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The Mille Miglia 2017: On board with Chopard and the His & Her’s chonographs

6 June 2017
Macha Vananty at the Mille Miglia 2017 Chopard team

Macha Vananty

La corsa la più bella del mondoSuch is the reputation of the famous Mille Miglia, a collector’s car race that goes from Brescia to Rome and back. The route covers a distance of 1600 km, which corresponds to one thousand miles, hence the name of the race. Organized for the first time in 1927, this speed race was at the time a leg of the world championship, alongside the legendary 24 Heures du Mans or the Targa Florio. It brought together the best pilots and the most powerful cars, zooming across cities and the Italian landscape to thunderous applause of the spectators along the road. Stirling Moss set the record of the course on a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR, covering the 1597 km in only 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds, which corresponds to an average speed of 157,65 km/h.

In 1957, following an accident involving a Ferrari that killed 12 spectators, the Mille Miglia race was definitely stopped by the Italian government, just as most of the other similar races of the time. No more such races would be allowed on the public highway. In 1982, however, the Mille Miglia would come back to life in the form of a regularity rally organized over a period of four days.

I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in the 90th edition of the race thanks to an invitation by Chopard, official partner of the event since 1988. What do Chopard and the Mille Miglia have in common? A deep passion for beautiful mechanics, a touch of glamour and a certain competitive spirit. It is more and more common for watch brands to build partnerships with the automobile world, be it by sponsoring a particular event, signing ambassador contracts with the pilots or even by developing collaborations with the racing teams themselves. The watch has become a highly important object for the pilots, beyond its mere function of measuring time. In this respect, as an independent and family-owned company, Chopard has nothing to envy to the big brands from the big groups, having signed an important and prestigious partnership with Porsche Motorsport. The brand can undoubtedly be considered as an established actor in the world of car racing, as further demonstrated by its Classic Racing collection that comprises of the Mille Miglia, the Historic Grand Prix de Monaco and the Superfast lines. All are elegant and sporty timepieces that create a bridge between automobile engineering and mechanical watchmaking.

As it would be expected, Karl Friedrich Scheufele (co-president of Chopard, vintage car collector and amateur pilot) takes part in the Mille Miglia every single year. For this year’s 90th edition, he decided to race a Porsche 550 and to team up with Romain Dumas, Porsche’s famous official driver and winner of the 24 Heures du Mans.

Romain Dumais KFS at the Mille Miglia 2017 Chopard teamRomain Dumas, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele
Mille Miglia 2017
©Alexandra Pauli for Chopard

As for me, I would also hit the road in a Porsche 550 Spyder alongside my charming boyfriend. Quite an emotional moment since this would be the first time that I would participate in a historic race with a man that wasn’t my father. Simon Kidston, a specialist of the Mille Miglia, had warned us that such races generally trigger a good dose of arguments. But after all, both of us were used to handling stressful competition situations and this regularity, Dolce Vita-like race in a nice little Spyder would surely not discourage us. Our playground would be the beautiful Italian roads crossing Lombardy, Emilie-Romagne, Latium and Tuscany.Macha Vananty Mille Miglia 2017 Porsche 550 spyder

The one and only rule was to be as regular as possible and respect the imparted time for each segment of the race, a task made both easy and pleasant thanks to our Chopard Mille Miglia His & Her’s Chronographs. The race was indeed the perfect opportunity for us to enjoy these timepieces, the latest additions to the Mille Miglia line launched back in 1988, and also the first watches presented by the brand in a “duo” format for couples. Both references share the same spirit and a same atmosphere. Also, they have naturally kept the traditional codes of the Mille Miglia family such as the Arabic numerals, the three sub-dials (strongly inspired by the car racing universe), the peripheral scale (the tachymeter was replaced by a more simple graduation on the ladies model) and finally the famous rubber strap. The latter had been inspired by the pattern of the vintage Dunlop tires that used to be mounted on the Mille Miglia participating cars.

Claudio Roddaro Mille Miglia ChopardChopard Mille Miglia 2017 Modell
90th Mille Miglia 2017, Brescia, Italy, 18th May 2017
(c) Alexandra Pauli

Macha Vananty at the Mille Miglia 2017 Chopard team

The watch sitting on my wrist featured a generously sized, 39mm stainless steel case offering a very summery ambiance thanks to its white dial, white bracelet and diamond-set bezel. With a 42mm case, my partner’s watch actually only appeared slightly larger than mine. Indeed, the perceived size of the watch would be further reduced because of its black dial. I must say I particularly appreciated this colour contrast between two watches that were really created with the same source of inspiration. In any case, our respective watches proved to be ideal companions for such an event. Featuring comfortable rubber straps and luminescent hands for improved readability, they were also highly efficient and precise for the time trials, thanks to their Chronometer-certified movements (an ETA2824 base equipped with a chronograph module). Highly elegant watches with a sporty and practical touch: their rubber straps were more than welcome as we hit the usual Mille Miglia bad weather.

An other watch has been created for the 90th anniversary of the race, it is the Mille Miglia Classic Xl. Inspired by the motor racing world, this elegant chonograph offers resolutely masculine lines and dimensions, 46mm indeed. The watch has been reviewed by Francois-Xavier Overstake, Watch-her’s  official “Watch Geek”, a great article you can discover here on watchprosite.com

Comfortably installed in our Porsche 550 Spyder featuring number #412, we had the privilege to take part in this rolling museum of 450 spectacular cars. Without any doubt, the most beautiful display of pre-war cars ever seen on the road, amongst others with an exceptional peloton of Bugatti T35 and T37.

After aligning on the best way to announce directions (“500 meters, roundabout right”), we left Brescia and headed for Padua with an expected arrival time of forty minutes past midnight. And indeed we did reach the stage-city in the middle of the Italian night. The next morning, the second stage of the race would take us from Padua to Rome. We had trouble recovering from this 640 km stage and signs of fatigue were still being felt one week later. Twelve long hours under the sun, driving a convertible with no windscreen and wearing no helmet. Just a pair of sunglasses and our hair in the wind…these kilometres seemed never-ending. At nightfall, a suddenly remembered one of my favourite quotes by American storyteller Thornton Wilder: “When you’re safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you’re having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.”

Mille Miglia Mille Miglia 2017 Porsche 550 spyder

Slowly but steadily, the Dolce Vita feeling of the Mille Miglia was transforming into a rather physical adventure, racing at an average speed of 30 km/h during the “regularity” special trials, yet at 160 km/h on the larger, B roads. Here again, incredible childhood memories came back to my mind and I could visualize myself in the middle of an episode of “Wacky Races”. The racing cars and their elegant drivers would race each other on open roads, slaloming in the middle of traffic under the clamour of the crowds gathered along the road. Back to reality. We were witnessing a similar support during our race with practically all cars and lorries moving to the side to let us by as we approached. We could feel they were truly enjoying being overtaken by a beautiful vintage Porsche. A fantastic atmosphere that illustrated perfectly the deep passion Italians have for cars and competition. The least we could do to thank them was to offer them a loud engine roar…

Mille Miglia 2017
©Alexandra Pauli for Chopard

After a short night in Rome, the third stage was to bring us to Parma. A city that we unfortunately never reached as we were forced to abandon the race after about 100km, under pelting rain, due to an electric problem. Our battery was not charging properly anymore which meant we could not start the engine of the car without pushing it. Our 550 Spyder had been prepared for high-speed racing conditions and its engine started to constantly stall during the special trials with a much lower average speed. The day before, we already had to change the battery three times throughout the stage and ended up crossing the finish line without any headlights. All this was obviously very disappointing. Indeed, we had never imagined coming back to Brescia in the Frecciarossa (the Italian equivalent of the TGV) to welcome the other participants as they crossed the finish line the next day. Once again, a sumptuous show awaited: a procession of hundreds of exceptional cars having survived all the trials of the Mille Miglia. Pilots and co-pilots (if they hadn’t divorced on the road) would erupt with joy and emotion as they crossed the finish line. They would then share anecdotes and souvenirs with the friends and family that had come to welcome them. Most of them were totally exhausted, but all were already arranging to meet each other again for the 2018 edition! It seems like passion always wins over pains…

Macha Vananty at the Mille Miglia 2017 Chopard teamMille Miglia 2017
©Alexandra Pauli for Chopard

Macha Vananty at the Mille Miglia 2017 Chopard teamMille Miglia 2017
©Alexandra Pauli for Chopard

Macha Vananty at the Mille Miglia 2017 Chopard team90th Mille Miglia 2017, Brescia, Italy, 18th May 2017
(c) Alexandra Pauli

I would like to address a big thank you to Chopard for this fantastic experience. We are very proud to have participated in this legendary event as Chopard brand ambassadors And of course, the Mille Miglia His & Her’s watches will forever symbolize the souvenir of our participation in the 90th edition of the race. A magical souvenir of a magical experience.

Macha Vananty

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Mille Miglia 2017 chopard

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