Un orologio adatto per il principe azzurro che ha il sangue blu – Going in-Depth with 2020’s Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro or How The 2020 Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro Models Are A Sure-fire Speed Junkie Heart Kick-Starter
“What’s in a name?,” is one of Shakespeare’s universally known gems. And while he may have been ordinarily right, for “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, I beg to differ, at least in the context of this review. For in the case of the watches we are reviewing today, the official nomenclature has a lot to do with defining what they are. We are looking at the Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro releases for 2020. The Mille Miglia part is referencing the famed Italian car races, and the Azzurro part references to both our title of this review and the colour of the watch.
The Colour Bit
Let’s start with the colour bit, shall we? It’s blue. Why do we choose to start with this colour you ask? Well because contrary to Mr Shakespeare, it’s in the name.
Azzurro means blue in Italian. In-fact if I am not wrong, to be exact, it means light blue. Now blue traditionally has also been associated with nobility, and has been the colour of the noble House of Savoy, and the reason why I am on this blue obsession is that two Italian phrases came to mind when I looked at the new Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro: ‘Avere il sangue blu’ and ‘Il principe azzurro’.
‘Avere il sangue blu’ when translated literally means ‘to have blue blood’, and its actual meaning is ‘to be of noble descent’.
‘Il principe azzurro’ is an Italian expression that when translated literally means the ‘light blue prince’. It’s actual meaning though is ‘prince charming’. The expression comes from fairy tales where princesses would wait for their ‘principe azzurro’ who was a good-looking, perfect man. Clue good-looking, perfect watch. So when a watch is released to mark an Italian racing legend and is named after the colour blue, it is only apt to call it Il principe azzurro.
Combine the two and we get our review title: Un orologio adatto per il principe azzurro che ha il sangue blu or ‘a watch fit for the prince charming that has blue blood’.
The Two Watches
Enough of the colours already, let’s talk about the watch.
The new Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro 2020 comes in two variations: the 500-piece limited edition in stainless steel and 18-carat rose gold ‘Power Control’ version and the 750-piece limited edition in stainless steel ‘Chrono’ version.
Both these versions feature a particular ‘Azzurro’ colour — steely blue hue — on the dials that not only contrasts beautifully with the ‘Mille Miglia red’ used for detailing but also according to the brand was chosen both for its aesthetic appeal and its similarity to the shades often used in the past on some of the world’s great classic cars.
For the past 32 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 then is only natural that the Maison produces a new Mille Miglia watch collection every year to mark this event.
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. It’s actually on my personal list of watchers to acquire, and I love the way the watch architecture speaks volumes about car racing and the bright colour ensures that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has a youthful touch to it, something that I find rare in the world of horology. Amidst all serious and matured ‘grown-up’ watches there shines this yellow beauty that’s elegant yet chilled out.
It’s something like the new Rolex OP models for 2020.
And the new Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro timepieces are embedded in similarly appealing architecture codes. Similar, but not the same though. Unlike the Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph range that includes the Yellow version from above, the new Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro are a part of the GTS (Grand Turismo Sport) range. These have more heft to them (more on that in a bit), and if I was to compare these to any other watches around I would say that the watch’s design reminds me of Calibre de Cartier. But keeping within the company, let’s just briefly compare them to the Classic range (that includes my all time Chopard favourite, the above mentioned Racing Colours Yellow).
Coming back to the heft part I mentioned above, the GTS models have an innate masculine quality to them. These are watches that I see more men than women wearing, whereas the design language of the Classic range in my opinion is more suited to both the sexes. I would even say that the Classics range is more of a ‘boys’ range while the GTS is more of a ‘men’s’ collection.
The Mille Miglia GTS collection usually can feature any of the following complications: a three-hand version with date display; a chronograph option; and a power-reserve model. The new Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro release features the latter two for 2020.
Overall, the GTS range is inspired by the classic cars that took part in the races between 1940 and 1957. They also take design cues from the 60s as well, as they feature rubber straps that draw inspiration from the Dunlop tyres of that era.
Traditionally available in steel cases, with a bit of gold now and then, they come in standard dimensions every year: 43mm diameter for the Automatic and Power Control versions, and 44mm for the Chrono version.
This year we have offerings in both sizes, 43mm and 44mm. The sizing is again slightly larger than the Racing Yellow Classic, with that beauty coming in at 42mm. Architecturally, the GTS range is characterised by its short, pointed lugs that are carefully tapered to ensure optimal comfort on the wrist.
The Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro Power Control 500 pieces
Given that the design language remains pretty much the same every year, the new 2020 Chopard releases are very similar to ones released last year. For 2019, the Maison released Mille Miglia 2019 Race Edition chronographs, and a pair of Mille Miglia GTS Power Control models in dark grey and blue dials. They didn’t release a chronograph version last year, so that’s remotely new from that perspective.
The 2020 GTS Azzurro Power Control in blue differs from the 2019 GTS Power Control in the use of blue with subtle touches of gold. That’s pretty much it. But the use of gold really brings out the blue of the dial and I prefer the new 2020 version over the 2019 version.
The In-House Part
In the world of COMCO vs ETA — a battle between a Swiss regulatory authority and Swatch Group’s movement manufacturing arm — and the universe of Sellita movements, one of the impressive feats of any watchmaker is to produce a watch totally in-house. The new Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro Power Control is one such watch, that has been built entirely in Chopard’s workshops. The 251-part in-house movement offers 60 hours of power reserve (the level of which can be monitored by the indicator at 9’o clock on the dial), is COSC chronometer certified, and is entirely designed, developed and assembled in Chopard’s Fleurier Ebauche workshops.
The Looks Part
The geometrically balanced dial shows the functions of hours, minutes and seconds, a date aperture at 3’o clock, and a power reserve indicator at 9’o clock on a circular satin brushed blue-coloured dial whose lustre is achieved with galvanic treatment.
The dial is spot circled by varnished blue with a white transfer on the peripheral minutes track. The dial is nicely framed by the gold and blue bezel — varnished blue aluminium bezel insert marked in 12 increments of five to facilitate elapsed time recording — with the gold not only nicely framing the blue but also making the watch appear smaller too.
The crown, the facetted hands and indexes, and especially the power reserve indicator at 9’o clock, all add to the sporty charm of the watch. Add to this the oversized 6 and 12’o clock numerals painted in Superluminova that are again reminiscent of the dashboards of classic cars. Talking about the hands again, the Super-LumiNova®-painted and facetted gilded hours and minutes hands go well with the rose gold colour scheme, and so do the Super-LumiNova®-painted gilded — application of a thin layer of gold leaf or paint — appliques.
The gilded red-tipped sweep-seconds hand tip complements the red of the arrow and power reverse indicator. It’s this balance of colours, blue, rose gold and red, and the 18-carat rose gold detailing to the winding crown, bezel, hands and hour markers, that really sets the new Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro Power Control apart.
The Specifications Part
The 28.80mm diameter and 4.95mm thick calibre — Chopard 01.08-C — used is a self-winding automatic manufacture movement comprising of 251 components, 40 jewels, and beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’000 A/h) allowing for an impressive 60-hour power reserve. The meticulously finished movement can be admired in all its glory framed by a steel ring that surrounds the sapphire crystal case back and is marked with the ‘Brescia > Roma > Brescia’ route of the Mille Miglia. Collectors will also cherish that the case back is also engraved with an individual edition number.
The movement and dial are presented inside a 43mm diameter and 11.43mm thick stainless steel (and 18-carat rose gold) case with a polished 18-carat rose gold bezel with blue aluminium inlay and 18-carat rose gold screw-down crown with steering wheel motif at 3’o clock.
The reference 168566-6002 is completed with a blue-coloured calf leather strap with tone-on-tone stitching and perforations inspired by driving gloves. The straps also feature blue rubber lining inspired by 1960s Dunlop racing tyres and a polished and satin-brushed stainless steel folding clasp.
The Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro Chrono 750 pieces version
The In-House Part
This 750-piece limited edition in stainless steel reference 168571-3007 has a Chronometer-certified (COSC) movement but unlike the previous version, is not an in-house movement. For a limited edition release, in my personal option that’s a bit of a bummer, especially since the watches retail for 7’400 CHF and don’t offer anything unique compared to say their previous year versions.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the design cues, and the execution of the blue coloured dial is spot on, but for this price I would like my watch to have a decently decorated — doesn’t matter if it’s only machine finished — movement that I can see through the case back. Here we only get a closed case-back and a modified ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement.
The ETA Valjoux 7750 is based on the Valjoux 7733 (manual wind) calibre and features an Incabloc shock system and an uni-directional winding mechanism. Nothing wrong with the movement, but its so widely mass produced given it is reliable and easily available due to the absence of column wheel — TAG Heuer, Breitling, Hamilton, Tissot, Certina, Baume & Mercier, Sinn all use this — that is ends up taking away from the high-end, exclusive, limited edition luxury sports watch approach that Chopard is going for.
The Looks Part
Unlike the above Power Control version, I find the dial to be a bit geometrically imbalanced. Primarily because the three sub-dials are not all the same size, with the one at 9’o clock being smaller. I know they have been designed as a trio of dashboard-like sub dials intended to separately record periods of 60 seconds, 30 minutes and 12 hours, but them not being the same size just doesn’t do it for me.
Other than that and the lack of the in-house movement, I do like these watches.
Like I said earlier, I am a fan of Chopard watches in general, and of the design language of the Classic Racing ones in particular, and as much as I find myself falling in love with the Power Control version, it’s hard getting past the sub-dial layout on the Chrono version. I want to though, given the sub-dial layout is inspired by the instrument clusters of classic cars.
Anyway, moving past this, the dial does feature that strikingly handsome shade of blue that’s the calling card for the 2020 releases. And, there are a few features that maintain the relevance to motor sports, and separate this chronograph from others:
- ‘Pump’ pushers that are not only sporty but also easy to operate even when wearing driving gloves
- The varnished blue and grey bezel insert that is marked with a tachymeter scale to enable speed and distance calculations
- This version also features the same perforated leather and tyre-tread rubber strap that further lends an air of racing to the timepiece
- And even though I am not appreciating the closed case-back of this release, it does have engravings that collectors might cherish: solid a chequered flag pattern topped by a Mille Miglia arrow, while the ‘Brescia > Roma > Brescia’ legend and the individual edition number out of 750 are marked around the edge
The dial shows the functions of central hours, minutes and chronograph seconds hand with a red tip and a small seconds counter at 9’o clock, along with a date aperture at 3’o clock, a 30-minute counter at 12’o clock, a 12-hour counter at 6’o clock, and a tachymeter scale on the varnished blue and grey inner bezel ring with a white transfer.
The red of the hands and the red of the arrow at 3’o clock are excellent touches of colour that contrast well against the circular satin brushed blue-coloured dial.
Like the Power Control version, the crown, the facetted hands and indexes, all add to the sporty charm of the watch. The Super-LumiNova®-painted rhodium-plated appliques and facetted rhodium-plated hours and minutes hands work in tandem and contrast well against the blue dial.
To give credit where it’s due, I must admit that when it comes to legibility, the dial is spot on. And this is something I would give Chopard extra points for, as to design a racing themed sports watch that’s not legible is just poor form. Given how good this blue colour looks, and how well the rhodium plated indexes and the red touches work, I wouldn’t mind if the brand released an automatic time only version of this watch. It would be completely cluster-free, handsome and exceedingly legible. Perhaps something non-limited as well?
The Specifications Part
The 30.40mm diameter and 7.90mm thick calibre — modified ETA Valjoux 7750 — used is a self-winding chronograph movement comprising of 240 components and 25 jewels. It beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’000 A/h) and boasts of a decent 48-hour power reserve.
The movement and dial are presented inside a 44mm diameter and 13.79mm thick stainless steel case with a polished stainless steel bezel with blue aluminium inlay and stainless steel crown with steering wheel motif 3’o clock.
The dial is protected by a glare-proofed sapphire crystal while the closed case-back bears the inscription Brescia > Roma > Brescia.
Watch Ya Gonna Do About It
The new Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro watches, especially the Power Control version, are examples of wrist luxury meets racing at its best.
The 2020 versions maybe just mere face lifts on surface and not provide for industry disruptive alterations or a change to the existing Mille Miglia lineup, but for anyone who hasn’t been following the brands closely for years, they offer the perfect chance to dabble in a little affair that’s soaked in the aroma of the fresh breeze brought on by these elegant tool watches.
In terms of tool watches, Chopard offers one of the best designs. They stand out with their distinctive looks, and as crowded as the tool watch market is, in my humble opinion Chopard is a major player.
The Power Control version also offers a decent in-house movement at a decent price point, providing its watches with a very classy daily beater appeal. I know the 43mm and 44mm sizing is not everyone’s cup of tea — frankly they could benefit with a diet and a lose a couple of millimetres — but for anyone who has larger wrists, the Chopard GTS range is a no-brainer.
So why would you consider these? There are a plethora of reasons why the new Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro watches for 2020 are worth adding to any collection worth its weight in gold. And while we have talked about them above, to re-iterate, one of the main ones is the connection to the legacy of the races these watches represent. Any watch nerd and sports car racing enthusiast would appreciate the connection.
Both the Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro Power Control and the Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro Chrono are rich in design touches inspired by the automotive world. From the steel case featuring grooves on its sides representing car engine pistons to the smoothly-sloping strap lugs reminiscent of the curvature of hand-crafted coachwork, and from the oversized winding crown that recalls the chunky cap of a race-style fuel filler to the chronograph push-pieces being engraved in the manner of the anti-slip pattern often applied to the control pedals of competition cars, the Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro models are a sure-fire speed junkie heart kick-starter.
But even besides that, the watches have much more to offer – the circular satin brushed blue-coloured dial comes alive with play of light and shade and transports you momentarily to a world of its own, where the beautiful ‘Mille Miglia red’ accents caress your senses to new heights.
And if you notice carefully, the circular brushing finish also resembles surface of a car disc brake.
The instantly recognisable ‘1000 Miglia’ direction arrow that frames the date window is as always one of the better features of these watches, and no matter how many times Chopard releases some variation of this watch, that will always be a somewhat iconic detail for watch connoisseurs to appreciate.
Besides these, one of my favourite touches of the GTS range is that power reserve indicator that is based on automotive fuel gauges. I simply love it. It reminds me of the manual cars and stick gears and good ol’ days of my youth when I learnt to drive but being a stereotypically broke college student always had my eye on the fuel gauge.
The Power Control version also has another advantage, a sort of multipurpose feel to it, one that works well with Watch Ya Gonna Do About It’s Fusion Friday theme. See if the colour had been something more conventional, like last year’s dark-grey or black or silver, it would not have the wrist presence of the new Azzurro dial. But being the way it is, the Power Control version has a chameleon like ability to go from the race track to the boardroom with ease. And the rose gold accents further elevate the wearability quotient of the watch, giving it a nice, classy touch that can then take the watch from the boardroom to the red carpet.
La corsa più bella del mondo (the most beautiful race in the world) deserves to have a worthy watch representing it. The new Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro does just that.
So, chi dorme non piglia pesci, or in plain English, if you snooze, you lose. Given these are limited edition, if you want one as bad as I do, then go get your driving gloves on and see one in the metal before these limited edition boys speed away.
For more information on the new Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro watches or other offerings from the Maison, please head to their website here. All images unless otherwise stated are © Chopard, All rights reserved.