Chopard Mille Miglia Lab One
The Chopard Mille Miglia Lab One is a limited-edition ‘concept watch’ that includes an array of innovative features. It is housed within a titanium case encompassing black DLC treatment. Following the brand’s highly imaginative models, the L.U.C Engine One Tourbillon and the L.U.C Engine One H, the esteemed Maison has created another motor-themed movement with ‘engine-style’ finishing, the new Chopard Calibre 04.03-M.
Today, Chopard has unveiled the Mille Miglia 2020 Race Edition. It’s become an annual tradition and, in my opinion, this year’s model is the best yet. However, the Genevan brand has also released a further Mille Miglia watch.
At first glance, the Chopard Mille Miglia Lab One sounds familiar, however, the two latter words provide a clue that this timepiece is very different from its siblings. Described by the brand as a ‘concept watch’, thoughts naturally gravitate to ‘concept cars’ gracing the exhibition stands at motor shows. However, unlike concept cars, this is a product you can actually purchase.
The Chopard Mille Miglia Lab One is a self-winding tourbillon housed in a generously sized, but ultralight, titanium case with black DLC treatment. While the styling of this model could be described as avant-garde, the case respects traditional watchmaking practice, skilfully blending beadblasted and polished surfaces. Four functional bolts span the caseband, uniting the caseback with the rest of the case.
Numerous functions sate virtually every need. For example, a large date display is positioned below noon. A power-reserve indicator is located between 7 and 8 o’clock, while a retrograde day display is located opposite, between 4 and 5 o’clock. The tourbillon is positioned dial-side at 6 o’clock and is endowed with a small seconds display.
Chopard has equipped the model with a stop-tourbillon mechanism. This allows the wearer to halt the carriage by pulling out the crown, synchronise the seconds with a reference clock and then restart the carriage by pushing the crown home. This unusual mechanism has been patented by the Genevan firm.
The movement emulates the shape of the case as watchmaking etiquette dictates. One glance at the Chopard Calibre 04.03-M will immediately remind fans of the brand, myself included, of the L.U.C Engine One Tourbillon from a few years back. This discontinued model featured the L.U.C Calibre 04-01-L which bore a strong resemblance to an engine block cover. The new Chopard Calibre 04.03-M provides a repeat performance of this design which incorporates the brand’s ‘engine-style’ finishing.
The Swiss firm intends to produce 20 examples of this watch, however, it is hoped that, similar to concept cars, some of the Lab One know-how will feature on other Chopard models in the future.
The brand’s press release (October 2020)
A mechanical culture
In developing this original watchmaking creation, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Co-President of the Maison and founder of the Chopard Manufacture workshops created in 1996, selected its best design engineers, watchmakers and experts in the strictest secrecy with a mandate to imagine the future of sporting Haute Horlogerie. Thus assembled, the elite group drew inspiration from the L.U.C 04.01-L calibre, a unique movement that has made its mark on the history of Chopard Manufacture and today equips the L.U.C Engine One models.
The first innovation featured in this new Mille Miglia Lab One timepiece is the first-ever Chopard Manufacture ‘form’ (non-round) self-winding tourbillon movement, enriched with several advanced functions. Stemming from the performance culture characteristic of Chopard – partner and official timekeeper to the Mille Miglia race since 1988 – it is driven by a passion for automobiles and a demand for quality tested in the toughest environments. This technical prowess is based on lightness, understatement and mechanical optimisation.
Unbridled automobile inspiration reigns supreme in the design of the Mille Miglia Lab One timepiece. The model is undoubtedly the most extreme to date in the line of Chopard timepieces inspired by the world of racing. This is the first time that the Maison’s R&D labs have developed a concept watch representing a condensed expression of all the technologies expressing Chopard’s vision of tomorrow’s Haute Horlogerie. An approach similar to that of concept cars and which confirms the enduring ties between automobiles and watchmaking.
The dial is an openworked grid reminiscent of a racing car radiator grille, while the movement echoes the openworked cylinder head topping the dial and housing a large double-disc date display. This ‘engine bonnet’ is flanked by two lateral gauges. The autonomy indicator sits between 7 and 8 o’clock. When Full, the ‘petrol tank’ of the Mille Miglia Lab One delivers a 60-hour power reserve. Between 4 and 5 o’clock, a retrograde day indicator is a novel feature for Chopard. The final touch is set by the strap with its resolutely automobile-style materials: woven carbon fibres on one side, and rubber next to the skin.
Exactly as in a racing car, the ergonomics of the Mille Miglia Lab One timepiece are a core concern. A patent has been filed for the crown which, to avoid disturbing the wearer during laps, remains hidden beneath the watch and interacts laterally with the movement. Contrary to standard practice, it is fitted on the left. The luminescent-tipped skeleton hands ensure perfect legibility. The broken-line cushion shape of the case offers the advantage of maximising the available read-off surface compared with the diameter, while the angular design further enhances its aura of sportiness.
The case is made from titanium, beadblasted on the flanks and polished on the sloping surfaces – i.e. the bezel and lugs. It then undergoes a black Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) treatment. In applying the aforementioned crystalline carbon, Chopard endows the watch with the natural advantages of this material, commonly used in the automobile industry. In this instance, it protects the case from scratching in an incomparably effective manner, as well as creating a resolutely winning appearance. The case measures 48.6 x 46mm, a generous size dictated by that of the movement.
An extreme engine
Chopard Calibre 04.03-M is an all-new movement. The first self-winding tourbillon calibre to emerge from Chopard Manufacture, it is protected by a patent relating to the stop-tourbillon mechanism. Inspired by a disc-brake system, the tourbillon carriage is brought to a halt by axially mounted levers that are activated as soon as the crown is pulled out. The movement can thus be set to the nearest second, which is extremely rare for a tourbillon. Another patent filed by Chopard relates to the Variner® balance with which Chopard Calibre 04.03-M is equipped: it ensures stable movement rating by compensating for inertia variations throughout the running time of the watch.
The movement is characterised by its ‘engine-style’ finishing. Its openworked tourbillon bridge is shaped like a satin-brushed double bar. Featuring an all-dark finish in colours alternating between anthracite and deep black, thanks to a new galvanic treatment, its shimmering grey colour makes a striking contrast with the calibre. This ‘engine’ powers a central display of the hours and minutes along with one of Chopard Manufacture’s favourite complications: a large double-disc date display. For the first time, the latter is accompanied by a retrograde day indication, which helps explain the large number of movement components. With its 485 parts, Calibre 04.03-M is one of the most complex movements ever made by Chopard Manufacture.
Chopard is a family Maison with a distinctive philosophy of independence. The various stages involved in making its timepieces are performed in-house at the group’s Geneva and Fleurier production sites. Movement development, finished product design, case stamping and machining, movement components, traditional hand-crafted decorations, polishing, assembly, rating and quality control: Chopard masters all the operations involved in watch production and applies them to all its Haute Horlogerie models, including the Mille Miglia Lab One.