Antiquorum, New York, December 15 2015
Sold for: $16,250
Many QP readers will be used to seeing the legend “Mille Miglia” on the dials of Chopard’s watches, since the brand has sponsored the celebrated classic car event since the 1980s. But this lot sold at Antiquorum must represent one of few occasions (if not the only one) when a Breitling chronograph has been adorned with the name of the legendary Italian road race that ran from 1927 – 1957.
In its present form, the Mille Miglia is classed as a timed reliability trial – but it was originally one of the most prestigious, demanding and exciting all-out road races on the motorsport calendar.
The connection this watch has with the event is that it was presented to a celebrated Italian driver called Luigi “Gigi” Villoresi (above right)by the Ferrari team to mark his victory in the 1951 event behind the wheel of a 340 America Berlinetta Vignale.
As wristwatches go, Breitling’s 1950s chronographs – even those in gold cases – are not hugely sought after and, ordinarily, this one would be worth $5,000-$10,000. But its association with Villoresi enhanced its value considerably since it broadened its appeal to the wealthy community of classic Ferrari buyers.
Villoresi was best known as a Grand Prix driver who competed in Formula One from its inception in 1950 until he retired from the class in 1957. Known as “Gigi” to his friends, his nickname was engraved on the back of the Breitling, which is believed to have remained in his ownership until his death in 1997 at the age of 88.
In summary: A chronograph that demonstrates the value of an interesting provenance – and the fact that the right links to the classic car world can really boost the value of an otherwise run-of-the-mill vintage watch.