It’s no secret to those in the automotive community that classic Porsches are at the forefront of car culture nowadays, and while the Stuttgart-based automaker may have ties to other watch brands, for those engrossed in the culture of old-school Porsche perhaps no other brand caters as handsomely as Chopard. For its latest release, the brand once again proves its connection and understanding of the look and feel of classic Porsche with the Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Luftgekühlt Edition. To the truly car-obsessed, few words in the German language are as evocative as “luftgekühlt.” In addition to its literal translation as “air-cooled,” it has become, since 2014, a byword for some of the world’s most evocative and stylish automotive gatherings. Envisioned as a celebration of all things air-cooled Porsche (ranging from the company’s founding in the late ‘40s to the introduction of the first water-cooled, radiator-equipped 996 generation of the Porsche 911 in 1997), the Luftgekühlt event series has grown to include some of the most historic and significant Porsches ever built alongside enthusiast-owned street cars in carefully selected locales across the world. After a nearly two-year hiatus, the show returned for its seventh iteration in the trendy Art Deco-industrial Bottleworks District of Indianapolis to massive crowds on September 10, 2021. The show’s success, in many ways, can be boiled down to two points – photographability and authenticity. The first point sounds simple in concept but is deceptively complex to actually achieve. Essentially, it’s nearly impossible to take a bad picture at Luftgekühlt, both because the list of car entries is carefully selected and because the event venues themselves are arranged with all the finesse and intense scrutiny of a fine art gallery. Every possible viewing angle, every source of light and shadow, and every single positioned car is carefully considered by a creative team with decades of automotive photography experience, ensuring that every picture taken at the event helps to tell the story Luftgekühlt aims to create. In short, it’s a far cry from the average “lineup of cars in a parking lot” type of car show, and the effectiveness of the approach can be seen both by the sea of cameras at the event and across social media.
It’s the second point, however, the issue of authenticity, that leaves a stronger impression on what Luftgekühlt really is. Not just the cars but the event venues themselves are chosen to play into the casual, vintage-inflected atmosphere of the event, and Luftgekühlt’s advertisers all consciously evoke that same spirit. It’s here that Chopard comes in. Rather than a massive banner over the entrance to the show or an emblem splashed across the event program, Chopard’s presence at Luftgekühlt 7 in Indianapolis was designed to be found organically by eventgoers, tucked into a rustic exposed brick-and-timber warehouse and surrounded by some of the show’s most historic cars. As part of its partnership with the event, Chopard also launched a special limited-edition variant of its automotive-inspired Mille Miglia GTS watch inspired by the all-original Le Mans-raced 1956 Porsche 550A Spyder at the centerpiece of its display. This new limited Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Luftgekühlt Edition captures the stylish, photogenic spirit of the event while building on the base Mille Miglia GTS design with subtle tributes to some of Porsche’s most historic racers.
Although measuring in at 43mm-wide and 11.4mm-thick on paper, the stainless steel case of the Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Luftgekühlt Edition is both bolder and more manageable on the wrist than the numbers might suggest. Thanks to a combination of an extremely narrow bezel, brightly polished slab case sides, and broad, wide-set lugs the case gives a sense of athletic, muscular presence. This sense of bold athleticism is tempered by the shortness and the extreme downturn of the lugs, however, leading to a balanced stance on the wrist that shouldn’t overwhelm those with slightly smaller wrists. The overall form of the case is elemental at a glance, but its blend of vintage influences and cleanly bold contemporary shapes calls to mind the work of another major automotive name: former Audi, Volkswagen, and Ford chief designer J Mays. There are shades of Mays’ Audi Avus Quattro and the 2005 Ford Mustang in the simple and athletic forms at play here, from the wide-set and firmly defined lugs to the broad, low crown guards. It’s in the fine details that this design really shines, through elements like the midcentury Italian-inspired Arabic numerals on the black aluminum bezel insert and the nearly Zaratsu-like mirror polishing of the case sides. The grooved edge of the bezel also gives the design a unique character in profile, while the sapphire display caseback adds handsomely executed engraving work around its edge. The sapphire back itself gives the watch its only direct nod to Luftgekühlt with the event’s Porsche 917K silhouette emblem printed on the crystal, but the size and opacity of this logo does somewhat impede the view of the movement within. Water resistance is suitably sporty, with Chopard rating the watch for 100 meters.
The dial of the Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Luftgekühlt Edition introduces the line’s first-ever silver dial, in a fitting tribute to Porsche’s esteemed history in German racing silver. Like many of the brand’s current dial finishes, the galvanic silver sunburst dial surface itself is dynamic and richly detailed, with a smooth and even graining pattern that produces crisp, bright highlights. Chopard complements this with glossy, slightly raised dial text in deep blacks and dramatic racing reds, creating a suitably sporty color palette. From there, the rest of the Mille Miglia GTS Luftgekühlt Edition’s design closely follows the look of the standard model, but once again Chopard’s use of fine detail elevates the clean retro-modern package.
The power reserve subdial at 9 o’clock is a prime example, with a distinctive notched frame that preserves the sharply faceted applied indices at 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock and creating a uniquely attention-grabbing form for the subdial. Beneath the ‘50s fuel gauge-inspired printing, the subdial surface itself adds a dynamic contrast to the main dial, with a recessed and finely grained matte finish that catches changing light more evenly than the main dial’s shifting sunburst pattern. The playful “1000 Miglia” arrow emblem surrounding the 3 o’clock date window ties the design back into the ‘50s sporting era of the watch’s 550A Spyder inspiration while reinforcing Luftgekühlt’s effortlessly casual character. Like other models in the Mille Miglia GTS series, however, the most divisive elements here are likely to be the oversized applied Arabic numerals at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock. Although they provide a strong visual anchor and calling card for the series, these modern and ultra-sporty elements may prove too bold for some tastes.
Inside the Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Luftgekühlt Edition beats the brand’s in-house Chopard 01.08-C automatic power reserve movement. For the most part, Chopard’s finishing work on the 01.08-C is subtle, with the light arabesque pattern across the nearly full chamfered bridges reading as simply matte in most light conditions. When the finishing does reveal itself, however, the pattern is handsomely executed. In terms of performance, the 01.08-C is excellent, with a COSC chronometer certification for accuracy and a hefty 60-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate.
Chopard completes the Mille Miglia GTS Luftgekühlt Edition with its signature rubber-lined perforated leather rally strap in black. With a satiny, slightly distressed surface and silver contrast stitching, the strap plays well into the casual, retro-modern spirit of the overall design. The inner rubber lining (with a texture modeled after the tread pattern of a ‘50s Dunlop race tire) gives the watch a comfortably supple feel on the wrist, as well as a light and pleasant vanilla aroma. Chopard’s butterfly-style deployant clasp echoes the grooved design of the bezel and keeps the traditional tang buckle intact, allowing the look of a classic tang buckle strap with the more luxe feel of a deployant. Chopard also includes an exclusive Chopard x Luftgekühlt grille badge with each iteration of the Mille Miglia GTS Luftgekühlt edition, continuing the long-standing trend of custom grille badges in the classic Porsche community and firmly planting the watch into the visual ecosystem of the show.
While walking around the streets and warehouses of Luftgekühlt 7 with the Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Luftgekühlt Edition on my wrist, it felt clear almost immediately that the watch is an authentic stylistic match for the show. Its blend of vintage and modern influences, luxe yet defiantly casual spirit, and its dedication to keeping its tribute to the show nuanced and authentic rather than overly loud all speak to the spirit of the event. The limited Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Luftgekühlt Edition stands as a suitably stylish counterpart to one of the most stylish automotive events ever made and a genuinely attractive addition to the series in its own right. Only 50 examples of the Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Luftgekühlt Edition will be made, and the watch is available now through authorized dealers at an MSRP of $7,450. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.
>Model: Mille Miglia GTS Luftgekühlt Edition
>Price: $7,450 (50-piece limited edition)
>Size: 43mm-wide, 11.4mm-thick
>When reviewer would personally wear it: When attending classic car shows, meeting with automotive friends and colleagues, or as a weekend statement watch.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Porsche enthusiasts, or gearhead watch fans looking to avoid a chronograph.
>Best characteristic of watch: Bold but balanced stance on the wrist, stellar finishing throughout, nuanced text design, excellent movement performance.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Printed Luftgekühlt emblem on the caseback could be integrated better, little about the overall design suggests the classic Porsche connection to the uninitiated.