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Behind the Chopard Mille Miglia

Anthony Peacock

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Some racing events are truly iconic rather than merely famous. And one of them is the Mille Miglia. Between 1927 and 1957, this event (which translates to ‘thousand miles’ in Italian) was an open-road endurance race that captured the public’s imagination like nothing else. Cancelled on safety grounds – with inevitable fatalities every year – the event was revived under a new format in the late 1970s and, since then, it has revelled in its latest lease of life as a prestigious historic event today.

The Mille Miglia used to be about flat-out speed but it’s now a regularity race for classic cars rather than the outright sprint it used to be. The main aim for competitors is to arrive on time and with reliability. It runs from Brescia in the north of the country to Rome and back and is currently reserved for cars produced no later than 1957, in keeping with those cars which raced in the original period. Plenty of celebrities take part, ranging from Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff to supermodel Jodie Kidd.

Chopard Mille Miglia

The Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Power Control - Image credit Chopard.

Chopard has been inexorably linked with the Mille Miglia since 1988, two years after the race adopted its current format. Since then, the Swiss brand has produced its very own Mille Miglia watch, which is given to all competitors as a souvenir of the event. Other versions are available for sale.

There’s an incredible romance at beauty to this quintessentially Italian competition. Enzo Ferrari once described the Mille Miglia as “the most beautiful race in the world” and Chopard – official time keepers for the event – set about creating a watch collection to do it justice.

Every year, Chopard has released a new watch into its Mille Miglia collection, ranging from the sturdy and stylish GTS and the Classic Chronograph to the latest 2022 Race Edition. Throughout the collection, Chopard’s watches combine style, practicality and elegance, with details such as the optional tyre tread-style vintage rubber strap, which is available on a number of models.

Jacky Ickx handing Max Verstappen the Pirelli Award at the Belgian Grand Prix.

This is where Chopard delivers on its motorsport heritage and, particularly, its links with the  Mille Miglia. That association is helped by the company’s hard-working brand ambassador: six-time Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx, who was a long-time Ferrari driver in Formula 1 as well. The Belgian is one of the most recognised personalities in motorsport – and is well-known for being a perfect gentleman as well. He has become synonymous with Chopard thanks to a relationship that has lasted 34 years and is nearly always seen with a Chopard watch on his wrist…most often on a leather rally strap, which the Mille Miglia watch is also often paired with.

There are plenty of Mille Miglia watches to choose from. The Classic Chronograph blends elegance, comfort and precision of the 1930s and 1940s, while the 45mm, Stainless Steel Mille Miglia GTS Automatic is a sturdy, stylish and accurate chronometer with modern touches.

The Mille Miglia watch that everyone wants is of course the competitors’ version, which is as exclusive as it gets. But the other versions are reasonably easy to get hold of, with the all-important ‘red arrow’ Mille Miglia logo that marks it out as a member of the family.

The latest 2022 Race Edition is available in steel or a combination of steel and gold. It’s big at 44mm, but this reflects its traditional motorsport utility: everything has to be easy to read and operate at speeds of over 100mph.

Chopard Mille Miglia - Image credit Chopard

The Mille Miglia 2022 Race Edition - Image credit Chopard.

In reality, it’s the co-driver’s job to keep time and make the most of functions such as the tachymeter scale – and of course, there’s a bright lume to help read the watch clearly in low light conditions. The case back always identifies the special edition each watch belongs to, which is normally available for a year in various quantities: this year’s steel watch is produced in 1000 pieces, whereas there are just 250 examples of the more expensive steel and gold model. Inside, there’s a Valjoux movement to underline the Swiss heritage. The spirit of all these watches though is definitely Italian.

Inspiration

There’s no such thing as a single generic Mille Miglia watch: instead, the name describes a series of fascinating and long-standing iterations on the same classic theme. And that’s an inspiration for us, in terms of how a watch brand can create an enduring and defining partnership with a single event, person, or organisation. Chopard – by no means one of the most prominent Swiss watch brands – is nonetheless the Mille Miglia and Jacky Ickx personified. And this aspect inspires us to seek out iconic events and people to partner with, with the goal of creating synonymous long-term partnerships that play a prominent role in the automotive world.

Anthony Peacock

About the Author: Anthony Peacock

About the Author: Anthony Peacock

I’m passionate about a lot of things but especially cars, food, wine, film – and watches. As a writer and PR consultant, I’m lucky enough to travel the world and find inspiration from all sorts of amazing places. Sometimes I’m on my own and sometimes with others, but my timepiece is my constant companion.

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