Julia Roberts about her children and her journey to sustainable luxury

After transitioning to ethical gold, Swiss luxury brand Chopard has now become the world’s first jewelry and watch manufacturer to use recycled steel in all its timepieces. This groundbreaking initiative in sustainable luxury is supported by actress Julia Roberts. “I also have three children whom I must be accountable to for the future of this planet,” she shares during our face-to-face encounter at Watches & Wonders 2023 in Geneva.

By Anja Van Der Borght

Where does the cotton in our jeans or t-shirts come from? Is the material used for that leather handbag of animal or plant origin? And is the diamond in that particular engagement ring ethically sourced? With an increasing desire to preserve our planet, more and more consumers are asking these kinds of questions, and rightly so! Swiss luxury brand Chopard takes it a step further and becomes the first jewelry and watch manufacturer to inquire about the origins of the gold and steel used in their timepieces and jewelry.

Nature-loving brand
Chopard now utilizes Lucent Steel™ for the annual production of all its 45,000 to 50,000 steel watches, including bracelets and watch cases. This steel represents an evolution of the existing Lucent Steel™ (comprised of seventy percent recycled steel), which was introduced in 2019 on the iconic Alpine Eagle watch. It marks a significant milestone in Chopard’s long-term project towards responsible steel usage.

From left to right: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Co-President of Chopard along with his sister, Caroline and President of La Chronométrie Ferdinand BerthoudJ, ulia Roberts and
Caroline Scheufele, artistic director of Chopard and co-president of the brand.

“My brother and I are nature enthusiasts who cherish the planet,” reveals Caroline Scheufele, artistic director of Chopard and co-president of the brand alongside her brother Karl-Friedrich. “Sustainability and responsible practices have always been essential parts of our family philosophy. Ethics have been at the core. In 2013, during a coffee meeting in Los Angeles, Livia Firth (then-wife of actor Colin Firth and founder of Eco-Age, a leading sustainability advisory and creative agency) brought to my attention that the gold we use in our industry is not truly traceable. The launch of an ethically crafted Green Carpet collection shortly after, during the Cannes Film Festival, marked the beginning of our ‘Journey to Sustainable Luxury’ project. We partnered with Eco-Age to establish a philanthropic relationship with ARM (the Alliance for Responsible Mining) to directly support gold-mining communities by providing them with education, social welfare, and environmental support, as well as helping them achieve Fairmined certification. Since 2013, Chopard has been using this Fairmined gold in its haute joaillerie pieces, later expanding it to the Green Carpet jewelry and L.U.C haute horlogerie watches. Since July 2018, our brand has achieved a significant milestone by crafting all our watches and jewelry from 100% ethical gold, the highest social and environmental standard available today. It was a pioneering move in the industry! The Fairmined certificate guarantees that the gold has been produced in accordance with social, ecological, and ethical standards. We apply the same careful selection process for the sourcing of diamonds in our haute joaillerie creations. They all come from suppliers certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), which ensures compliance with the ethical, social, and environmental criteria established by this governing authority. Recycled steel is now the next step.”

From now on, all Chopard steel watches, including bracelets and watch cases, will contain 80% recycled steel. By 2025, this figure will rise to a minimum of 90%.

Net-zero steel
By giving steel a second life, Chopard, like an alchemist, transforms materials that are sometimes unjustly considered less noble into exquisite treasures. In 2019, Chopard introduced Lucent Steel™, made from 70% recycled steel. However, Chopard’s reputation as a pioneer wouldn’t be honored if they didn’t strive for more. From now on, all Chopard steel watches, including bracelets and watch cases, will contain 80% recycled steel. By 2025, this figure will rise to a minimum of 90%. Chopard has underscored this commitment by becoming the first luxury house to join the SteelZero initiative by the Climate Group, aiming to accelerate the industry’s transition to net-zero steel. This initiative will significantly reduce Chopard’s CO2 emissions linked to steel production. By transitioning from the standard 50% recycled steel to 80%, production emissions will decrease by 30%. With 90% recycled steel, this figure will rise to 40%. When asked if achieving 100% recycled steel is possible, Karl-Friedrich expresses some doubt: “If we want to maintain the advantages of our steel, a percentage of 100% seems impossible, but of course, we don’t know what the future holds.”

Uncompromised quality
Chopard’s commitment to sustainability in no way compromises the exceptional quality or characteristics of the materials used in their timepieces. “We use 25 to 30 tons of steel per year, and Chopard’s Lucent Steel™ is made from high-quality industrial waste from ourselves and other Swiss watchmakers, as well as premium steel from the medical, aviation, and automotive industries. It possesses numerous qualities,” explains Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. “Contrary to what one might think, it is not inferior to the original material. On the contrary, it has a homogeneous and denser crystal microstructure and is 50% more resistant to wear than ordinary steel. As the name suggests, it also has a brighter shine. Additionally, it is hypoallergenic.”

Where does it come from?
Lucent Steel™ is the result of a local, circular production loop created by Chopard. All Chopard’s recycled steel suppliers are located within a radius of a thousand kilometers from the production unit, either in Switzerland or neighboring countries such as Austria, France, Germany, and Italy, thereby reducing the need for transport emissions. Furthermore, Chopard collects waste from its production process, which is then recycled by the supplier into high-quality new steel. This way, Chopard continues to pave the way for sustainable luxury.

©Greg Williams

Face to Face with Julia Roberts
As the face of the Happy Sport and Happy Diamonds collections, Julia Roberts had been a beloved member of the Chopard family since 2021. However, this year, Roberts has also been named the muse and Global Ambassador for all women’s watch and jewelry collections of the House.

Is sustainability a bonus, an add-on, or should it truly be the core of every company’s objectives and business?
JR: “I think it’s both. On the one hand, it’s a bonus, but the way Chopard approaches it is… truly pioneering. One of the things that immediately impressed me from the beginning is how they completely revamped their gold practices. I was already aware of and admired that even before our partnership came about. I also have three children whom I must be accountable to, and with great pride, I can tell them about all these new sustainability projects becoming a reality. It increases my credibility on the streets, with my children, and with friends.”

What watch are you wearing?
“The new Happy Sport 25 in Lucent Steel with a blue double tour strap. It looks fantastic. I wear it with great pride.”

©Picture by Alasdair McLellan for Chopard.

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