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At Fiskens, a classic car dealership whose converted west London mews house feels like the setting for a late 1990s Richard Curtis movie, an unlikely bromance is brewing.
Perched atop a huge barge of a car so old and so obscure no one seems to know exactly what it is, Chopard’s co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele and Bamford Watch Department founder George Bamford are talking about their new collaboration, the Mille Miglia Bamford Edition. The 33-piece limited edition is a grey and orange spin – very Bamford – on Chopard’s 33-year association with the historic Italian road race.
“I was a bit cynical at first,” admits Scheufele, breaking into one of his trademark reluctant smiles. “But once I understood George’s work, I found myself convincing my team that we had to do it. This is the first time we’ve worked with someone who tunes our watches.”
Bamford, who at 40 is more than two decades Scheufele’s junior, is watchland’s undisputed King of Customisation. He made his name customising Rolexes – without its blessing – but such was the quality of the work done by Bamford Watch Department and the enthusiasm of the community that built up around it, that brands started taking him seriously. Today, he is, as far as he knows, the only authorised customising agent for a raft of brands that includes TAG Heuer, Bulgari and Franck Muller.
He is typically effusive about this latest collaboration. “I just love the Mille Miglia,” he says, eyes gleaming. “My dad and I took part in 1999 and it was one of those incredible father-son adventures that remains one of my most treasured memories.” His father is Lord Bamford, of JCB fame. “Chopard’s Mille Miglia watch symbolises that adventure for me and I’m so thrilled I got to work with them on this limited edition.”
The watch’s skeleton is a 42mm stainless steel chronograph, and familiar enough. Its three-counter chronograph and vintage dashboard instrument panel aesthetic is the fil rouge that has been running through Chopard’s Mille Miglia collection since it was born in 1988.
As familiar, if not on this palette, is Bamford’s spin on the form. The case is coated in a dark grey DLC (a tough coating called diamond-like carbon), the dial and cordura-effect rubber strap are a dark grey, too, and then there are zesty orange accents as far as the eye can see. The result is not just a nice, legible watch, but that the stoic, uncomplicated look of Chopard’s Mille Miglia now bubbles with Bamford’s infectious sense of cool.
“The grey came from Ryan Reynolds’ watch in 6 Underground,” says Bamford, referring to the monochromatic Chopard Mille Miglia Reynolds wore in Michael Bay’s flawed Netflix thriller. “That’s a movie where nothing ever stops,” interjects Scheufele, slightly wearily. “I just thought it was the coolest watch ever,” enthuses Bamford. “So I said to Mr Scheufele, we have to do this.”
And so they did. No doubt, it won’t be the last time these two come together.