Ever since the dawn of the automobile, people have making watch tie-ins to specific cars or car manufacturers. This comes as no surprise really, as both are mechanical items which have long, rich histories. The watch is quite a bit older, and to some horological experts, far more complex. But still, the two are quite similar and will always draw comparisons.
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A recent watch inspired by a car comes from a watchmaker not very well known for horological excellence — Ralph Lauren. Ralph Lauren is one of America’s largest clothing giants. The man behind the company, which bears his name, is a true rags-to-riches icon. He is also one of America’s biggest car enthusiasts and has a very impressive collection. He owns several classic Porsches and Mercedes’ and Ferraris. But the car we’re going to talk about today, the one in which a RL watch is designed after, is his very own 1938 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic Coupe, one of two in the world.
Despite the beauty, elegant and exclusivity of Mr. Lauren’s prized Bugatti, we’re here to talk about the watch which was inspired by it — the 45mm Automotive.
The name of the watch is a bit dull and could have been better considering that the car it’s designed after has a very good name, indeed. But naming aside, the Automotive is a beautiful watch. With the case measuring in at, you guessed it, 45 mm, the watch is quite large. However, because of the relatively small face, surrounded by a ring of elm burl wood, it doesn’t wear quite as large as its measurements would imply. The elm burl wood represents the same style of woodwork used on the dashboard of Lauren’s Bugatti, and looks absolutely fantastic. The little black screws that adorn it, as well as the flat-heads surrounding the bezel and on the lugs, aid the automotive inspired look, as well.
The face and hands of the watch are kept very simple and classic and harken back to the era of car from which Lauren’s Bugatti came. With a matte black dial, housing arabic numbers to match the numbers used on the instruments of the Bugatti, printed in beige Super-LumiNova, the watch has a true old-school automotive feel. The dial is also quite simple, with just a seconds and minute track subdial.
Being a Ralph Lauren watch, you may not be expecting anything special underneath the face. However, this Automotive watch houses a RL98295 calibre movement made by famous Swiss watchmaker, Jaeger LeCoultre. Jaeger has been making some of the finest watch movements for a century now, so the movement in this watch is nothing to scoff at, despite its designer-watch name. The movement in question is an 18 jewel, manual winding movement with a 45 hour power reserve. It’s also decorated beautifully in Côtes de Genève and Perlage decor and can be seen through the sapphire caseback. The 45mm Automotive is available with a calfskin band and a steel bracelet, though looks better on calfskin.
All in all the Automotive is a lovely watch, inspired by a beautiful car which so happens to be owned by one of America’s most famous car collectors. That gives the Automotive some serious car-credibility, despite being made by a company best known for polo shirts worn by Kanye West. The only real downside is the price, at $13,000. For that kind of money you can buy a variety of automotive inspired watches with even more racing pedigree, such as the Rolex Daytona. But for a watch as one-of-a-kind as the Bugatti its designed after, the Ralph Lauren 45mm Automotive is truly one-of-a-kind.