May 14th 2014

A quarter century of Mille Miglia models

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At Chopard, we have been partnering the Mille Miglia since 1988, and have produced a limited edition Mille Miglia watch every year since then. A look in the rear-view mirror at 25 years of these fascinating models reveals an iconic collection that has become a landmark on the watchmaking scene.

With one new model per year, the Mille Miglia Race collection plays the role of test bench for our technical and design teams, much like what happens in the racing stables of the automobile industry. The best features remain while the others gradually disappear.

The road well-travelled

But apart from looking at each individual model, the significance of our Mille Miglia collection is that it is living proof of an industry that is light years away from what it was 25 years ago. In this respect, the 1988 and 2014 models are an incredible example of the road well-travelled by watchmaking generally and by us in particular. Be it ‘motorisations’ (movements), dimensions, reliability, technical specificities or the quality of materials – everything is different. Well – not quite everything.

Despite these changes, the diverse nature of the Mille Miglia is matched by the overall coherence of its design codes. In some cases, these have been part of the models for over a quarter of a century – as is sometimes the case with legendary cars which traverse the ages while maintaining a strong identity – such as the colour red, often associated with black, as well as the Mille Miglia arrow logo. The sporty nature of the models – which are nearly all chronographs – along with the presence of a tachometer and the use of luminescent materials to enhance dial legibility – like on the dashboards of classic cars – are other characteristics that have made their mark on the collection.

“Firsts”

Our Mille Miglia collection has had a number of “firsts”. 1990 saw the arrival of the first mechanical movement, driving a steel split-second pocket chronograph. Aside from that year, Mille Miglia models have always been wristwatches and 1994 saw the arrival of the first rubber strap; while 1997 marked the advent of what would become two of the collection’s key characteristics: the use of mechanical self-winding movements for all models; and the marketing of models produced as annual limited editions (alongside those reserved for participants). Another strong point is that all the movements in the collection have been chronometer-certified by the COSC since 2000.

The Mille Miglia collection today consists of two lines: Classic and GT XL. The former is inspired by the oldest cars to have taken part in the Mille Miglia (between 1927 and 1940); while the latter draws its codes from the most recent cars (between 1940 and 1957).

More recently, a number of noteworthy stylistic developments have taken place, including the use of an anodized black aluminium bezel in 2012, and the advent of “mushroom” pushpieces in 2013 with the major comeback of red on the dial.

In 2014, the dial of the watches reserved for competitors is engraved with the word “Competitor” for the very first time. This most recent opus embodies the quintessence of the Mille Miglia collection, a concentrated blend of 25 eventful years. Resolutely modern yet inspired by the oldest cars to have raced the Mille Miglia, it is both delightfully retro and intensely horological, which does nothing to detract from the fact that this is a contemporary chronograph and a true descendant of one of the richest ever sports watch collections.

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