Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, the co-president of Chopard, is as passionate about cars as he is about horology – a fact that has led to the family-owned watch and jewellery house becoming the long-standing sponsor of some leading motoring events such as the Mille Miglia and the Monaco Historic Grand Prix and, most recently, the official timing partner of Porsche Motorsport. His enthusiasm for automobiles has further manifested itself in a large and impressive collection of classic cars, all of which he regularly drives. Scheufele admits to having more than 30 in his various motor houses, but he doesn’t care to be more specific, believing it better that his wife remains uncertain of the precise number. That way, the occasional new arrival is a little less noticeable. The person Scheufele relies on to help him refine and improve his collection is 55-year-old Peter Bradfield, a London-based classic-car broker who has been in the business for more than 25 years. The pair first met in 2002 when Bradfield acted as the intermediary in Scheufele’s purchase of a 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza, which is still his pride and joy and is now estimated to be worth more than £5m.
“Back in 1992, I drove this car in the Mille Miglia,” recalls Scheufele. “It then belonged to the late Jean Sage who, at the time, looked after the classic-car side of Ferrari. I took part in the Mille Miglia with the F1 star Jean Alesi as my co-pilot and, although I dreamt of owning the car for years afterwards, I didn’t think it would ever happen.”
In the event, it was to be the car that brought Scheufele and Bradfield together a decade later. “I had heard that Karl-Friedrich wanted to buy a Ferrari that was suitable for the Mille Miglia and I knew that this one was for sale – but didn’t realise that, of the 33 Monzas made, it was the actual one he had already driven,” says Bradfield.
Scheufele was unable to view the car but, after receiving numerous pictures of its every detail from Bradfield and hearing his favourable condition report, he decided to rely on his expertise. “I simply felt that I could trust both his knowledge and his integrity, and finding someone you feel that way about in the old-car business is not always easy. Since then, Peter has been the first person I turn to whenever I am looking to add to the collection. Once I even asked him to look out for a prewar Bentley for a friend of mine who wanted to give someone a particularly special gift. Peter found exactly the right car in no time at all.”
Scheufele doesn’t generally like to buy cars at auction due to not being able to test-drive them or spend sufficient time checking them over. Recently, however, he made an exception in the case of a long-coveted Alfa Romeo. “It is a 1956 1900 CSS with beautiful aluminium coupé bodywork by Touring of Milan. I had wanted one for a decade and spotted this car in the catalogue for a Coys sale in Essen,” he says. “Again, I couldn’t attend, but Peter got to work and arranged for someone reliable to take a close look at it and to send lots of photographs. I bought it, and it is everything I was hoping for.”
Bradfield, too, is reluctant to buy from auction unless the car in question has been thoroughly researched. “The monetary value of many of these cars has now become so high that you need to take the study of them very seriously and the approach has to be scholarly,” he says.
Scheufele agrees. “Because the cars are much more valuable, provenance is all the more important. You often hear of cars being resurrected or reinvented, so you have to be very careful not to buy something that is, effectively, a replica. This business can be what the French might call un panier de crabes.”
But, aside from the cars in his collection being original and correct, Scheufele insists that they are also “on the button” and ready to drive. He has competed in the Mille Miglia 25 times, mainly with the same co-drivers – one year it was his wife, the next his close friend Jacky Ickx, the Belgian Formula One star and six-times winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
“One of the reasons I really enjoy working with Karl-Friedrich is that he is less concerned about the investment potential of a car than he is about being able to drive it,” says Bradfield.
“I am often approached by people trying to get me to invest in funds based on classic cars, but I have no interest in that,” says Scheufele. “I believe old cars were made to be driven and, other than in the depths of winter when there is salt on the roads, mine get exercised on a regular basis. I really enjoy, for example, the chance to drive the 1973 Porsche 911 RS or the 1970 Mini Cooper S from home to the office in Geneva, then to our Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier. I’m also very keen on my prewar cars – I have an Aston Martin Ulster and a 4.5-litre Bentley from 1929 – as they’re so involving and often quite demanding.”
Indeed, such is Scheufele’s enthusiasm for his classic cars that, when he’s not behind the wheel, he likes to maintain and tinker with them as much as possible. “Apart from the fact that I like his British humour, one of the reasons I have confidence in Peter is that he, too, likes to be hands-on with the cars,” he says. “I have met many people who claim to be specialists in the field, but then they don’t even know how to open the hood. I don’t think such a person can really claim to be an expert – but it’s surprising how many do.”