Making it into the list of the richest people in Switzerland is no easy task. For years the richest person in the land was Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of flat-pack furniture experts Ikea, who had a personal fortune estimated at around 45 billion Swiss francs but was known for his frugality, driving around Lausanne in an old Volvo and shopping at discount supermarkets. But he recently left Switzerland and ceded the top spot to… the Kamprad family!
There are 122 billionaires in Switzerland according to Bilan, so if you want to make it high up in the list you need to have amassed a considerable fortune from your own business (nearly 70% of the people in the list are entrepreneurs) or inherit it through the family. Some 20% of the list is made up of heirs to Switzerland’s biggest companies, such as the Hoffmann and Oeri families, who are in third place with a fortune of 25 billion Swiss francs thanks to their holding in pharmaceutical giant Roche, whose new headquarters in Basel is the tallest building in Switzerland, dwarfing the tower of the nearby Ramada Hotel at the exhibition centre that plays host to Baselworld.
The co-presidents of Chopard, Caroline and Karl-Friedrich Scheufele were in the top 300 back in 2002 (like much of our pre-2010 content, this article is only available in French. But how have their fortunes fared over the past 14 years? Thanks to the long-standing relationship between Chopard and the Cannes Film Festival and the legendary Mille Miglia race, which reflect the passions of both co-presidents, the brand has built up a following that is sustainable as the Fairmined gold it uses in its jewellery and watches. In the 2015 edition of its report, Bilan estimates that Chopard, which employs some 2000 people, sells around 80,000 watches and 75,000 items of jewellery per year for a turnover estimated by Vontobel, a bank, at 570 million Swiss francs.
Caroline and Karl-Friedrich Scheufele.
At between 1.5 and 2 billion Swiss Replica Watches francs, the Scheufele family fortune has grown slightly over the past 14 years and remains stable. But they are not the only entrepreneurs from the world of watchmaking to make the list, some of whom are familiar, others less so…
The Hayek family (5-6 billion Swiss francs)
The fortune of the family behind the world’s biggest watch group remains stable despite difficulties associated with the strong Swiss franc, which may affect the Swatch Group’s objective of 10 billion Swiss francs in turnover this year.
Laurence Graff (4-5 billion Swiss francs)
The majority shareholder in Graff Diamonds directs the company’s jewellery and watchmaking operations from his home in Gstaad. In 2014 the company passed the billion-dollar mark in turnover and last year it presented the most expensive watch at Baselworld – the Graff Fascination with 153 carats of diamonds, which at 40 million Swiss francs is worth one percent of Laurence Graff’s personal fortune.
Mouawad family (3-4 billion Swiss francs)
Active in jewellery, watchmaking and property, the Mouawad family’s fortune increased by a healthy one billion Swiss francs last year, according to Bilan. In watchmaking, Mouawad started producing its own movements two years ago and has expanded its own-name retail presence over the past two years.
Stern family (3-4 billion Swiss francs)
The foundations were laid last year for a new Patek Philippe building in Plan-les-Ouates which is being entirely self-financed by the brand. The fact that the estimated cost is 500 million Swiss francs illustrates the financial health of the brand and thus of its independent owners.
Audemars family (800-900 million Swiss francs)
After 140 years of existence, Audemars Piguet is one of the few independent watch brands that is still in the hands of the founding family. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that the family has amassed a considerable fortune over the years.
Carlo Crocco (300-400 million Swiss francs)
Early Hublot models bore the inscription “MDM” on the dial, which is the abbreviation for “Main dans la main” (hand in hand). This is the name of the foundation of Carlo Crocco, the brand’s founder, who now devotes his time between the work of this foundation and a separate Swiss charity.
Bernheim and Weil families (100 – 200 million Swiss francs)
As CEO of family-owned Raymond Weil since last year, Elie Bernheim has overseen the launch of a number of partnerships with the world of music that is so dear to the family, most recently with a blockbuster deal with The Beatles. Together with his brother, Elie also runs two restaurants in Geneva, including the Café des Banques, famous for the huge jars of sweets that are placed on the tables after the meal.
Jean-Claude Biver (100-200 million Swiss francs)
Having bought Blancpain for just 22,000 Swiss francs to sell it 10 years later to the Swatch Group for 60 million, then taken a 20% stake in Hublot which was later sold to LVMH reportedly for 500 million Swiss francs, Jean-Claude Biver is clearly a master of the turnaround.
Viviane de Witt (100-200 million Swiss francs)
An art collector since her childhood, Viviane de Witt also happens to be a direct descendant of Jérôme Bonaparte, the elder brother of Napoleon. She is the CEO of the De Witt watch brand, where her husband creates original and playful mechanical watch complications.
Viviane and Jérôme De Witt. © DeWitt Swiss Replica Watches
Macaluso family (100-200 million Swiss francs)
Although the 225 year-old Girard-Perregaux brand was sold to the French Kering group, the Macaluso maintains a minority interest and Stefano Macaluso is still actively involved in the brand’s watch designs.
Franck Muller (100-200 million Swiss francs)
A graduate from the Geneva watchmaking school, Franck Muller has no less than 36 world firsts and patents under his belt, as well as a watch with 36 (coincidence?) complications. He is no longer active on an operational level but still maintains an office at the Franck Muller group’s headquarters in Geneva.
A word of warning
Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed the rather wide gaps in the figures given above for the individual fortunes of the members of the 300 richest people in Switzerland. Compiling such lists, with a mixture of sources of wealth from publicly listed companies to private family-owned companies and foundations, not to mention numerous estimates, is notoriously difficult. Hence the evaluations that allow a hundred percent margin of error for those with fortunes estimated between 100 and 200 million Swiss francs and a whopping billion Swiss franc discrepancy between the highest and lowest figures for the ultra-rich watch barons.