May 16, 2018 was a day bathed in summer sunshine at the foothills of the Italian Alps. Sunshine that gleamed off the polished bodywork of some of the finest mechanical works of art ever produced. Works of art that also pushed the envelope of precision engineering and mechanical endurance. These mechanical masterpieces had gathered in the northern Italian town of Brescia for the 36th running of “la corsa la più bella del mondo” (the most beautiful race in the world) or better known to the world as the Mille Miglia (Thousand Miles).
The original race ran between 1927 and 1957, on a figure-eight shaped course between Brescia and Rome via Tuscany which was roughly 1,500 km — or a thousand Roman miles. It featured some of the most iconic grand-tourers ever produced by the likes of Alfa Romeo, BMW, Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes Benz and Porsche. Legends such as Ferdinando Minoia, Clemente Biondetti, Giannino Marzotto, Alberto Ascari and Stirling Moss have graced the winners’ circle.
The spirit of Mille Miglia was reborn in 1977 as a regularity race that is open only to vintage cars of the type that took part in the original race. The route is still between Brescia and Rome although modified from the original. The departure and arrival point are as in the original; at Viale Venezia in Brescia. The race passes some 30 picturesque cities and towns of northern Italy such as Ferrara, San Marino, Siena, Parma, and Bergamo. In the 2018 edition, 440 teams with drivers from 40 different nationalities from across five continents took part in this one-of-a-kind vintage race.
One of those participating in this year’s event was Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard, who has had a love affair with this event for over 30 years. Scheufele’s commitment to the Mille Miglia stems from his deep passion for owning and driving some of the rarest and most iconic classic cars. A passion he inherited from his father, Karl Scheufele.
Alongside Karl-Friedrich Scheufele this year was his long-time friend and racing legend Jacky Ickx. Scheufele chose to use the occasion to honour Chopard’s partnership with Porsche Motorsport by driving a 1956 Porsche 550A Spyder RS which was loaned to him from the Porsche Museum. Known as a “giant killer,” the Spyder won numerous accolades and came first in its class in the very last running of the Mille Miglia.
“Porsche car and especially the 550 Spyder RS is a very reliable car as well as very fun to drive. I really enjoy driving it! Especially with my friend Jacky Ickx. We did our first Mille Miglia race together in 1989,” said Scheufele at the event.
Scheufele and Ickx were not the only ones representing the Chopard maison at the event. They were joined by several friends of the brand to form a fleet of five cars representing Chopard at the starting line.
The American actor, Adrian Brody, a friend of the brand, partnered with Porsche’s Le Mans championship winning driver, Timo Bernhard in a Porsche 356 car from 1955. The legendary tenor José Carreras’ son, Albert Carreras, co-piloted a Mercedes Benz 300 SL owned by the Scheufele family along with Jordi Pascual.
Mr. David Hu flew in from Hong Kong to take part in this unique adventure under the Chopard flag. The Italian duo of Mr. Pomelli and his son, who are also friends of the Maison, were inspired by the unique opportunity to rediscover this beautiful region of their country as Mille Miglia drivers.
“It’s amazing how passionate are the Mille Miglia followers. They are here for the cars and performances every year. It’s so unique.” an impressed Mr. Scheufele said about the assembled field of cars and drivers.
Scheufele’s love of the Mille Miglia goes beyond mere participation. In fact, this year marks the 30th anniversary of Chopard becoming a partner and official timekeeper of the Mille Miglia in 1988.
For Scheufele, the relationship is perfectly natural because he says, “lovers of fine cars often have a great weakness for precious timepieces and vice versa. Extreme precision and sporting elegance are important in both these fields.“
To celebrate this long and unique relationship, Chopard hosted a welcome gala dinner for over a hundred privileged guests and friends on May 16, the day before the start of the race. The venue was the famous “ristorante la Sosta” located at the heart of Brescia. The guests of honour included Adrian Brody, Jacky Ickx and Timo Bernhard.
This pre-race event also witnessed the unveiling of the three new COSC-certified Chopard chronometer models dedicated to the 30th year of partnership between Chopard and the Mille Miglia.
The Chopard “Mille Miglia 2018 Race Edition,” is presented in stainless steel, a circular-grained anthracite grey dial, white transfer-printed railtrack markings and tachymeter scale, and Rhodium-plated hours, minute and sweep-second hands. It features a black calfskin bracelet with red-stitching and black rubber lining inspired by 1960s Dunlop racing tyres. It is equipped with a mechanical chronograph movement and with automatic winding. It is water resistant up to 50 metres. The back cover bears the Mille Miglia logo around its rim and the special transfer-printed inscription reading “Chopard & Mille Miglia 30 anni di passione.” This model is limited to 1,000 pieces. A sub-variant of this model with stainless steel and 18-carat rose gold casing is limited to just 100 pieces.
The “Mille Miglia GTS Power Control Grigio Speciale” features a steering wheel motif in grey and black. It has a glare-proofed sapphire crystal, titanium bezel with black aluminium inlay and numerals, the hands have a broad facetted sword-shape, the metallic applied hour-markers are painted with a black luminescent material. The dial is stippled anthracite ruthenium in subtle shades of grey, which is contrasted by the “Rosso Corsa” red, grey and black detailing. Owners will be able to check the power reserve of their timepiece thanks to the dedicated indicator inspired by the petrol gauges of the cars competing in the race. The strap is made of Cordura fabric as used in high-performance motorsports apparel, known for its durability as well as its resistance to abrasion and tearing. The grey Cordura fabric bracelet in combination with the oversized numerals evoke the car dashboards of the 1950s. This model is water resistant up to 100 metres and is limited to 1,000 pieces.
The “Mille Miglia Racing Colours” is the re-edition of a historical Chopard collection featuring unique dials intended for gentlemen drivers and collectors. It pays tribute to the heyday of motorsports; the days when the Mille Miglia reigned supreme. The pièce de résistance of the collection are the lacquered or circular satin-brushed dials bearing the traditional national racing colours of the major nations competing in motorsports: “Rosso Corsa” red for Italy, Speed Silver for Germany, British Racing Green for the United Kingdom, Vintage Blue for France, and Speed Yellow for Belgium. It also features the Red Mille Miglia logo on the dial, polished steel bezel, glare-proofed sapphire crystal, rhodium-plated baton-type hands for the hours and minutes, and the red-tipped sweep-seconds hand. The strap is calfskin leather with stitching matching the racing colours on the dials. Production of each colour is restricted to 300 pieces.