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Chopard’s Mille Miglia, the gentleman driver’s...
History & Masterpieces

Chopard’s Mille Miglia, the gentleman driver’s watch

Wednesday, 17 April 2019
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Marie de Pimodan-Bugnon
Freelance journalist

“One must be absolutely modern.”

Arthur Rimbaud

It takes passion, a healthy dose of curiosity and a sense of wonderment to convey the innumerable facets of watchmaking…

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4 min read

Inspired by Italy’s famed Mille Miglia race, since 1988 the eponymous collection from Chopard returns each year in limited editions. A combination of style, elegance and precise mechanisms, the brand has it all mapped out.

Its name is synonymous with one of the most famous open-road endurance races in the world. The purr of engines, wafts of oil and petrol, the pungent smell of rubber on asphalt, mixed in with the charm of vintage motors and beautiful Italian countryside… the Mille Miglia is first and foremost an event for gentleman drivers sharing a passion for classic cars. Since 1988, it is also a chronograph watch by Chopard, produced in limited series to celebrate each new edition of the legendary race.

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele is a discerning collector whose passion for classic cars has fuelled the alliance between brand and race.

Chopard’s watch, and the race from Brescia to Rome and back over 1,000 miles (mille miglia) of winding roads, through some of the country’s loveliest scenery, are indissociable. Since 1988, the brand has been the event’s main sponsor under the leadership of Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, himself a discerning collector whose passion for classic cars has fuelled the alliance. Ever since his first participation as a driver, Chopard’s co-president has made it a point of honour to line up under the chequered flag. For him, the bond between brand and race is beyond question, declaring that “classic car enthusiasts often have a weakness for precious timepieces, and vice versa. Both require extreme precision and sporting elegance.”

Born to race

Precision and elegance were indeed behind the first Mille Miglia watch, launched 31 years ago as a limited edition which Chopard presented to the 400 drivers taking part. A classic round case, wide bezel, tachymeter scale for measuring speed, chronograph indications that can be read without taking one’s eyes off the road, a sporting style with a dash of elegance… this would be the blueprint for every Mille Miglia watch to come. Designed to capture the look of a vintage car dashboard, its signature is the race’s red-arrow logo.

Movements are systematically COSC-certified, guaranteeing the reliability of an immediately recognisable collection.

Like the race itself, the collection has its milestones, beginning with the first use, in 1990, of a mechanical movement in a steel split-seconds chrono then, since 1997, the systematic use of mechanical automatic movements. Another important development concerns the watch’s availability. Traditionally presented only to the drivers taking part in the race, since 1997 the Mille Miglia has been produced in limited editions for all car and watch enthusiasts to enjoy. Additionally, since 2000 all movements are chronometer-certified by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC), thus guaranteeing the reliability of an immediately recognisable collection which, since 2015, has been split into two distinct lines. The Classic line is inspired by the cars that took part in the Mille Miglia from its inception in 1927 until 1940. The sportier GTS line takes its cue from a more recent era, namely cars that raced between 1940 and 1957.

Lining up for 2019

In almost exactly a month’s time, May 15th to 18th, 430 classic cars will wind their way from Brescia to Rome and back via Cervia-Milano Marittima and Bologna. For this 2019 edition, Chopard has added a new Race Edition chronograph to its GTS line. Highlights include a generously sized 44mm case, the Mille Miglia logo engraved on the caseback against a chequered background, a COSC-certified automatic movement measuring short intervals to 1/8th of a second, a tachymeter scale, and Super-LumiNova treatment on the hands and indexes. This new limited edition is mounted on a perforated leather strap whose rubber lining replicates the tread pattern from a 1960s Dunlop tyre: a vintage reference that won’t go unnoticed by the enthusiasts competing in “the world’s most beautiful race” with, on their wrist, an icon which since 1988 has hit the road with elegance and style.

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