Striking watches, classic cars, and an annual historic race through the Italian countryside: the Mille Miglia combines the best of the best of all three in a uniquely Italian tradition. Between 1927 and 1957, the Mille Miglia was a speed race between Brescia and Rome and back again, with post-World War II cars topping speeds of 150 km/hour. Following two fatal crashes, the race was banned only to be brought back in 1977 as the Mille Miglia Storica: a timed race on a similar route through some of Italy‘s most beautiful countryside, including only the classic car brands that raced in the original competition.
Through his fascination with classic automobiles, a reputation for exquisite quality, and a love of the storied race, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele III, owner of Chopard was inspired to partner with the Automobile Club Brescia to be the official timekeeper of the Mille Miglia in 1988.
To commemorate the partnership, Chopard created a special edition Mille Miglia sport watch – a watch superior enough to catch the attention of the owner of Knar Jewellers, Jeff Buzbuzian, and encourage him to start carrying the Chopard line of Mille Miglia watches in his stores. “I was meeting with a German salesman who was impeccable,” said Buzbuzian. “His suit, his tie, everything about him was polished. But it was his watch that fascinated me. It was beautifully crafted. When I asked, the gentleman told me it was a Chopard Mille Miglia watch.“
According to Buzbuzian, the watches have a variety of race car-like features: “The watches are wound via movement – as you move, the watches wind, and when you rest, sit still, sleep, the watches rest. To gauge the winding, the watches have a fuel gauge-like system that shows E and F to mimic the dashboard of a classic racer.“
In addition to such features as the fuel gauge, each annual line of Mille Miglia watches is released in a quantity equivalent to the year – in 2014, only 2014 Mille Miglia participant watches will be made. Finally, as a special edition, Chopard created another series of Mille Miglia watches – the Jacky Ickx Edition featuring a 40mm case and a case back bearing the signature of Jacky Ickx, a legendary Belgian endurance race car driver. The fourth watch in the series was designed with the cooperation of Ickx himself.
The Scheufele‘s passion for classic collector cars that inspired their partnership with the Mille Miglia goes beyond the creation of stunning commemorative timepieces and Chopard‘s role as the official timekeeper. Each year, father and son, Karl and Karl-Friedrich, participate in the 1,600 kilometer race in Italy along the classic route, as well as in the commemorative race in California, a four-day journey through the picturesque back roads of California‘s famous wine country, including Sonoma and Napa.
“It‘s really a celebration of man‘s fascination with the automobile, specifically, the Scheufele family‘s fascination,“ noted Buzbuzian. “We‘re living in a time when we‘ve never had more technology at our fingertips, yet these individuals are taking classically crafted and, by today’s standards, almost rudimentary cars and racing them, enjoying the history and timeless elegance of these automobiles.“
In a piece written about Chopard‘s support of the Mille Miglia on the company‘s blog, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele stated, “Lovers of fine automobiles are said to have a weakness for precious timekeepers and vice versa. In both domains, extreme precision and sporting elegance play an important role.“
With that in mind, it is easy to see how the Chopard name has become synonymous with precision timekeeping across many international races, including The Grand Prix
Monaco Historique (which presents the winner with a Chopard timepiece exclusively designed annually for the event), and the Ennstal-Classic – one of the most prestigious classic car rallies in Europe – an event for which a timepiece is also designed annually.
This ongoing quest for excellence has led Chopard, in March of this year, to partner with Porsche Motorsports as their official timekeeper. Porsche makes its comeback into competition at the LMP1 Endurance World Championship with its 919 Porsche Hybrid. It is that shared love of precision that makes the partnership between Porsche and Chopard a natural fit, not to mention the fact that Jacky Ickx was a Porsche driver.
Buzbuzian is excited to see that same level of excellence applied across all Chopard collections as well, including the women‘s line. “When Caroline Scheufele (Karl Scheufele‘s daughter) took over as head designer on the women‘s collection, we began to see a sense of fun and whimsy injected into their jewellery – a new spin on classics and a playfulness underscored by character and elegance,“ he stated. “I‘m proud to carry the Chopard line of fine jewellery and watches in all my locations.“