Monochrome Watches
An online magazine dedicated to fine watches
The Petrolhead Corner

Sitting Down with Karl-Friedrich Scheufele on Cars, The Mille Miglia And The Connection To Chopard

As one of the greatest road racing adventures you can imagine, the Mille Miglia is the stuff of dreams for Petrolheads.

| By Robin Nooy | 12 min read |

I recently had the chance to see one of my car-related dreams being partially fulfilled; experiencing the Mille Miglia! It was a last-minute arrangement for me so I sadly could not get behind the wheel of a vintage sports or racing car, but it was a scintillating experience nonetheless. Spending a day-and-a-half in the rolling hills of northern Italy, in between some of the most desirable vintage cars and surrounded by amazing people, and yes, watches too, it was a head-spinning trip. And in the midst of it all, I had the chance to sit down with Mr Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-owner of Chopard, a true car enthusiast and Mille Miglia regular! The topic at hand? The legendary road race, of course, as well as his fascination for cars and how it all ties in with Chopard.

Yours truly alongside Karl-Friedrich Scheufele and Jacky Ickx, sitting in the door opening of a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing.

The Mille Miglia

For those not familiar with the Mille Miglia, it was a timed 1000-mile (roughly) long racing event held on public roads in Italy between 1927 and 1957. It was established by Counts Aymo Maggi and Franco Mazzotti, along with sports manager Renzo Castagneto and motorsport journalist Giovanni Canestrini. The idea was to race unmodified production cars from Brescia, in the north, down to Rome (which is somewhat central in Italy north-south-wise) and back up to Brescia again. The event would attract the biggest names in racing, both in terms of drivers and carmakers. The rules were pretty simple; cars would set off at timed intervals, bearing a starting number that corresponded to their departure time. He (or she) who would be back in Brescia in the fastest time, won!

Back in those days, the event was a non-stop endurance race, with driver Giuseppe Morandi and navigator Ferdinando Minoia winning the inaugural edition in a time of just shy 21 hours and 5 minutes in an OM 665 S. The record was set by the legendary duo of Sir Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson, who completed the 1955 edition’s 992.332 mile-long (approx. 1.597km) course in a blistering 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR. That means they averaged a speed of 99mph, or 158kph. On public roads!

Ad – Scroll to continue with article
The Mille Miglia; May 1, 1955. A famous Yves Debraine color photo of Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson on the Futa Pass in the Mercedes 300SLR. They won at a record average speed which was never equaled. (Photo by Klemantaski Collection/Getty Images)

Safety concerns meant the end of the race, but it was resurrected in 1977 as a regularity event following standard traffic regulations, while only eligible for cars that competed in any of the original 24 editions. The cars still set off in Brescia, and drive across the country on a route than vary from year to year. Penalty points are given for teams being too fast or too slow, or using ‘banned’ roads such as the highway, and driving can take up to 10 hours per day. This year, more than 400 teams lined up at the start, ready to tackle Italy’s public road network and pleasing thousands of people along the way.

Chopard has been the official timing partner for the Mille Miglia since 1988, making it the longest continuous partnership between a watchmaker and a motorsports event. Every year, the brand releases a special edition (or multiple) of its aptly named Mille Miglia collection, in dedication to this highly intoxicating celebration of cars!

Robin Nooij, MONOCHROME Watches: Mr. Scheufele, where does your love of cars come from? What’s your earliest memory of this?

Mr Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-owner of Chopard and Mille Miglia regular: It started very early for me, and I have loved cars as long as I can remember. My father was actually a car enthusiast and collector as well, so that’s how it all began. He had a Jaguar at one point, I believe it was a 3.8 MKII, the rather sporty limousine. And this car I actually learned how to drive in, which I guess is not a bad start!

It also was a bit of a difficult start because back then you didn’t have power steering, power breaks and that sort of thing. The gearbox was pretty complicated and tricky as well. But I just loved that car, and subsequently my father’s Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster too. That has always been one of my favourite cars. There’s such history behind it, and the Roadster is now part of my collection, sitting next to the Gullwing.

You’ve been regularly participating in the Mille Miglia, but has it always been with the Gullwing or have you driven other cars as well?

I’ve actually competed with quite a number of different cars, and in fact, quite a few of them from the pre-war years. Thirty years ago I participated with my wife, or then my fiancé I should say, in a 1929 4.5 litre Bentley. It was actually a suggestion of my father to invite her along as a navigator, as we were just a few weeks away from the wedding. It was one of the most memorable Mille Miglia we did, and also one of the toughest.

A Sunbeam 3 Litre Super Sports in the streets of Vercelli, Italy.

We drove the Bentley all the way from Switzerland to the start of the Mille Miglia in Brescia, and then did the Mille Miglia itself and drove back to Switzerland again. And during the race itself, we encountered quite some challenges! The weather was bad, and the car was far from easy to drive. The car had undergone restoration but some work had not been done properly, which I only found out on the way to Italy. The steering was really hard, much harder than it should have been. The brakes in the rear were not working well because oil from the axle leaked into the drums.

She didn’t want to drive that car, because it’s very tricky, and no one from the family ever drove it except me. The pedals are inversed, with the throttle in the middle and the brake pedal in the right. But we enjoyed it very much, it was quite an experience!

1952 Ermini Gilco 1100 Motto

What is it about cars that you love so much, and what is so special about participating in an event like the Mille Miglia?

To me it’s the analogue experience, which isn’t found in modern cars. That’s why I like classic cars such as the Mercedes. They take all your concentration to drive and don’t distract you with anything else. You don’t have time to look at or do anything else. Modern cars have been perfected too far I think. Because of this, I have very little interest in actually driving them the way I do my vintage cars. Everything is assisted, you can’t even make them slide or do something the computer doesn’t want you to do. That doesn’t mean they’re bad and some of them are still very interesting and nice to look at, but to me they aren’t driver’s cars anymore.

1954 Lancia Aurelia B20 GT Berlinetta Pinin Farina

That’s also what is so special about the Mille Miglia and competing in such an event. You get to experience some incredible cars that competed in the original years (between 1927 and 1957) along the same roads, with nothing else to focus on. Once you’re gone, and you’re driving, it’s all about the roads, the country, the scenery, the spectators, you name it. I mean, it’s a combination of all these things that make it the perfect setting for an event like this. And then you can only imagine what it probably was to race in the Mille Miglia. The feeling is as close as it gets to what it really was to race these cars on public roads at that time.

To me, it’s also about keeping the spirit of these cars alive and showing them to the public as well. 

Absolutely, it’s a way to share your passion and the stories of these incredible cars with the people. For this Italy is the perfect place, as some other countries may not have the same reception for an event like this. On the contrary even, as other countries might not be open to this because of various concerns about safety and so on. The Mille Miglia is really an open-air museum for cars of that era.

What’s it like to drive the Mille Miglia with someone like Jacky Ickx, your close friend but also a former professional racing driver?

It’s amazing good fun. I’ve known Jacky for quite some years now and we’re very close. We’ve competed in the Mille Miglia multiple times and I’m just glad he trusts my driving. And even though he is still quite competitive, we never enter with the goal of winning. We do our best to get in a good result, but to us it’s more about the experience itself. Since the Mille Miglia is a regularity challenge instead of a race for the fastest overall time, it’s very challenging to be first.

You have to be extremely precise and even a single wrong turn or mistake at a crossing can lose you a lot of time, and you’re never going to recover from it. To be good at this sort of thing takes a lot of practice and the right timing equipment. Some teams have really advanced stuff in their cars to be as precise as possible. Then there is the chance of technical breakdowns, which are very much part of it. It’s all about regularity and averaging your pace. I think the best result I got in terms of regularity and penalty points was with my wife in the Bentley! For the most part, we tried to take it very seriously together and I guess we managed to be one of the best Swiss teams to compete in the Mille Miglia that year and had a relatively good overall score. Now, Jacky and I take it a bit easier.

When I competed with my father once, we got into a heated argument. I was driving, he was navigating and we took a wrong turn somewhere, went left instead of right and missed a checkpoint. It turned out he was on the wrong page of the roadbook. You really have to concentrate, but afterwards, we had a good laugh about it all.

If ever there was a dream car to drive in the Mille Miglia? What would it be, and why?

I considering myself very lucky and I have driven the Mille Miglia with quite a few cars. I’ve driven a Porsche Spider maybe 6 or 7 times, with Jacky Ickx. It doesn’t get much better than that. I did it twice with my Ferrari 750 Monza, which I think is a bit load for the event. After a few hours, it becomes very tiring because of all the noise it makes. And of course my 300 SL Gullwing.

If there’s one car I would still like to try is an SSK Mercedes, which is from the pre-war years. It’s a bit similar to the Bentley maybe, but it’s a very special car! In the early days, I think Rudolph Carraciola established one of the records with it. It was also the first non-Italian car to win the Mille Miglia. I’d also like to try a pre-war Bugatti too, but I’ve seen many of them with technical problems, so I’m not sure that will be the best idea.

Chopard has been involved with the Mille Miglia since 1988. How did that come about back then?

That came about because of a very good friend of mine who participated in I believe 1984 or 1986 or so. The Mille Miglia was relaunched just a couple of years before as a regularity challenge and held only every two years. He came back from the Mille Miglia and he said “If there’s one thing you have to do, it’s this!”. I went there as a spectator and I was so thrilled that I contacted the organisers and I asked if they would be interested in a chronometer partnership or some kind of sponsorship. It was a very small organisation, not like today where there are over well 400 participating teams and it’s a huge undertaking.

In these early days, we connected and it turned out to be a very interesting partnership, also commercially speaking. We did a special edition watch for every single edition, with the exceptions of two years, when we did a keychain and cufflinks. There are some collectors who have each specific model, which is challenging to do because some are very rare! It’s also challenging for us to stay creative in what we come up with every year. It’s a great bond, the longest watchmaking partnership with a motorsports event in the industry. And now it’s one of the biggest events in Europe or the world perhaps, especially when it comes to cars.

Can you tell us a bit about the watches you did for this year?

We did basically two different watches, a Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph and a Mille Miglia GTS Chrono. The GTS Chrono is the official 2024 edition and is offered to Mille Miglia competitors in a stainless steel case and with a special engraving on the caseback. Each team can come to the Chopard hospitality booth and pick up their personal watch to wear and enjoy. It embodies the Mille Miglia spirit and has all sorts of racing-inspired elements in the crown, the pushers, the dial and so on. We also offer it as a limited edition for the Italian market only but in a titanium case instead of steel (see above).

Then there’s the Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph, nicknamed ‘La Gara’, Italian for race, or competition. This has a circular brushed dial in silvery-white with a Panda-style chronograph layout and with a steel case. This is not tied to the event but merely launched simultaneously, and it’s also not a limited edition. It’s just our way of celebrating cars and the Mille Miglia.

For more information, please visit or

Editorial NoteThe images used in this article are our own or provided by and used with permission of Chopard, unless stated otherwise.

Leave a Reply