October 15, 2022
When it comes to car culture, few people have their fingers on the pulse of current trends more than Patrick Long. After a racing career as Porsche’s only American factory driver, racking up victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and Petit Le Mans, Long has pivoted a more ambassadorial role with the brand. Most notably, Long is one of the creative visionaries behind Luftgekühlt, the wildly popular series of exclusive air-cooled classic Porsche meets that has spanned nearly a decade and hosted events from Indiana (find our coverage of the Indianapolis-based Luft 7 here) to Austria. Luft 8, hosted on October 9, 2022 at the trendy Brouwerij West beer garden in San Pedro, California, was (naturally) the eighth of these events in the United States, and as part of the festivities Chopard unveiled its second Luftgekühlt-themed release in direct collaboration with Long. The new Chopard Mille Miglia Chronograph – Luftgekülht Edition brings a strong, purposeful edge to the Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph silhouette, with a versatile, Porsche-inspired colorway.
Luft 8 was my fourth Luftgekühlt event, and beyond the novelty of this car community hub making its way only a few minutes from my hometown, this show was a testament to how much the event series has grown and evolved over the years. Attendance was packed from opening to closing, with organizers claiming 2,500 Porsche cars in the outer parking lot alone, but the change is far deeper than larger crowd sizes. Although the same dedication to highly curated car lists and eye-catchingly photogenic displays remains, the spirit of Luft 8 overflowed the automotive space to become a genuine lifestyle hub. Among the crowd, there were abundant expressions of rare vintage fashion, brand representatives for everything from Pirelli tires to Leica cameras, and of course an incredible selection of vintage and modern timepieces. Luft 8 was very nearly as much of an (admittedly unofficial) watch event as it was an automotive celebration, and capturing the spirit of this eclectic cultural celebration is no mean feat. Chopard’s dedication to being an organic part of the proceedings rather than a conspicuous sponsor helps it to succeed here, and this philosophy bleeds out into the Mille Miglia Chronograph – Luftgekühlt Edition.
While on paper, the Chopard Mille Miglia Chronograph – Luftgekühlt Edition shares its 42mm-wide stainless steel case with the rest of the Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph family, in practice this design carries a dramatically different character on the wrist. This is a textbook example of the slimming power of black, as the all-matte charcoal PVD case carries itself more like a 39mm-wide design than a true 42mm-wide case. This is aided by a reasonable 12.67mm overall thickness, broken up between a stepped curving bezel and a softly rounded main case. The high-profile piston pushers add a dashboard chronograph feel to the overall design, while the steering wheel motif topping the gear-toothed crown adds some much-needed visual detail. Chopard sets the Mille Miglia Chronograph – Luftgekühlt Edition apart from its regular production siblings with its moody smoked sapphire caseback, featuring a printed rendition of the Luftgekühlt silhouette logo. Although printed emblems on display casebacks are generally a point of contention, this is less obtrusive than most of its kind, and the tinted gray crystal helps to give the design a more cohesive look than a clear display. This is also the only piece of overt Luft branding anywhere on the watch, which helps to keep this collaboration decidedly stealthy. Unfortunately, the water resistance of this model is carried over from the standard versions, with a mediocre 50-meter rating despite having a screw-down crown.
Chopard takes a new approach to the dial of the Mille Miglia Chronograph – Luftgekühlt Edition compared to its predecessor. For its first Luft-inspired model, the brand clearly took its visual cues from a single car – the 1956 Porsche 550A Spyder. For this new iteration, the brand offers a more generalized view. According to Patrick Long, “Orange is a relatable color for Porsche through its tachometers, but the color the brand uses is this bright, Day-Glo color. I wanted to give this watch a more muted, vintage feel, while still calling back to those elements.” The connection to Porsche’s classic VDO gauges is probably the most obvious visual through-line here, between the orange central chronograph seconds hand, the stark black dial surface, and the slight pale green cast to the lume, but this color palette combined with the case also calls back to Porsche Design’s original 1972 Chronograph 1 – the first-ever black-cased chronograph. With that said, the lack of an obvious visual Porsche connection may be seen as a benefit to some and a detriment to others, but it does allow the Mille Miglia Chronograph – Luftgekühlt Edition to build its own visual identity outside of the shadow of the event it celebrates. The overall layout should be familiar to the Chopard faithful, with its stylized, rounded Arabic numerals, airy outer tachymeter ring, and attractive dial typefaces inspired by ‘50s-era Italian road signage. As is generally the case with Chopard, the dial finishing is superb, with fine radial brushing on the main dial surface cut through by tight azurage for the three subdials. These subdials do intrude heavily on the oversized hours numerals, but this arguably helps the dial from feeling overly cluttered on the wrist with the added negative space. With that said, the 4:30 date window does certainly feel invasive here, and a no-date option would bring a more balanced look to the layout.
Although Chopard plays the details of the automatic chronograph movement inside the Mille Miglia Chronograph – Luftgekühlt Edition close to the vest, like the rest of the series this model is powered by a modified ETA 2894-2 movement. Although many of its direct competitors in this price bracket have moved on to in-house powerplants, this movement nonetheless offers handsome decoration, including tight perlage for the bridges, blued screws, Côtes de Genève across the rotor, and gold inlays for the engraved text. On the other hand, the movement’s performance is a mixed bag. During our testing period, this COSC-certified chronometer movement was running well within specifications at an average of +2 seconds per day, but its 42-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate is beginning to feel antiquated in the current market. Chopard pairs the design with a semi-perforated black rubber-lined leather strap. The ‘50s Dunlop tire tread-inspired lining is a Mille Miglia series hallmark and gives this strap a sturdy and comfortable feel on the wrist while completing the purposeful, blacked-out overall look.
Amid the cars, crowds, style, and watches of Luft 8, the limited edition Chopard Mille Miglia Chronograph – Luftgekühlt Edition felt immediately at home; not fighting for attention, but genuinely looking the part and coming across as endemic to the community, as a direct extension of Patrick Long’s philosophy. With its impressive finishing, a restrained but aggressive colorway, and effortlessly wearable proportions, it should make for an ideal statement chronograph for those outside the classic Porsche community as well. The Chopard Mille Miglia Chronograph – Luftgekühlt Edition is limited to just 25 examples, and is available now through authorized dealers. MSRP for the Chopard Mille Miglia Chronograph – Luftgekühlt Edition stands at $7,690 USD as of press time. For more details, visit the brand’s website.
>Model: Mille Miglia Chronograph – Luftgekühlt Edition
>Price: $7,690 USD
>Size: 42mm-wide, 12.67mm-thick
>When reviewer would personally wear it: When meeting with automotive friends, during vintage rallies, or as a less-obvious alternative to the standard vintage-style racing chronograph.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Porsche aficionados looking to capture the laid-back spirit of Luftgekühlt.
>Best characteristic of watch: Impressively compact feel on the wrist, handsome dial finishing, strong color palette.
>Worst characteristic of watch: The Porsche connection can come off as thin and esoteric to the uninitiated; third-party movement lags behind its competitors at this price point.