MILLE MIGLIA CLASSIC XL 90TH ANNIVERSARY LIMITED EDITION CHRONOGRAPH
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.