DOXA COPPA MILANO SANREMO
© Dr. Peter McClean Millar - September 2003
For motor racing fans, April 10th 2003 was a red letter day. It marked the first historic revival of the Coppa Milano-Sanremo, an event which began in 1906 and ran until 1973. The race was organized by MAC Events and Meet National Point under the auspice of the Automobile Club of Milan who were the original organizers of the event. Over 180 vintage cars, many of them pre-war and from countries such as Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Great Britain, Holland, Turkey and Japan, took part in a 4 day journey through the winding scenic Italian countryside. After starting at the Monza Circuit, the competitors left the Cathedral Square in Milan. 400 kilometers later, 107 of the 132 registered crews arrived in Sanremo. It was a tremendous spectacle for both competitors and classic car enthusiasts alike. Doxa Watches S.A. were chosen as the official timekeepers for the race and to mark the event they produced a limited edition chronograph - The Doxa Coppa Milano Sanremo. Only 250 watches were made using a high grade 40 jewel Lemania Caliber 283 Chronograph movement. These are original vintage Ebauches (movement parts) which are the same high grade movements that were used in the most prestigious wristwatch chronographs of the 1980s and 1990s.
Buying any new watch is always an exciting experience. The Coppa was no exception. I had seen numerous photos and added a Coppa photo section to the site, but no amount of photos can ever prepare you for the experience of getting the package and unwrapping it and finding that the watch is even nicer than you had imagined. The first big surprise was the watch box. It is a combination of polished wood and leather which just begins to prepare you for what is inside. The box is the first thing to let you know that you have just bought an expensive, exclusive and prestigious watch.
The photo above really doesn't do justice to the sight that greets you when you open the box. The Coppa truly is a beautify watch. The deep black dial and contrasting white markers on the tachymetre ring, face and subdials make it easy to read at a glance and the bezel is nothing short of spectacular.
The black leather strap, black dial and polished case and bezel are striking against the white leather pillow.
Unlike many other watches that use numbered inserts on the bezel, which are easily scratched, the Coppa bezel is a solid one piece casting with 12 hourly graduations - useful for displaying a second time zone. The bezel is unidirectional and has 48 clicks in one rotation. It rotates crisply with very little slack.
In comparison to the standard valjoux 7750 subdial layout, the Coppa registers are at the 9 o'clock and 12 o'clock position are switched. This can be seen in the above photo which compares the Coppa to a Marvin Matchless chronograph using the Valjoux 7750. The chronograph hand, accentuated by a red arrow on the tip, is activated by the top pusher and reset using the bottom. It has the smoothest sweep movement on any watch I have seen.
The movement in the Coppa is a 40 jewel Lemania 283. This movement is based on an ETA 2892 with a Dubois Depraz Chronograph module which was developed by Dubois Depraz for Audemars Piguet. The same Lemania movement is used in chronographs, like the Girard Perregaux 280 and the Paul Picot Chrono. The Dubois Depraz chrono module is used in the Audermars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore and Glashütte Chronograph. The difference being that to acquire those models you would need to spend anywhere from $7000 to $20.000. It has been said that module-type chronograph calibres have some disadvantages against movements where the chronograph mechanics are fully integrated. It seems that they require a lot more disassembling when being repaired, however, I don't consider this a problem as I would be hesitant to let any watchmakers other than Doxa service or repair a Coppa. Some movements also have a tendency for the sweep second hand to take a jump of about half a second when the chronograph is activated. This is not the case with the Coppa. The lemania module starts and stops very smoothly without the jump. One of the consequences of the module being placed on top of the base movement is that the chronograph buttons and the winding crown are not on the same level at the side of the watch. This just adds to the character of the Coppa and in no way affects the wearing or operation of the watch. The crown is screwed, helping to give the Coppa a water-resistant rating of 100 meters, and takes just over 3 full rotations to unscrew it.
The lemania 283 movement has the following technical specifications;- Friction Protection: 40 Jewels, Power reserve: 42 hours, Diameter: 30.00mm, Thickness: 6.50mm. Because the base ETA 2892 movement (which is recognised for it's accuracy and durability) ,operating at 28,800 pulsations/hour is using a Glucodur quality balance and an Nivarox #1 Hairspring the end result is one of the most reliable automatic movements on the market. One of the unusual things about the Lemania movement is that the date optic is part of the movement. It magnifies the date without the need for an unsightly bulge on the crystal or the distortion of the underside crystal optics. Regarding the crystal on the Coppa, it is an anti-reflective, quad coated, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
Compared to the 59mm lug to lug length of the re-issue SUB 300T models, the Coppa weights in at a "normal" 45mm and diameter of 41mm (excluding the crown). It is closer in size to the original SUB 300T than the re-issues. It is just over 13mm thick. The case is slightly eccentric in shape, having an extra 'ridge" along the crown and pusher side. With the supplied leather strap, the Coppa feels light and comfortable on the wrist
Another of the unique things about the Coppa has to be the caseback. It incorporates one of the hand engraved medallions with the Coppa Milano Sanremo Logo. Each caseback is individually numbered out of 250.
People have asked me what I don't like about the Coppa. The answer is "not much". The D emblem on the crown seems to be a rather hastily prepared item. It is etched on rather than being a forged crown with a raised emblem. I think it would have been much better with an embossed crown as used on the re-issue SUB 300T models. It seems such an oversight on Doxa's part that I can only suspect that they had difficulty getting crowns made for the race deadline and had to go with the etched ones.
The only other 'niggle" I have is the strap. I personally don't like leather straps. Although the Coppa strap is padded and has a signed buckle, it is not for me. Unfortunately to change for a metal band is not an easy task. This is because the lug width is 19mm. This is an odd size which was more common years ago but has dropped out of favour for 20mm.
To solve the problem, I shaved a half a milimeter off each side of the end pieces of a Breitling style bracelet I had. The polished bracelet may not be for everyone but I think it transforms an already stunning watch into a work of art.
For me the Coppa is just about perfect. The weight, the style, the design and the overall fit and finish just gives it the edge over any of the watches I already own or would like to own. I always liked the Breitling Navitimer and Omega Speedmaster, but realistically anyone can own one. That can't be said about the Doxa Coppa Milano Sanremo. It is limited to 250 watches and the likelyhood of anything like it with the same movement being made for anything like the price is virtually nil. The other thing about the coppa is that it really is a wear on any occasion watch. Much as I love my SUB 300T Seahunter, you just can't say that about it. The Coppa oozes style and commands attention. If you want a unique watch that, technically, is head and shoulders above just about anything else on the market today and which very few other people will have, then grab a Doxa Coppa Milano Sanremo before they are all gone. You'll be glad you did.