Chopard Mille Miglia Ref. 8915 BRG Watch

Making a watch truly feel authentic to a particular pastime, subculture, or market segment is an incredibly long, laborious process. Ideally, the watch in question should be associated with the desired location for decades or more, with untold thousands of hours and millions of dollars in marketing efforts to reinforce the message — take, for example, the more than half-century Omega has taken to relentlessly push the Speedmaster as the first watch worn on the moon to make it the de facto choice for space-minded watch enthusiasts. In short, authenticity is a slow and expensive game in the watch industry, which makes the Chopard Mille Miglia series all the more interesting. Outside of TAG Heuer, it’s difficult to find a watch with more automotive and motorsports street cred than the Mille Miglia, and TAG Heuer has been plastered across the world’s most prominent race tracks and showcased on racer’s wrists since at least the 1960s. By contrast, the Mille Miglia is a relative newcomer, without the same marketing juggernaut to support it, and its motoring credentials are centered around a single vintage road race in central Italy. Among the real automotive cognoscenti, though, the Mille Miglia line has built a sterling reputation since its launch in 1988. This circa 2008 Chopard Mille Miglia ref. 8915 BRG is an ideal example of the genuine passion, fanatical attention to detail, and superb build quality that has earned the series an authentic motoring feel other automotive-inspired timepieces struggle to match.
The first ingredient in the Chopard Mille Miglia’s recipe for automotive authenticity is sincerity. Rather than being driven by dispassionate market research or a desire to advertise to a certain clientele, the Mille Miglia was born from Chopard head Karl-Friedrich Scheufele’s own personal participation in the Italian Mille Miglia classic car rally since the late ‘80s. As a result, the watch line more or less began as a passion project for Scheufele, a way to patronize the event he loved and create a more meaningful souvenir for those competing in the race. This honest, unabashedly passionate approach to the classic racing theme shines through in both the product line and the company’s continued support of the rally each year.
This genuine love for classic cars, as well as the look and feel of vintage motorsports, also allows the Chopard Mille Miglia to pick up on fine visual nuances and stylistic cues that an automotive outsider would easily miss. The Mille Miglia ref. 8915 BRG showcases this well, in a way that few of its stablemates attempt to replicate. Take the dial, for example. This is arguably as contemporary and sporty as Chopard would ever make the mainline Mille Miglia chronograph (not counting the beefy, aggressive Mille Miglia GTS sub-line), but even here, the modern cues are softened with a midcentury Italian flair. The wide, angular cutoff Arabic hours numerals of the main dial are pure late-2000s sporting style, with a form near identical to the typeface used for the contemporary Ferrari F430 Scuderia’s tachometer. Likewise, the polished straight sword handset and stark white lume give this design a firmly modern bent. However, elements like the gauge-like silver-white outer seconds scale, silver azurage subdials, and squarish, vintage instrument-style subdial numerals temper the contemporary side of the ref. 8915 BRG’s character with a ‘50s-era warmth.
However, Chopard’s use of light and color is where this dial truly shines. A set of broad, mirror-polished subdial accent rings gives the Mille Miglia a more refined, luxurious feel than some of its more tool-oriented competitors, and the combination of cream white and vibrant red for the arrow-tipped central chronograph seconds hand reinforces the vintage sporting feel. The high-gloss main dial surface itself is a genuine conversation starter as well. In most lighting conditions, this hue reads as simple, demure black, but under the sun or in bright direct light, it reveals itself to be an extremely dark, richly saturated green. Admittedly, the ref. 8915 BRG’s namesake take on British Racing Green is far from the more verdant hues familiarly used by the likes of Lotus and Aston Martin in international motorsports, but this darker, more reserved shade takes its inspiration from an older source. Rather than the bold British Racing Green tones of the ‘50s and ‘60s, this color instead harkens back to the rakish, aristocratic “Bentley Boys” that dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the 1920s and early 1930s with massive, supercharged Bentleys painted in this same near-black green. It’s not the obvious color choice that a non-automotive enthusiast would make when creating a “British racing watch,” but there’s a depth of knowledge apparent in the decision that seasoned gearheads appreciate.
The Chopard Mille Miglia ref. 8915 BRG’s case continues this considered mix of vintage and modern automotive inspirations. Measuring 40mm wide, it’s a fairly trend-proof compromise between sporting wrist presence and old-school compactness, with a stance that works for a variety of wrist sizes. The shape itself is classically simple, with clean vertical case sides, downturned unchamfered straight lugs, and a softly domed smooth bezel. With such a basic form, every minute visual element matters, and Chopard’s sense of refinement and extreme attention to detail pays off handsomely here. For example, the purposeful fully brushed finishing works to lightly accentuate the subtle rounding of the broader case surfaces in a way that polishing might have over-exaggerated. The brand’s choice to use titanium here rather than stainless steel is also an interesting one. Obviously, titanium wasn’t a common watchmaking material during the ‘50s heyday of the Mille Miglia race, but the darker, more lightweight feel of this material helps to prevent the ref. 8915 BRG from feeling too ornamental. The engraved tachymeter scale around the bezel is a classic vintage sports chronograph touch, however, and the squared-off vintage-style typeface ties in deftly with the chronograph subdials. Chopard tops this case with a printed sapphire display caseback, and despite the sporty pretensions, rates the watch for only 50 meters of water resistance.
Like many of its modern descendants, the Chopard Mille Miglia ref. 8915 BRG is powered by the dependable ETA 2894-2 automatic chronograph movement. While it may not be as exotic or as horologically exciting as an in-house powerplant, the 2894-2 is a reliable platform with excellent performance, including COSC-certified chronometer accuracy and a 42-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. As with the rest of the watch, the 2894-2’s finishing is stellar, with gold-filled engraving throughout, crisp, even perlage for the bridges, dark blued screws, and a dark-coated signed rotor topped with the brand’s familiar Côtes de Genève.
So much of the car enthusiast charm of the Chopard Mille Miglia series lies in its strap designs. For the Mille Miglia ref. 8915 BRG, the brand originally fitted this watch with a thick, supple big-hole-style rally strap in black leather with deep green accent stitching. To preserve the original limited-run strap, this example instead sports a modern example of the line’s signature tread-pattern rubber strap. With a texture lifted directly from a ‘50s-era Dunlop bias-ply racing tire, it’s another thoughtful, authentic motoring cue that those outside the classic car community may overlook or fail to recognize.
Creating a watch that truly fits into a certain community or subculture is a deceptively difficult undertaking. In order not to feel disingenuous or pandering, it can take an immense effort in both design and marketing, but nothing tops genuine passion and love for the subject matter when it comes to crafting authenticity. Few watches demonstrate how far this passion, attention to detail, and quality execution will take a product line as well as the Chopard Mille Miglia, and the Mille Miglia ref. 8915 BRG showcases the depth and breadth of Choard’s automotive knowledge better than most. Beyond simply being a striking piece of watchmaking, it’s a poignant reminder to brands and enthusiasts alike about the thought and labor it can take to truly speak to a subculture.