A fine timepiece compliments any outfit and so in a sense must be considered as fashion accessories, regardless of the complexity of the nano-engineering going on within. After all, if they were ugly old things, we probably would have migrated en masse to our phones long ago, but we haven’t, because watches are very nice thing indeed. However, when brands which are internationally recognised as fashion labels put their name on a watch face to further make capital from their loyal legions of devotees, we watch snobs cast a somewhat disparaging glance in their direction before moving on to some real watch news.
Of course there are always exceptions to every rule, and some of these grandes dames of the fashion cosmos have taken their watch collections somewhat more seriously than others and rewarded their followers with watches of quite some substance. Upmarket outfitter Ralph Lauren and their new creation the Automotive Chronograph fall into this category, and have produced a pretty special timepiece with a good story.
Ralph Lauren Automotive Chronograph – A Tribute To A Classic
Taking for its inspiration Ralph Lauren’s own 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe, one of the most exotic automobiles ever produced, the Ralph Lauren Automotive Chronograph has that stop and stare appeal which is so difficult to pin down in a design and it works very well. Wood on a Ralph Lauren watch is not exactly new news as the elm burl insert has featured among the brand’s ‘Sporting” collection since 2011, but what is a departure is its first inclusion on one of their chronographs.
The watch itself is encased in a 44mm stainless steel case, with brushed and polished finishing on the surfaces, and whose lugs fall away downwards to a scroll end, paying kudos to the glorious swooping contours of the Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe. The bezel and transparent exhibition caseback are secured with six screws, and a sapphire crystal protects the galvanised black dial with its beige Super Luminova arabic numerals and three dial chronograph. The 30-minutes and 12-hour chronograph counters are placed at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, with small constant seconds in the subdial at the 6, which also features the date aperture.
The hands are also finished in beige Super Luminova, a tone which lends itself nicely when combined with the the loupe d’orme (elm burl) insert reflects on the cockpit instrumentation of the classic car, although as most of us will never get a chance to enjoy it for ourselves, we’ll take the manufacturer’s word for that.
But there’s more still. Ralph Lauren haven’t just gone groovy with the aesthetics of the Automotive Chronograph, because inside lurks the RL751A/1 automatic self winding movement and it is here where the brand’s aficionados are richly rewarded, as the movement is the result of a collaboration with the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture and is exclusive to Ralph Lauren.
There is one criticism though, and it has to do with the wood – it just takes up so much of the face that the numerals, subdials and even the tachymetre scale on the outside of the dial all seem to have had to be compromised to accommodate the elm panel and as a result appear pinched, or squeezed in. Would that the tachymetre scale have been dispensed with entirely with the wood detail pushed out from the centre, resulting in a lapsed-time-only chronograph function, but leaving a less cluttered layout. Of course this is a subjective view, and others might find that it ticks all the boxes.
One thing for sure though, the Ralph Lauren Automotive Chronograph is a lot more substance than being just an exercise in branding and cashing in on a name. How it will hold its value remains to be seen, but at least it is accessible – unlike the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe. Price: estimated between $7,000 – $8,500 USD.