Since introducing their high watchmaking division at the end of last century, Chopard has been earning serious kudos within the watch community. The resulting watches, known as the L.U.C family after the company’s founder, are high-end pieces fitted with in-house movements. But Chopard also makes a wide variety of sports watches. Of these, the best-known is the Mille Miglia collection, named after one of the most stylish events in the motor racing calendar. Today, I have a 2017 ‘two-tone’ chronograph from the Classic Racing collection, and I want to share my thoughts on it.
But before we delve into the details of this particular timepiece, I would like to first introduce you to a little bit of history. About an hour and a half out of Milan, in the direction of Venice, sits the relatively quiet city of Brescia. Small, yes, but with a long-standing passion for motor racing dating back to 1921, when it became the home of the first Italian Grand Prix. A few years later two of its citizens launched the Mille Miglia; a gruelling 1000-mile endurance race through the Italian mountains. Originally, the event ran from 1927 to 1957, with an interlude for WWII. Over time, it attracted drivers from all over the world and its champions were viewed as international demigods.
The race was reintroduced in 1977, but this time around it would become more of a homage to the glory years, with fans and racers running in 1940s Alfa Romeo roadsters, vintage Bugattis and other such classic racing giants which had secured fame when they won the event during its prime. Unsurprisingly, with such spectacular motors on show, the event attracted a wide array of classic car enthusiasts and celebrities who flock to the town each year to celebrate their love of motorsport and Italian splendour.
Chopard, whose owner Karl-Friedrich Scheufele is a bona fide racing aficionado, has been the official timekeeper of the event since 1988. Scheufele often competes and has been quoted as saying ‘motorsport fans and luxury watches share many overlaps’. As such, Chopard has been making watches in honour of this iconic race since the early nineties. The designs are available in many different forms, but the most well known is the racing chronograph.
The piece I have today is, derived from the Mille Miglia Classic collection, model Ref. 158511, and incorporates the aesthetic lines and codes of the cars and dash dials from the early years.
The Ref. 158511 is a contemporary expression of a piece Chopard originally made in the late nineties, which itself was inspired by features from a handful of cars which took part in the race between 1927 to 1940. The new piece is a smart upgrade of the original. Designed in a two-tone metal finish, the sharp design edging a step closer to luxury sports watches. The bezel, noticeably, is polished rose gold with the tachymeter moved onto the edge of the dial. This effect tones down the sportiness and allows for a more ‘spacious’ dial to present quite a large amount of information, yet, Chopard manages to balance this very well, overall securing a clean and attractive finish.
The dial, in this case, is light silver with a sunburst effect, although a striking black dial version is also available, and features the “1000 Miglia” logo stamped on the seconds sub-dial in racing red. The racing red theme has been carried through to the main second hand, which is tipped in this signature colour, with clear large numerals finishing the dial beautifully. The ETA calibre 2892-A2 is fitted into a 42 mm case, and water-resistant to 50 metres. The bracelet is functional and comfortable and on the wrist, the watch has size and presence yet remains elegant thanks to Chopard’s considered design.
Turn the watch over and there’s a sapphire case back revealing a self-winding movement. This particular calibre is not an in-house type from the high-watchmaking division, but it’s a reliable COSC-certified ETA and finished to a high standard.
At £7,995, it sits between a TAG Heuer Carrera and a Rolex Daytona. While I think it’s a nice alternative to the former — less generic and slightly more elegant — you will require considerably more to invest in a quality Daytona. That said, this is a respectable chronograph from Chopard and a good sign of things to come from their famous collection.