nod to the pocket watches that Louis-Ulysse created 150 years ago. And just as a Grand Cru wine is classified and certified, this watch is stamped with the Poinçon de Genève hallmark.
Innovative as well as retro, the Heritage Grand Cru is the third tonneau watch in Chopard’s range but the first with an automatic movement. Precision is supplied by Chopard’s 3.3mm thick 97.01-L calibre form movement, and winding accomplished by an engraved 22-carat gold micro-rotor supplying 65 hours of perfect chronographic heartbeat. The rose gold case and classic white face is complemented by a devilishly handsome brown alligator strap. It is marketed at 22,300CHF.
The L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru in rose gold.
The L.U.C XPS is exceptionally discreet, with a less-is-more design philosophy that equals purity and refinement; the last word in understated chic. An evolution of the decade-old XP, its Dauphine-fusée hands are inspired by the 1930s. A variety of colours and materials allow the gentleman-wearer to choose according to his personal style. The range starts with stainless steel watched with a grained white dial (7,900CHF). More precious is the 18-carat white gold that frames a black dial (15,390CHF), and the warm glow of the 18-carat rose gold version, which is offset by a silver-toned face (both 15,390CHF). But I find my notoriously expensive taste immediately drawn, without sight of the price tag, to the platinum edition with its eye-catching blue dial and blue alligator strap (25,000CHF). The movements range from the 96.50-L of the stainless steel, the 96.12-L of the gold versions with 22-carat rotor, and the platinum boasts the Calibre 96.01-L, bearing the coveted Poinçon de Genève. Whichever variant you select, it whispers poise and panache.
The Chopard L.U.C XPS.
Forty millimeters in diameter and just 7.2mm thick, it is ergonomic and comfortable on the wrist. Its sapphire crystal has been domed to ensure it slips smoothly under the cuff and accentuates the softness of its lines.
The Heritage Grand Cru and XPS are, just like the contents of Karl-Friedrich’s cellars and garages, of a fabulous vintage; classic and complex Swiss wrist art, raised from Chopard’s terroir, that will age as handsomely as the very finest Bergerac grand cru.