Dating back to 1988, Chopard’s association with the historic Mille Miglia rally has spawned an enduring family of motoring chronographs and racy watches
By Alex Doak
There is nothing quite like the Mille Miglia. A classic-car rally staged every year along the titular 1,000-mile loop from Brescia to Rome and back to Brescia again, 400 of the world’s most beautiful cars pass through some of the world’s most beautiful scenery.
Despite so much of Tuscany and Lombardy being utterly poverty-stricken, the villagers turn out in their droves to cheer on the wealthy petrolheads in their priceless chariots.
And despite the Mille Miglia having been a “regularity rally” since 1977, after a hiatus caused by ten fatalities in 1957, these priceless cars are driven hard – the local Carabinieri literally encourage the drivers to speed through red lights along packed streets.
It is a gruelling three days of 18-hour days, but a jubilant one. And Chopard has been synonymous with the event since 1988, making it the single longest watch-brand automotive association – longer than Breitling and Bentley, Oris and Williams, even Rolex’s sponsorship of the 24 Hours of Daytona (although of course the Daytona itself has been around a lot longer).
Virtually every year, Chopard co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele competes himself, with either his wife or racing legend and friend of the brand, Jacky Ickx and every year, each driver receives a special-edition Chopard chronograph in their race pack. Mr Scheufele is a passionate car collector, owner of a truly enviable collection. You can read more about his love of cars, and the inspiration behind joining the Mille Miglia, here.
The publicly available Mille Miglia watch has now grown into a collection in its own right – retro styled in accordance with the pre-’57 car criteria, but imbued with a vintage raciness that’s gone on to influence plenty of others. Looking down the years you can see how design trends moved from the curved shapes of the 1990s to the sharper lines of the 2000s, with retro touches rearing their heads as early as 1998 before becoming the norm in recent years. A personal favourite has to be the 1990 stopwatch.
This year’s Mille Miglia offering alone includes updates of the Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph, inspired by the older cars of 1927–1940 and driven by Valjoux 7750 movements; the GTS with its modern lines, tyretrack rubber strap and Fleurier Ebauches movements; plus a 90th-anniversary flagship limited edition chronograph, celebrating the first year the Brescia Automobile Club started running the race, resplendent in rose gold and driven by Chopard L.U.C.’s haute horlogerie mechanics.
This is part of our Modern Classics series, profiling the most significant watch designs of the last 30 years. You can view the rest of the entries here. Disagree with our choices? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or by email.