Luxury jewelry and watch maker Chopard has quietly opened an “anti-hotel” in the heart of Paris, a new development in a growing category of hospitality in the French capital.
Much about the brand’s first-ever hotel project — starting with its name, 1 Place Vendôme, and the property’s unusual lack of fanfare and self-promotion — seem atypical at first.
Ahead of its official opening Nov 15, there was no usual barrage of social media posts from influencers in bathrobes, pretending to wake naturally in one of the luxurious 15 rooms and suites, cafe crèmes and croissant breakfasts placed aesthetically on unmade, rumpled beds.
Nor do the hotel’s social media pages clamor for attention. At the time of writing, its Instagram page has one post and a little over 250 followers.
The hotel itself, which occupies the floors above the existing Chopard boutique in the ritzy Place Vendôme square, is likewise easy to miss with a conspicuous lack of branded signage to announce its presence.
It’s the kind of discretion that falls in line with one of the most aspirational lifestyles of today: Quiet luxury. But it also embodies one of the bigger marketing trends in the luxury world, the stealth launch.
“We’re living in an age where, when you launch your products, it’s done with a big marketing campaign and a big event. It’s all kind of ceremonial,” said Karl-Fritz Scheufele in an interview with CNN. Karl-Fritz is the third generation of the Scheufele family — owners of Chopard since 1963 — and hotel spokesperson. “We wanted to do things differently… In a very targeted way.”
That meant liaising directly with high-end travel agencies, being selective about their PR channels, and only opening the property to staying guests and VIP Chopard clients (meaning there’s no dropping in just for a drink at the bar).
“There is a growing clientele that seeks exclusivity and privacy,” added project advisor Didier Le Calvez, a hospitality veteran whose portfolio includes upmarket hotels such as the Four Seasons George V and Le Bristol in Paris, and The Plaza and The Pierre in New York. “We wanted to create a semi-private hotel, like a really beautiful family residence.”
An ‘anti-hotel’ for the ultra-rich
It’s an experience that would be familiar, perhaps comforting even, for the world’s ultra-rich. After passing through the main blue doors and opening a wrought iron gate, emblazoned discreetly with a cursive “C” for Chopard, guests enter a high-ceilinged foyer and are greeted by the hotel butler. There is no front desk, nor scenes of guests jockeying in line to check in or out. Just a monumental 18th-century stone fireplace, a grand staircase and, in a subtle nod to the hotel’s heritage, a giant aquamarine Murano glass bead necklace installation by artist Jean-Michel Othoniel.
Check-in is instead done at a small desk on the second floor, where shared common spaces are laid out like a stately manor home: salon, library, bar and a secret Chinese-inspired cigar lounge hidden behind a wall of false bookshelves.
Also on the same floor is one of the hotel’s crowning jewels, the “Winter Garden,” a glass-roofed sitting room bathed in natural light, set against a mosaic mural that pays homage to Maison Chopard’s Animal World Collection. Featuring thousands of polished gemstones — called cabochons — it depicts an exotic jungle scene of peacocks, leopards, monkeys and butterflies.
Located minutes from the Jardin des Tuileries and the Seine, Place Vendôme was commissioned by the Sun King Louis XIV; its centerpiece is a towering column erected by Napoleon I that commemorates the battle of Austerlitz. It is one of the most glamorous squares in Paris where haute jewelry and watch brands — Chopard, as well as Cartier, Chaumet, Boucheron, Breguet and Jaeger-LeCoultre — stand side-by-side.1 Place Vendôme also boasts royal lineage. Built in 1723 by Pierre Perrin, the secretary to the Sun King, its façades and roof are listed as historic monuments.
Instead of choosing to name the hotel after the brand, the family chose the building’s address, 1 Place Vendôme. — this, said the brand, also enables the venture to stand alone, free of the associations that come with a luxury jewelry house.
Not using the Chopard name is a strategy that breaks ranks with Bulgari, one of the early leaders in luxury fashion hoteliers that hedged its bets on brand recognition to fill up its hotel rooms. But it also falls in step with Audemars Piguet and Christian Louboutin, both of which recently opened properties under different names, Hôtel des Horlogers and Vermelho respectively.
According to Florent Girardin, professor of luxury hospitality brand management at the prestigious EHL Hospitality Business School in Switzerland, the expansion from luxury fashion brand to hospitality is a natural one. While the Four Seasons or Ritz may know how to provide excellent service, luxury fashion houses are masters at creating and communicating desirability.
“Historically, fashion luxury houses are dream-selling companies” Girardin said. “So this is a logical step.”
Luxury experiences are also outgrowing the sale of luxury goods, he added.
The building’s recent overhaul by designer Pierre-Yves Rochon took four years. Walls were knocked down, ceilings raised and the number of rooms halved (the previous tenant of the building was also a hotel) to create 10 suites and five rooms. Under the vision of Chopard co-president and artistic director Caroline Scheufele, the Paraiba suite (named after the maison’s Precious Lace Paraiba tourmaline necklace) features tropical-inspired hand-embroidered wall coverings. The chinoiserie in the Jade room includes evocative lacquerware, black, red, and gold furnishings, alongside Asian antique-inspired lattice carvings.
But the Appartement Chopard on the sixth floor takes luxury one step further still. The gold-gilded suite glitters with crystal chandeliers hung from a 17-foot ceiling, marble fireplace and a voluminous bed canopy reminiscent of Versailles. Rates start at €14,000 ($15,400) per night. Regular rooms start at €1,400 ($1,540).
While Paris has several 17th —19th century mansions that have been converted into boutique hotels, Le Calvez says 1 Place Vendôme raises the bar.
“Our positioning is that of an anti-hotel,” added Scheufele. “We aren’t going to be the number one choice for first-time Paris visitors, there are plenty of wonderful hotels to fill that position,” he said.
“I think we’re more for someone who has already seen a large part of hospitality in Paris and is looking for a new perspective.”
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