NEW YORK — Design, quality and rarity are the foundation of luxury for Marc Hruschka, Chopard’s new president and chief executive officer in the U.S.
“True luxury is a product and brand that is aspirational to all levels of consumers,” Hruschka said. “Being aspirational is a combination of things: The design is key, the quality of the product must be exceptional and the product has to be rare. Also, the service you give to your customer has to be at the highest level. Chopard has always done all of this well and all of this will continue to be a priority for the brand.”
Hruschka will rely on these tenets to keep Chopard, the 146-year-old, Geneva fine jewelry and watch firm, at the top of its game here.
He joins the company at a busy time. This month, the brand will launch a new advertising campaign starring Eva Herzigova, posed within a stream of glitter in four guises, each meant to embody the facets of a woman. Hruschka said he believes it’s brand’s first campaign using a model and mood to enhance the product presentation. The campaign, shot by Joël von Allmen, will appear in W, In Style, Town & Country, Harper’s Bazaar and Departures.
In addition, this year marks the 30th anniversary of Chopard’s launch of the Happy Diamonds watch, a timepiece built of concentric circles with floating loose diamonds that has served as the basis for one of the brand’s more successful signature collections. The Happy Diamonds collection comprises watches, necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets, as well as perfume, scarves and china, and retails from $2,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The brand is coming off a year of healthy gains, buoyed by overall strength in the U.S. Many fine jewelers here have reported double-digit growth for 2005, while Swiss watch imports to the country increased 14.5 percent to 2.1 billion Swiss francs, or $1.62 billion.
“I think one of the strengths of the company is that it is family owned,” said Hruschka, 38, who in January filled the post left vacant when Thierry Chaunu departed in July after six years.
Chopard is owned by the Scheufele family, which purchased the brand from Chopard descendents in 1963.
“Chopard has intense involvement on behalf of the family in a positive way that permeates the whole culture,’’ Hruschka said, adding it allows the company more freedom to react quickly. “This is not necessarily a time to step forward. I think what we need to do now is look at where we are and decide if that position will ensure long-term growth.”
Hruschka, who was vice president of fine jewelry and watches for Chanel for three years, and has held positions at Tiffany & Co., Montblanc, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, wants to keep the momentum going by refining the way the brand’s identity is communicated, including analyzing its wholesale account structure and tapping into the American consumer’s interest for distinctive jewelry.
Hruschka intends to draw on his experiences at Chanel to begin his work at Chopard.
“One of the truly wonderful things about working at Chanel was getting to understand the brand that they have,” he said. “Everything at Chanel is geared toward executing things with the brand in mind. I think that approach is intriguing for me here.”
In addition to Happy Diamonds, Chopard has become known for its women’s collections, such as Ice Cube, featuring jewelry based on the square; La Strada, comprising a three-dimensional arched rectangular motif, and Pushkin, showcasing teardrops in multiple designs. It has also become known for its Haute Joaillerie luxury pieces and its ability, because it is vertically integrated and makes product from beginning to end, to customize items. Communicating these brand highlights, said Hruschka, is top priority.
“Chopard has a wonderful range of products in both watches and jewelry, and that’s one of our strengths,” Hruschka said. “While all the design decisions are made in Europe, I hope to influence the product selection in the U.S. and isolate key products and put marketing dollars behind them. More people want to have recognizable designs, and brands that have distinct design elements associated with them are benefiting from that trend.”
Chopard retails its assortment in eight freestanding boutiques in North America. Hruschka said its flagship location in New York, at 725 Madison Avenue, is its top-performing door. There are also boutiques in Beverly Hills; Costa Mesa, Calif.; Las Vegas; Aspen, Colo.; Palm Beach and Bal Harbour, Fla., and Puerto Rico. Hruschka said for now there are no immediate plans to increase the number of Chopard stores, unless the right market and real estate presents themselves.
“From a retail perspective, I think we’re really pleased with the markets we’re in,” Hruschka said. “In terms of wholesale, Chopard is committed from that perspective that we have the healthiest distribution both domestically and internationally.”
Domestically, Chopard’s wholesale distribution is divided among 160 independent jewelers and department stores and chain jewelers, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tourneau and Mayers Jewelry, which has locations throughout Florida.
“I’ve really just gotten started, so it’s too early to say if we will make changes at wholesale,” he said. “But we know the opportunity is great for us in all markets. So we do need to think about how we are reaching the consumer in these markets.”
Hruschka, whose grandparents and parents worked in manufacturing jewelry and exposed him to the business at a young age, said he felt like there was a perfect synergy between him and Chopard.
“Chopard has done a fantastic job to develop the brand,” he said, “but because of the broad geographic reach of the U.S., there are still some incredible opportunities for us.”