Esquire (UK) - - Watches - Char­lie Teas­dale

Hon­our­ing nine decades of rac­ing ele­gance

There is a nat­u­ral link be­tween cars and fine watch­mak­ing. There are pi­lot’s watches, diver’s watches, watches to wear with tuxe­dos, but the po­etic pre­ci­sion that goes into fine watches finds its most ob­vi­ous match in a car’s com­bus­tion en­gine, and vice versa. For that rea­son Chopard’s lim­ited edi­tion watch hon­our­ing the Mille Miglia, the great­est mo­tor race of all, makes com­plete sense.

A vin­tage car rally of Caligu­lan pro­por­tions, the Mille Miglia is a 1,000-mile en­durance race from Bres­cia in north­ern Italy to Rome and back again. First held in 1927, the rally was long the ful­crum of mo­tor rac­ing ad­vance­ment, with the great car­mak­ers of the day en­ter­ing their lat­est and fastest cre­ations. Since the mid-Seven­ties, the route has been re­served ex­clu­sively for vin­tage and clas­sic cars built be­fore 1957, trans­form­ing it from a gru­elling en­durance test to a glo­ri­ous tes­ti­mo­nial of au­to­mo­tive ele­gance. That’s not to say it isn’t still a tough un­der­tak­ing.

The route wends its way through some of Italy’s most idyl­lic cities and towns, whizzing past Lake Garda, Verona, the hill­top repub­lic of San Marino, Peru­gia, Siena, Mo­dena and, of course, the eter­nal city it­self, Rome. Much like the 24-hour race at Le Mans in France, it’s not the most log­i­cal of things to do — vin­tage cars are fre­quently un­com­fort­able and not al­ways suited to long drives — but there’s an in­tan­gi­ble magic to pro­ceed­ings, a magic for which Chopard’s co-pres­i­dent Karl-Friedrich Scheufele has a per­sonal pas­sion. A keen car racer and col­lec­tor, he in­au­gu­rated the link be­tween the race and the watch­maker in 1988, an as­so­ci­a­tion that has seen Chopard craft­ing Mille Miglia-in­spired watches ever since.

Al­though founded in 1860, it was only 21 years ago that Chopard es­tab­lished its LUC man­u­fac­ture (named for founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard) in Fleurieur, Switzer­land, al­low­ing the com­pany to over­see ev­ery el­e­ment of the de­sign and con­struc­tion of its time­pieces. In that time, Chopard has un­veiled 11 of its own cal­i­bres, and has built a col­lec­tion that fea­tures quartz, hand-wound and self-wind­ing move­ments. The lat­est piece from the Mille Miglia col­lec­tion, how­ever, is some­thing spe­cial.

“Since 1988, Chopard and the Mille Miglia are united by the shared pas­sion for clas­sic rac­ing and en­gi­neer­ing,” says Scheufele. “In or­der to cel­e­brate this an­niver­sary, we cre­ated the Mille Miglia Clas­sic XL 90th an­niver­sary lim­ited edi­tion chrono­graph. This time­piece bears for the first time the Poinçon de Genève seal and is equipped with a splen­did LUC fly­back chrono­graph move­ment entirely de­vel­oped, crafted and as­sem­bled at Chopard man­u­fac­ture in Fleurier. It rep­re­sents an im­por­tant mile­stone within our Clas­sic Rac­ing col­lec­tion.”

Housed in an im­pres­sive 46mm rose gold case, the afore­men­tioned Con­trôle Of­fi­ciel Suisse des Chronomètres-cer­ti­fied fly­back chrono­graph move­ment of the 90th an­niver­sary edi­tion is hand-wound, with a power re­serve of around 60 hours (al­most enough to last from Bres­cia to Rome and back). The porce­lain-coloured dial is set with Ara­bic nu­mer­als, a tachymeter for speed tim­ing, and the chrono push­ers are shaped to re­sem­ble pis­tons. Nat­u­rally, these are large enough to be used with ease, even if wear­ing driv­ing gloves. The look is unashamedly vin­tage, in keeping for an an­niver­sary watch. The calf­skin strap has been treated so it will de­velop a patina and age “grace­fully”.

“Aside from its fab­u­lous LUC ‘en­gine’ with Geneva seal, the 90th an­niver­sary edi­tion stands out for its aes­thet­ics which strongly evoke the ma­te­ri­als and fin­ish of vin­tage race cars and their sim­ple yet beau­ti­fully de­tailed de­sign,” says its de­signer Chris­telle Bour­ban. “This is high­lighted by fea­tures such as the hand-stitched Bare­nia calf leather strap, an eggshell white dial and its type­faces, de­signed in-house specif­i­cally for the Mille Miglia watches.”

In the last 20 years, Chopard has gone from be­ing one of the best-known names in jew­ellery, to a lead­ing light in fine watch­mak­ing, and the Mille Miglia 90th An­niver­sary edi­tion rep­re­sents the Swiss brand’s prodi­gious tal­ent for de­sign and con­struc­tion. It is lim­ited to 90 pieces, mak­ing it as exclusive as a place on the Mille Miglia start­ing grid.

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