October 22, 2020
In terms of complexity, difficulty, and cost, a hacking (or stop seconds) mechanism and a tourbillon exist on opposite ends of the watch complication spectrum. Despite both the ubiquity of hacking mechanisms and the tendency of tourbillon movements to carry additional complications, however, very few tourbillon escapements can be stopped when pulling out the crown. Chopard is one of only a handful of brands to attempt the feat, and its new automatic tourbillon chronometer movement serves as a testbed for this rare take on an already scarce complication. Outside of its signature feature, the limited edition Chopard Mille Miglia Lab One offers a new and highly technical automotive aesthetic for the line, showcasing its genuinely innovative movement work.
The case of the Chopard Mille Miglia Lab One is nearly as complex as the movement inside it. Measuring in at an imposing 46mm across, the angular bead blasted titanium form comes off as a modernist geometric take on the tonneau style. The black DLC coating helps to drive home this sense of modernity, with prominent hex screws at the corners adding an industrial touch. Of course, the most striking element of the case design is the apparent lack of a crown at first glance. The invisible crown system used for the Mille Miglia Lab One has been patented by Chopard, and the actual crown itself if intricately shaped like a wheel and placed nearly flush against the caseback at 9 o’clock. This unorthodox crown placement helps in initial images to aid the feeling of symmetry across the case, along with providing a natural conversation piece for the watch. With such a complex movement, a sapphire caseback is almost a given for the Mille Miglia Lab One, and this case obliges with a display window. That said, the display window does nothing to help an already disappointing 50 meters of water resistance.
Automotive inspiration has always been at the heart of the Chopard Mille Miglia series, and the Mille Miglia Lab One translates this inspiration quite literally. The majority of the skeleton dial surface is dominated by a matte black segment with raised polished sections made to resemble old-school race engine valve covers, while the polished tourbillon bridge at 6 o’clock mimics a strut tower brace. Even the tourbillon itself features a radially slotted pattern inspired by racing brake discs. Use of actual automotive components in a watch dial design is usually a losing proposition as the integration into the overall form tends to be ungainly, but the balance of the Mille Miglia Lab One’s dial layout and the slightly stylized design W keeps things from looking forced. Each of the Mille Miglia Lab One’s complications is given ample room on the dial, particularly the 6 o’clock tourbillon. The 12 o’clock big date window gives a glimpse into the gear train below, while the 8 o’clock power reserve indicator and 4 o’clock retrograde day are mirror images of one another. The use of a retrograde day complication here is a first for Chopard, as well. Outside of the main valve cover inspired dial surface and the complications, the rest of the surface underneath the crystal is skeletonized in a fine square mesh. While this mesh option may not afford the best movement view of any skeleton dial, in images this appears to strike a balance between exposing the movement and dial legibility, an area that often plagues skeleton designs.
The manufacture Chopard 04.03-M automatic tourbillon movement inside the Mille Miglia Lab One offers several firsts for the marque. First and foremost, this is the first COSC chronometer rated automatic tourbillon movement ever from the brand, but also the brand’s first non-circular automatic tourbillon movement. Perhaps its greatest innovation, however, is the stop tourbillon system. While most modern mechanical movements stop the running of the second hand when the crown is pulled out, very few tourbillon movements do the same. The system involved in allowing this tourbillon movement to be hacked is deceptively simple, featuring a pair of axially mounted levers that engage and grip the tourbillon in place once the crown is pulled, much like the caliper of a disc brake. The Chopard 04.03-M’s proprietary Variner balance also aids performance, constantly compensating for minor inertia variations that occur over the course of the 60 hour power reserve. COSC chronometer certified for accuracy, the Chopard 04.03-M uses a relatively smooth 28,800 bph beat rate.
Chopard finishes the Mille Miglia Lab One with a suitably automotive strap choice. With an outer layer of woven carbon fiber, the inner strap provides flexibility and comfort with a rubber lining. This mixed material strap is then paired with a deployant clasp in black DLC titanium.
With an avant-garde look and groundbreaking movement features, the limited edition Chopard Mille Miglia Lab One is an audacious showcase of the brand’s horological expertise. Only 20 examples of the Chopard Mille Miglia Lab One will be made, available exclusively through Chopard boutiques. Pricing for this model is available upon request. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.