2019 Gaïa Awards: Chopard’s Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Enameler Suzanne Rohr, And Historian Laurent Tissot Honored
In 1993, the Musée International d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds (MIH) created the Gaïa Award to honor the memory of one of the earliest patrons of the museum, Maurice Ditisheim. If the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève awards the horological Oscars, then the more cerebral Gaïa might be considered the horological Nobel Prize.
Now in its twenty-sixth year, the 2019 Gaïa Award has added something new in the form of an incentive grant called the Horizon Gaïa, which aims to encourage new talent in the fields of craftsmanship/creation, history/research, and entrepreneurship.
The grant funded by the Watch Academy Foundation is awarded to an individual project, which must be completed within one year. The first recipient was Aude Moutoussamy, a young woman with a masters in contemporary history from the Sorbonne who will use the grant to undertake six months’ worth of research on the social media strategies of various watch brands in Switzerland and abroad.
Entrepreneurship: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele
The jury of the 2019 Prix Gaïa awarded Chopard’s Karl-Friedrich Scheufele “for the dynamic growth and international renown that the Scheufele family company has enjoyed thanks to his leadership, and for developing new watchmaking entities that emphasize the value of people, craftsmanship, and innovation.”
Scheufele, born in Pforzheim in 1958, is best known as the co-president of Chopard, a family-owned and -run company he leads with his sister. Having moved to Switzerland with his family when he was 15, Scheufele completed both a university degree in business and an apprenticeship with a Genevan master jeweler.
Joining the family business in 1979, he worked in every single department, learning the various skills.
Today, Chopard employs around 2,000 people. Scheufele is in charge of the men’s watch division and a variety of management aspects in addition to Chopard Manufacture and Fleurier Ebauches, both of which Scheufele founded. His own mechanical watches and clocks – some of which are of historical importance – are gathered in a collection at the L.U.CEUM in Chopard Manufacture for all to enjoy. This mini museum traces the development of Chopard as well.
This aspect is not unimportant, for it was through this that Scheufele discovered the history of Ferdinand Berthoud and became interested in it, acquiring the rights to the name in 2006 and founding an extremely high-end boutique brand that is now nestled within the walls of Chopard Manufacture.
In winning the 2019 Prix Gaïa for Entrepreneurship, Scheufele joins a list of visionary laureates reading like a who’s who of Swiss watchmaking: Maximilian Büsser (MB&F), Richard Mille, Günter Blümlein, Luigi Macaluso, Rolf Schnyder, Nicolas G. Hayek, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey, Jean-Claude Biver, Philippe Stern, Franco Cologni, Ernst Thomke, and Giulio Papi are just a few of these illustrious names.
History and Research: Laurent Tissot
The jury of the 2019 Prix Gaïa awarded Tissot “for his contribution to the renewal of our understanding of the economic, social, and cultural history of Swiss watchmaking at an academic level, influenced by his many research studies, wealth of publications, and his strong communication skills.”
Tissot, a graduate of the Universities of Fribourg and Lausanne and a doctor of political science, has used his expertise in the fields of history and economics to further our understanding of the watch industry since the 1990s – working to develop the history of watchmaking as an academic discipline.
Among his numerous publications, some of the most important are perhaps La Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Locle: urbanisme horloger (2009), Le pays de Neuchâtel et son patrimoine horloger (2008), Electricité et horlogerie, une (r)évolution de société? (2005), and L’Arc jurassien: histoire d’un espace transfrontalier (2004).
Tissot joins past winners Reinhard Meis, Roger Smith, Jonathan Betts, Henry Louis Belmont, François Mercier, Ludwig Oechslin, Jean-Luc Mayaud, Jean-Claude Sabrier, Yves Droz, Joseph Flores, Estelle Fallet, Kathleen Pritschard, Catherine Cardinal, John H. Leopold, Pierre-Yves Donzé, Francesco Garufo, Günther Oestmann, Laurence Marti, and Pierre Thomann as a laureate in this category.
Craftsmanship, Creation: Suzanne Rohr
The jury of the 2019 Prix Gaïa awarded Rohr “for her pioneering role in and her mastery of the art of enameling, her perseverance and her independence in apprenticeship, and her work in training others in these skills.”
Suzanne Rohr has been a pioneer in her chosen field. Born in 1939, it was only upon finishing school that she discovered an exhibition on the art of enameling at the Museum of Arts and History in Geneva. Always having been interested in drawing and painting, this inspired her to train as an enameler and painter of enamel miniatures at the School of Decorative Arts in Geneva, obtaining her diploma in 1959 as the only student in the class that year.
In 1960, not able to find a company position anywhere, she opened her own freelance studio. It was in 1967 that Rohr began to work with Patek Philippe, ensuring that from 1970 onward she was able to rely on regular commissions. Patek Philippe worked with her loyally for the next 50 years.
Having been mentored by Genevan miniaturist Carlo Poluzzi for 28 years, she in turn mentored Anita Porchet, who is the most well-known enameler today.
In winning the 2019 Prix Gaïa for Creation, Rohr joins winners that can be described as no less than technical and artistic virtuosos, including the likes of Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, François-Paul Journe, Michel Parmigiani, Derek Pratt (who co-created many Urban Jürgensen recent-history works), George Daniels, Beat Haldimann, Swatch’s Jacques Müller and Elmar Mock, Corum’s René Bannwart, automaton maker François Junod, Eric Coudray of Cabestan and Jaeger-LeCoultre, and A.H.C. I. members Vincent Calabrese, Philippe Dufour, Paul Gerber, Andreas Strehler, Vianney Halter, and Kari Voutilainen in this category.
Rohr and her protegée Anita Porchet have been the only female recipients of this award thus far (see The 2015 Gaïa Awards: Giulio Papi, Anita Porchet, And Jonathan Betts Honored).
For more information on the Prix Gaïa, please visit www.chaux-de-fonds.ch/musees/mih/prix-gaia.