Editor’s note: As race car driver and Chopard Ambassador Romain Dumas wins the Time Attack 1 Division of the 99th Running of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb wearing the Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Speed Black, we go hands-on with two new Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Raticosa watches. We recently went hands-on with some of Chopard’s other new 2021 releases, and you can about them here and here. These have been photographed with the grateful assistance of J Farren-Price Sydney and Chopard Australia. For our other detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here.
As the road bends curving like the nude beauty of a voluptuous body, you witness the beauty of naked nature in your rear-view mirror; grass in various shades of green lace the valley, the cold air breezes past, motorbikes can be heard revving, your adrenaline pumping, the grey asphalt road with clearly marked white lines beckons.
The blue sky laced with white clouds moves over the horizon. The abundant of tress cast their shadow, and the mountain peaks in the distance stand tall and firm.
You pull up at the lone solace for rest amongst this haven of ‘motor-valley’, the Chalet Raticosa.
A must stop for motorcyclists, near the Chalet at the top of the pass is a sign post, covered in racing symbols and stickers. A welcome scent of gasoline in the air engulfs you.
With Lamborghini, Ferrari and Ducati factories in the vicinity, all this is a reminder that you are passing by the famous Italian Raticosa Pass, and the love for motorsports courses through this pass’s every bend and turn.
The 2021 Mille Miglia race is spread over the course of four days and includes three passes along the way: Passo della Cisa in the first leg and Passi di Futa e Raticosa on the third day of the race. In fact, the Raticosa and Futa passes are now the only real stretches of the Mille Miglia where one can still drive as if the time is still 1955.
At almost a 1000m above sea-level, the Passo della Raticosa is where the exciting and adrenaline pumping journey of the annual Mille Miglia car rally-cum-race takes centre stage. And the same passion for motor-sports comes alive on the new Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Raticosa.
The new Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Raticosa comes in two variations: with a varnished beige dial and fauxtina accents in stainless steel ref. 168589-3033 aka ‘the dawn version’ and the 500-piece limited edition with a varnished black dial with fauxtina accents again in stainless steel ref. 168589-3034 aka ‘the dusk version’.
They both retail for the same 8’620 AUD or 5’900 CHF or 8’140 SGD. They are both 500-piece limited editions and COSC-certified, and come on the exact same strap. Both these versions feature the same design and specifications as well, but the real beauty shines through when looked at up close; they are different as day and night, dawn and dusk.
The best part is, from a collector’s point of view, there is a space for both of these chronos to co-exist in one collection.
Given these are on my ‘must-get-at-some-point’ list, I have of course tried a number of Chopard Mille Miglia watches over the years; but have never officially reviewed them. So when we got to go hands-on with these, suffice to say I felt like a child let loose in a toy store.
My first reaction was how familiar they looked, and yet different at the same time. Truth be told most of these watches are very similar every year, featuring minor tweaks or colour changes. But if you have a winning formula, why tinker with it? Chopard has a history of churning out some exquisite pieces from time to time, with one of my favourites being the Mille Miglia Racing Colours Yellow from 2018. Both the new Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Raticosa feature the same design architecture as the ones I have tried on, but on the wrist, the beige, black and fauxtina colours come alive, lending these a distinctive aesthetic.
These measure at 42mm diameter — 47mm with the crown — and 12.67mm thickness, with a rather long lug-to-lug of 50mm. On my ~16cm wrist, these sit surprisingly well. There wasn’t any overhang thanks to the curved lugs. Honestly, it’s a good design for someone with slim or large wrists. Another reason why this works on slimmer wrist sizes like mine is the case design and dial: the watch features a stepped bezel that not only visually demarcates the case but also decreases it to 39mm. Given the thickness of the bezel, the actual dial ends up being only 35mm. So when looking from the top, the small dial makes it work on my wrists while the large lug-to-lug ensures it sits with an impressive presence. The watch is not very thick (for a chronograph), measuring only 12.67mm. It’s main middle case-band is only 7mm, again aiding in making the watch look slimmer. Assisting this effect is the 4mm high stepped bezel as well.
Given the new Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Raticosa features an all polished case and lugs with no surface texture breakage, these design and height/diameter differences help bring a degree of nuance to the watch design.
Both the watches weigh a rather decent 95g each, which makes them wear just right: not too heavy for a chrono that they become burdensome, and not too light that you can barely feel them.
The one dimension I did find annoying was the 19mm lug interhorn spacing. It just makes it difficult to source aftermarket straps and on a 42mm diameter watch, 19mm could easily be increased.
That said, I particularly love the perforated strap that features a rubber base reminiscent of vintage Dunlop car tyres topped by a beautiful thin layer of brown calfskin patinated leather. An embossed and branded pin buckle completes it.
The strap patina also complements the faux-patina looking, lume in-filled, 1920s-car-dashboard-inspired Arabic numerals.
Both these feature the same display case-back with Mille Miglia and LE branding that showcases the ETA 2894-2 calibre and the decent decorations in the form of Geneva Stripes on the bridges and the circular-grained mainplate.
The dial layout is also the same on both, symmetrical, a bit cluttered but highly legible. The fonts on the main dial and sub-dials are different, further aiding in readability.
The peripheral sloping tachymeter scale adds to the sense of depth perception already accentuated by the external sloping bezel, and the red on the tip of the chronograph second’s hand perfectly complements the Mille Miglia arrow at 12’o clock.
The crown design seems to have changed and evolved over the years as well, and I particularly appreciate the presence of an almost oversized crown with a steering wheel embossed on it.
It’s always the little details that go a long way, and the new Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Raticosa is impressively chockfull of them.
This is where the similarities cease, and the day and night, dawn and dusk personalities start to take form.
The black dial version ref. 168589-3034 is my favourite of two. In this version, for starters, the date wheel colour has been matched to the dial, that provides a sense of coherency.
But most impressively, it is the execution of contrast of the sub-dials and dial that is the star for me: the chronograph counters are sunken again providing visual relief, and feature concentric circles or an azurage pattern. To top it off, there is also a mild sun-ray effect to them. Then the main dial while in the same black colour features a circular-brushed texture and a rather strong sun-ray effect.
The ‘dawn version’ or the beige coloured ref. 168589-3033 is completely opposite in personality (on a micro level). The main dial features a grained texture, that rather than contrasting synchronises with the sunken counters. The date wheel here is not matched to the dial but is in traditional white. But the pink-ish faux-patina look in-fills on the dial really come alive in this version. And only that, for someone with a naturally tanned skin, this works superbly. I really liked how the brown strap, beige dial and faux-lume worked on my skin tone.
At the end of the day, both these watches are great. They are opposite but the same. The black one is more dressy and the beige one more casual. But both are sporty and soaked in motor-sports DNA. These are also different from Chopard’s previous releases. We managed to get a couple of comparison shots with another silver and black dialled Chopard Mille Miglia and all of these offer something distinctive.
Before we head on to the movement specifications, there are a couple of elements I wouldn’t mind seeing altered.
One, it kind of bothers me that while the case features a screw-down crown, the timepiece is only 50m water-resistant. Given the sporty design, I would really appreciate if Chopard increased this to 100m in the future editions.
And two, it is that god-forsaken cries against design architecture, the 4.30 date aperture. Frankly it’s not even required on the dial, as is already a fair bit of activity on the dial. Remove that, and the dial is a symmetric wonder, and is something that I as both a watch enthusiast and an architect definitely appreciate.
Both the new Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Raticosa feature the outsourced automatic movement, the ETA 2894-2. This movement is available in three grades if I am not mistaken: Elaboré grade with a nickel balance, Top grade with a Glucydur balance, and the most accurate of the lot, the Chronomètre grade. Chopard has thankfully chosen to go with the latter, the COSC-certified grade.
I say thankfully because the ETA 2894-2 in general don’t have the best reputation amongst watch enthusiasts, especially when compared to the ETA Valjoux 7750. Without getting too technical, this is due to ETA 2894-2 being more of a module that cannot be easily and readily serviced by any watch repairer (as its parts aren’t readily available at local watchmakers and usually must be sent to Switzerland for replacement). This ends up making the long-term running cost of an ETA 2894-2 timepiece potentially higher than that of a chronograph watch fitted with a Valjoux 7750 or an integrated movement.
The integrated vs modular chronograph debate has been raging for a bit now, and I have no intentions of adding more fuel to that fire. So I am not going to address it directly in this review. It’s a topic for another time and place. But I will say this though; from a personal point of view, I prefer the integrated approach, that is, ETA 7750. That said, my Heuer Monaco LE 1969 features a Dubois Depraz chronograph module on top of a Sellita base. So it’s not like I would not buy the Mille Miglia because it uses a modular movement. I just prefer if it came with an integrated one instead, especially considering the fact that Chopard has the means to create exceptional in-house movements thanks to its Fleurier Ebauche workshops.
All said and done, the ETA 2894-2 is based on the ETA 2892-A2 that is a much more premium ETA offering than say the standard 2824. The ETA 2894-2 features very smooth winding, is robust, Chopard offers COSC-precision, and the movement is thin.
And for those connoisseurs and collectors for whom the possible higher service cost is not a deterrent, there is no other reason why someone shouldn’t consider a watch with the ETA 2894-2.
And when the package looks as handsome as the new Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Raticosa, this consideration kind of takes the back seat.
Another aspect to consider is that usually the ETA 2894-2 is used over the ETA 7750 family because the 7750 measures a bit larger at 30mm x 7.9mm; so chronograph watches with the ETA 2894-2 can be slimmer and fit under the cuff.
And for those who would like to own a sporty chronograph timepiece that can also be used as a dress watch, the black dialled Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Raticosa ref. 168589-3034 with only 12.67mm thickness is a stellar offering.
As for the specifications, in regards to the generic ETA 2894-2, it measures 28mm x 6.10mm, comprises 37 jewels — instead of only 25 in the 7750 — beats at the standard frequency of 4Hz, and offers ~42-hour power reserve.
Besides powering the Chopard Mille Miglias, ETA 2894-2 is also used by a number of other brands such as Bell & Ross, TAG Heuer (as Calibre 17), Longines and even Hublot (as HUB4300). In the past, I have also seen it used by other brands such as Bulgari and Ventura as well. So rest assured, you are in good and reliable company here.
When it comes to the original Mille Miglia races, Sir Stirling Moss and his Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR are legendary. And when it comes to having a horological equivalent of this for your wrist, the Chopard Mille Miglia sets the stage on fire.
That said, the Chopard Mille Miglia watches are not for everyone. I remember the first time I saw a Chopard Mille Miglia was at an AD while looking at an Omega Speedmaster FOIS. And as legendary as the Speedmaster is — and I personally do own the 2018 iteration CK 2998 — I couldn’t help but drifting towards the Mille Miglia. It’a a car lovers dream watch.
My wife couldn’t understand what I saw in it, and even now, after working with me on our website for a year and half, doesn’t see the many minute details on the Mille Miglia that I find so impressive. I am sadly yet to own one of these, but if I ever was in a situation where I was behind the wheels of a race car, there is no other watch I would rather wear. These are a sure-fire speed junkie heart kick-starter. If you feel the need for speed, these are the ones for you.
My love for the Chopard Mille Miglia is obvious. And if I had the funds, I would be getting one of these.
But my dilemma with the new Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Raticosa watches is that I don’t want just one, but both. I think they work best as a set.
I reckon these should have also been available as a set of both, that came inside a nice lux packaging, with perhaps an additional red car replica of the one used by the Chopard Co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. And I am not a marketeer for the brand but they could have made the price for the package a bit cheaper than buying these two individually.
For over 30 years, Chopard has been the official timekeeper of Italy’s famed Mille Miglia classic car rally. The races are so relevant in Chopard’s existence that every year Chopard Co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele competes in the gruelling, 1,000-mile contest that runs from Brescia to Rome and back.
It is then only natural that the Maison produces a new Mille Miglia watch collection every year to mark this event.
And this year’s versions can be simply summarised by the Italian saying:’Segui il tuo corso e lascia dir genti’.
It roughly translates to ‘Follow your own road, and let the people talk’.
Simply put, you can’t go wrong with the new Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Raticosa watches. Honestly, if you like the look and have the finances for it, get both.
This dream team of both watches, driver and navigator, dawn and dusk, interchangeable during day and night, allows you to travel in the fast lane.
And even if you decide on just one, these chronos will allow you to follow a distinct road on your horological journey.