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Jason Pitsch

REVIEW: Chopard Mille Miglia 2016 XL Race Edition Chronograph

Jason Pitsch

September 7, 2016

Overview

Chopard has a long history of associating with automobiles and racing, dating back to 1988, which is when the company became the official timekeeper of the Mille Miglia race in Italy.

The ties with the automotive world began before 1988, though, as the owners of Chopard, Karl-Friedrich, and Karl Scheufele – who own collectible vintage and classic cars – were already participating in the Mille Miglia in the 1980s.

Interestingly, according to Ralph Simons, the CEO of Chopard USA, the initial intention was not to create a commercially successful timepiece collection – it was instead developed with the idea of making a watch for the Mille Miglia participants. It did become of commercial success, of course, and Chopard has been the official timekeeper of the Mille Miglia ever since.

The strong automobile and racing association continues to this day. In fact, just last year, Chopard USA Ltd. became the official timekeeper of the Classic Car Club of Manhattan, which has just relocated to a beautiful new facility along the Hudson River. Naturally, that is where I went to shoot many of the shots for this review, as it only made sense to tie sports cars, supercars, and classic automobiles in with the latest Chopard automobile watch – the Classic Racing Mille Miglia 2016 XL Race Edition.

Chopard-Mille-Miglia-2016-XL-Race-Edition-Chronograph-.jpg1965 Shelby A/C Cobra with Ford 302 V8 under the hood


The dial

At first glance, the dial appears to have a smooth black surface. However, upon closer inspection, at the right angle, you can discern the subtle circular, textured satin-brushed finish that appears black-gray-brown depending on the light. A combination of painted white luminescent Arabic numerals and dots indicate the hours against the dark background of the dial.

Surrounding the dial is a sloped black flange with a white printed tachymetric scale for calculating speed in conjunction with the chronograph. Just inside the flange are white transferred graduations indicating chronograph seconds or regular minutes – depending on which hand you are looking at.

“The Chopard Classic Racing Mille Miglia 2016 XL Race Edition Chronograph is a not literal translation of a vintage timepiece from Chopard’s archive, instead, it is a modern timepiece with a retro car themed design.

The centrally mounted polished steel hour and minute hands share the same baton-shape design as the smaller 42 mm Classic Racing Mille Miglia Chronograph. Each hand has white painted luminescent material which glows green. Also mounted in the center is a long, bright-red lacquered, baton-shaped chronograph seconds hand. And by long, I mean reaching almost to the edge of the case. This is generally a good thing as longer hands are arguably more attractive, and inarguably easier to use from a pragmatic standpoint. Why? Functions such as reading elapsed stopwatch times are simply easier to read when the hand extends all the way to the markings. With that said, the chronograph can record times with 1/4 of a second accuracy, as is typical for a 4Hz chronograph movement.

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Located at 9 and 3 o’clock, respectively, are the 12-hour and 30-minute chronograph counters. They are distinguished by light gray snailed subdials, with rhodium-plated steel baton-shaped hands. At 6 o’clock is a continuous seconds display with a rhodium-plated pointer, differentiated from the chronograph by a dark gray dial snailed subdial.

Right below the 12 o’clock marker, the dial reads “CHOPARD, CHRONOMETER” and then below that is the “Rossa Corsa” red arrow-shaped Mille Miglia logo, which also appears on the rim of the exhibition caseback.

The final element of the dial is the date at 8 o’clock. I continually hear people complaining online about not wanting a date function of certain types of watches, and I 100% agree in many cases. This happens to be one of those cases. Don’t get me wrong. This dial is laid out well and is easy to read for a chronograph. Still, it would be hard to deny that dial would not be less cluttered without the date window. Personally, I love a mechanical watch for glancing at the time throughout the day, especially when I am on the run. Using the chronograph to time whatever I feel like timing, is another luxury I like to have the ability to do. Nevertheless, I don’t use the date function on my mechanical watches. As cliche as it sounds, I just use my phone.

The case

The Mille Miglia Chronograph, which has been available in a 42 mm case, is now available in a 46 mm XL case. And while there are many similarities, mainly in the dial design, the Mille Miglia 2016 XL Race Edition is essentially a completely new watch.

The Mille Miglia XL case is crafted in stainless steel that has been fully polished. The steel bezel is stepped and is non-rotating. The pushers are now pump style, which I think works well visually with this aesthetic. The XL measures 54 mm in length, 15 mm in thickness, and has an 8.5 mm steel crown. It weighs 139.2 grams with the leather strap attached. For a modern watch, that is not off the charts, but it is not ultra-light either. Overall, while the dimensions are larger, and the weight is noticeable, the watch does wear well on my 7.5” wrist.

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On the back, the screw-down steel rim exhibition caseback offers a clear view into the automatic mechanical movement. Notably, the crown is also the screw-down, not push-in, variety. And while 100 meters is the typical minimum water-resistance rating achieved when utilizing a locking crown, the 50 meters is quite sufficient, and I don’t know about you but I prefer a locking crown versus of push-in just because I know that I won’t inadvertently unlock the crown and let water into the case. Besides, this is not a watch I would wear to a beach, but I would wash my hands with it on and so it is nice to know the crown is secure.

The sapphire crystal is flat with a good anti-glare treatment for enhanced visibility in many lighting conditions.

The lugs are short and nicely tapered to make the watch fit nicely on the wrist. Interhorn width is 22 mm, and the included brown leather strap tapers down to approximately 19 mm at the clasp. This means that you can fit virtually any 22 mm wide leather or textile strap on the watch. Although, I think you will really like the one that is included. I know I did.

The movement

The Chopard Mille Millie 2016 XL Race Edition Chronograph is powered by a new 4Hz (28,800 kph) chronograph movement that was manufactured in-house. Worth noting, according to Chopard, the movement design comes from is based on existing intellectual property from the Chopard LUC manufacture (the company’s haute-horology watch factory), and then built inside the main Chopard manufacture.

Caliber 03.05-C has a diameter of 28 mm which nicely fills the entire case, as you can see from through the caseback. This is one of the advantages of making a movement with a specific case in mind, as opposed to adding a movement to an existing case. There are 45 jewels and the power reserve is 60-hours.

Functions include hours, minutes, small seconds; chronograph hours (12-hour counter), minutes (30-minute counter), and seconds (1/4 of a second accuracy); and a date located at 4:30.

The chronograph is actuated via a column-wheel and vertical clutch, a design which ensures jitter free starting of the seconds hand, reduces wear on the gears, and doesn’t negatively affect the amplitude of the movement.

Speaking of accuracy, this is an officially COSC-certified chronometer movement, so the average daily rate is -4/+6 or better.

The mainplate, which you can see below the bridges, is finished with a perlage decoration (also called circular graining) decoration, however – instead of the more common and arguably more aesthetically pleasing Geneva stripes – the bridges are finished with an industrialized machine wave pattern. The edges appear to be chamfered and polished, but again, using what appears to be an industrial machining technique instead of by hand. The screw heads are nicely polished and the jewels contrast nicely against the bright rhodium plating. There is even a screwed gold chaton, which is a nice high-end touch for sure. This movement is clearly designed to be seen but also to take advantages of economic of scale and offer a reliable, robust, and accurate motor.

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Verdict

The Chopard Classic Racing Mille Miglia 2016 XL Race Edition Chronograph is a not literal translation of a vintage timepiece from Chopard’s archive, instead, it is a modern timepiece with a retro car themed design.

For example, the dial is somewhat reminiscent of vintage dashboards, like the one from the 1969 Porsche 911T seen on the cover photo (top). Further, the crown is embossed with a vintage steering wheel motif, as seen on other pieces within the Classic Racing line. And one of my favorite features is the brown leather strap inspired by car-bonnet tie-down straps, which are seen at cars such as the 1956 Porsche 550 Spyder, for example.

The strap is made from a very thick, unlined piece of Suportlo® calfskin (Barenia leather), in a rich brown hue, with nice detail stitching. While there is no lining, the consistently and thickness of the leather is very robust and does not need it. Moreover, even on an incredibly humid day in NYC this past summer, the moisture did not seem to penetrate the strap at all. The strap is secured to the wrist via a stainless steel folding clasp that is fully polished and engraved with the Chopard logo. The bottom line is the wears comfortably and looks great. Chopard literature states that the strap will achieve a desirable weathered look over time, although in my 2 weeks with the watch it did not show much wear at all.

The strap may seem like an insignificant feature, but considering that not all straps are created equal, and many companies produce subpar straps, this is an important element nowadays, for any watchmaker.

Chopard-Mille-Miglia-2016-XL-Race-Edition-Chronograph-24.jpg

Under the hood, so to speak, Chopard has employed a new in-house manufactured movement, partially based on a design taken from their high-end factory (L.U.C.), and then industrialized at the main Chopard factory, resulting in a chronograph caliber that is sporty, reliable, and precise – but not quite as ornate as something from the LUC division. With that said, I felt the finishing could have been a little more elaborate, although this is a sports chronograph, not an haute horology dress watch, so it is appropriate.

The Chopard Classic Racing Mille Miglia 2016 XL Race Edition Chronograph is available in a numbered limited edition of 1000 pieces in steel (Ref. 168580-3001) for a retail price of $9800, and 100 pieces in solid rose gold (Ref. 161297-5001) for a retail price of $24,200.

In summary, Chopard has taken their existing 42 mm Classic Racing timepiece and given it a retro look, a larger 46 mm case size, a new dial, and an all new in-house movement. It will go just as well with a vintage Porsche 911, or Shelby Cobra, as a modern McLaren.

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