It is interesting how, until I became acquainted with the Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph JX7 watch for Jacky Ickx, I thought only high five-figure and six-figure-priced watches could be the ones developed and marketed without too much consideration for their cost and therefore their final price. As it turns out, I was wrong: This new Mille Miglia is among the most expensive ETA-powered watches I have encountered in a long while, and considerably more expensive than prior comparable references from the Chopard’s Mille Miglia collection. This has put me on a quest to understand what this watch is about and who it is for.

The six previous and the latest Chopard Mille Miglia Jacky Ickx watches. The latter is also available in a two-tone version.

Let us flip things around and start with a discussion on price: The Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph JX7 watch (reference 168619-3006) costs a cheeky US$10,300 — it clearly has no intention to be “just under $10,000” as many others do. In Europe, it is even more expensive, €11,100, which is a whopping $12,070, thanks to exchange rates and VAT-related burdens. These affect every watch, not just this Chopard, although brands sometimes reduce their MSRP in Euros to counter some of these effects so as to be more competitive and to keep customers from shopping abroad. More importantly, less than three years ago, a similar-looking Chopard Mille Miglia watch cost $5,900.

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How is that possible? Well, Chopard decided to try to enhance the Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph inside and out through a range of advancements and investments. Whether these justify the price increase will be your call to make. First, Chopard quietly acquired its own dial and case manufactures. Ever the gentleman, the brand’s Co-President, Mr. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele chose not to make too much (if any) noise around this major development for his company so as to not affect the sense of supply chain security for those brands known to be relying on these specialist suppliers of essential components.

Given how small and insidious the watch industry is, any brand purchasing suppliers is never a secret to anyone, but the mood is affected severely by how said brand carries out such a thing. Had Chopard gone showboating about its new acquisition, customers of these specialized suppliers — and, just as importantly, the respective partners, distributors, and clients of these brands — would rightfully feel uneasy as they would quickly begin to foresee the unpleasant challenges of finding new case and dial suppliers. A discreetly performed acquisition is another way of indicating, “We’ll continue to take care of others in the industry.”

Jacky Ickx — six-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and long-standing friend of and ambassador for Chopard — with his iconic safety helmet.

All of this is to say that the recently updated Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph collection now relies on the expansive bandwidth and willingness in product development that only in-house suppliers can offer. It is easy to see why: An independent supplier is pulled in many directions, often by some of the most powerful brands (and their yet more powerful owners), leaving them with an almost trademark-like aversion to trying new methods of construction, surface treatments, and overall execution. Lead times in development, prototyping, and performing the required small modifications can often be several months, or years, even, rendering truly exciting new designs in cases, dials, or bracelets often impossible to formulate.

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Bringing a supplier in-house, even if it continues to serve external clients, tends to sort priorities out and allow for more nuanced prototyping, development, and, ultimately, series production. The end result can be one unlike any other, often as a result of a wide range of tiny modifications adding up. It is true that you either have to see hundreds and thousands of watches (like we do as part of our job) to notice and appreciate these small differences, or you have to have an excellent eye for detail. Alternatively, you can be one of those few remaining product-focused and product-driven brand executives (which Mr. Scheufele is), and then these small improvements and differences begin to register and have an importance.

Perhaps the most noticeable example of these developments on the updated Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph is its dial, hopefully, illustrated to at least some extent by the two images you see just above. It is only in extremely bright and direct light that the dial’s blue, circular brushed base reveals itself. The majority of the time, it looks rather more like on the photo above it: A smooth, deep, lacquered surface, not unlike a calm body of water at night, that seems to conceal the aforementioned brushed texture and color almost completely. This combination of surface treatments I do not recall ever encountering on a watch before, at any price point.

The next little traits of the Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph JX7 watch are its subdials which also blend in, somehow, with the rest of the dial. They appear to have the same black (or dark blue, at times) color and lacquered surface. A closer inspection, however, reveals that they are, in fact, not lacquered at all, and are not even blue: The subdials are black and have a textured surface of concentric grooves. As relatively simple as these details might sound, the refinement, uniqueness, and related difficulty of manufacturing are hard to overstate.

Last, there are the silvery frames that surround a white, domed, lacquered ring around each subdial. Again, the quality of execution and complexity seen here is not something that is frequently on offer even at this elevated price point. Overall, the dial looks as much an accomplished design as someone (the leadership at the brand) having an absolute ball with dial manufacturing. The icing on the cake is Chopard’s bespoke typography used for the numerals and all the texts (“Swiss Made” in a generic font on an otherwise neat dial never fails to irk me). The date is right up close to the dial thanks to the modular architecture of the movement, something we will discuss soon enough. All in all, this is one of the most intriguing, intricate, and beautifully made dials on a luxury chronograph today.

The case of the Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph JX7 is crafted from A223 Lucent Steel. This is a recent development for the collection, as this metal has been largely reserved for the Chopard Alpine Eagle in which it debuted in 2019. Developed and produced in Austria by the brand’s historical metal supplier, Voestalpine Böhler Edelstahl, in my experience Lucent Steel is the whitest, brightest, and arguably most spectacular steel alloy used in watches today. Whereas countless forum threads and comment sections have been dedicated to folks having or not having the ability to discern 904L (used mainly by Rolex and a few others) and the industry-standard 316L steel, I will go out on a limb and say that it is highly likely that you will be able to see and appreciate the difference between A223 and all other types of alloys.

The Mille Miglia Chronograph’s new Lucent Steel case is difficult to describe other than as white and bright — it isn’t as though 316L looks dirty in comparison, rather that after seeing so many beautifully polished and finished luxury watch cases in 316L one simply did not expect there to be another tier to be discovered in how steel is made and finished. Over the years, a lot has been said in previous Alpine Eagle hands-on and review articles here on aBlogtoWatch, but, in a nutshell, Lucent Steel’s composition (containing at least 80% recycled steel) and re-smelting process were developed over the course of four years by Voestalpine. The result, it says, is a changed molecular structure and optimized micro-structure, around 50% higher mechanical resistance, and a reduced number and size of inclusions, resulting in the aforementioned aesthetic improvements.

In the competitive and crowded field of luxury watches, a new alloy is a very rare offering, especially when it brings real-world, discernible, and precious improvements. Doing this with steel, as opposed 9k or 18k gold, was a masterful move from Chopard as I can see this function as a differentiator and indeed deal-maker in the eye of at least some prospective buyers shopping in this segment. The renaissance of luxury watches has been in full swing for some 30 years, and so the market of people seeking ever more niche improvements and differentiations in the wearing and ownership experience of their next watch has been growing steadily.

To at least some of them — myself included — testing and appreciating a new alloy is a fascinating prospect that is also more tangible, tactile, and versatile than nuanced variations to movement architecture and such that are difficult to see, test, or experience in day-to-day wear. The way light plays on a case, the way it holds up during long-term wear, and the way it functions together with other, more familiar components (hands, hour markers, straps, etc.) is something I, for one, love to dive into and investigate.

The end result is a beautiful case that is sort of begging for a Lucent Steel bracelet at this point — maybe price point, too. At 40.5mm wide and 12.88mm thick, the Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph JX7 watch has toned-down proportions that promise long-lasting appeal even as the large-watch trend becomes the small-watch trend, and vice versa. This size, as long as it is a match for your wrist, will never go out of style. The lugs are beveled and polished all around, including on the caseback side, as you’ll see on the pictured one above, which is a luxurious detail that is nevertheless missing from a lot of luxurious watches. The profile of the lugs and the case is vertically brushed, allegedly more challenging to do and get right than horizontal brushing — which might also explain why we see the former less frequently.

The caseback reveals a movement that looks a whole lot like an ETA 2894-2, until the “L.U. CHOPARD” text reveals itself on a bespoke plate, mixing things up a bit. If you are a watch geek, it is worth knowing that you can spot the official caliber number on ETA and Sellita watch movements etched into the plate near the balance wheel. Et voilà, there it is: A32211 and 2892 can both be read there. The A32211 is a Chopard-exclusive 2894-2-based watch movement with the important improvement of an extended power reserve, up from a measly 42 hours to 54 hours. A weekend-lasting (from Friday evening to Monday morning) 60 hours would have been a welcome development, but a 12-hour increase is already a considerable comfort upgrade for those of us who hate to see our watch stop within less than two days.

Although I wish that the L.U.Chopard moniker was reserved for high-end, fully in-house L.U.C watch calibers, the Chopard A32211 movement is a decent choice for the Mille Miglia Chronograph exactly for the fact that it is based on the 2894-2, one of the better supplied (i.e. not in-house) calibers. It offers bi-directional winding, it is much thinner than the common 7750, and its operation is virtually silent as it lacks the abhorrent noise made by the 7750’s self-winding system.

Chopard uses the highest-grade movement with the nicer finishing, some apparently bespoke plates, and COSC chronometer certification, as it should, for the price. Despite being a modular chronograph (with the Dubois-Depraz-derived chronograph’s components installed on the dial side of the movement), the date disc is still right up against the dial, making it easy to read — whereas it is often buried a few “floors” down, fixed onto the base movement, making it smaller and more difficult to read. Certain Royal Oak Chronographs spring to mind with Caliber 3126/3840.

Chopard co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele (L) and Jacky Ickx (R), long-standing friends and co-drivers at the Mille Miglia since the 1980s.

I hope that Mr. Ickx will humor me leaving his introduction to the end of the article. A six-time Le Mans winner and the most successful endurance racer of the past century (potentially the highest praise and most impressive title any racing driver could ever have), he looks back at 14 years in Formula One, and another 14 years in endurance racing. To hear more from the man himself, listen to Ariel’s Superlative Podcast chat with Jacky Ickx here.

So, who is the updated and pricey Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph JX7 watch for? I reckon it is for those racing and car enthusiasts who can afford to surround themselves with beautifully made objects in every field of their lives. In the last decade, and especially the last number of years, Chopard’s rather impressive efforts to increase quality have begun to show in just about every collection of the brand, and not only those but also in its operations, by acquiring its own dial and case manufactures.

As we said before: The primary function of the Chopard Mille Miglia is to communicate that you are a car lover first, and, maybe, a watch lover second. While it has always been a well-made watch, with this updated Lucent Steel case and intricate dial, it exudes a sense of quality that many non-watch folks — with some mighty cars in their garage — can also easily discern and appreciate. Whether or not Chopard was right when it aimed higher still not just in terms of quality, but also price, only time will tell… But it isn’t too hard to imagine the well-heeled car enthusiast community lapping these up.

The Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph JX7 watch (reference 168619-3006) is priced at $10,300 and is limited to 250 pieces. You can learn more at the brand’s website.

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