The 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe is a piece of history, foregone but not forgotten. Marked by its distinct flowing coupe lines acquired over time and styled by Jean Bugatti himself. Today, there’re only two of them. One skillfully restored belongs to Ralph Lauren, and is the inspiration behind the house’s latest Automotive Timepiece Collection.
“I’ve always been inspired by automotive design — the materials, the lines, but also the power and functionality. Cars are like art — moving art — an accomplishment in mechanics and precision.” — Ralph Lauren
So, unsurprisingly, details from the automotive world feature throughout the collection. But each extends wonderfully into the horological. The Super-LumiNova Arabic numerals, for instance, emulate those found on the car’s iconic gauges. The Amboyna burl wood bezels, Elm burl wood dials and black alligator straps are reminiscent of the rich interiors of Mr. Lauren’s Bugatti.
Five new watches are a part of the Automotive Collection. Each piece in the collection is powered by a Swiss mechanical movement, symbolizing the motor itself and offering precision and superior function. The masterpiece, however, is the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton.
It is a versatile timepiece in a shot-blasted black gunmetal steel case, and redolent of bold masculinity. It measures 44.8mm wide by 11.20mm thick, and boasts a matte finish. Its bezel, crafted out of Amboyna burl, a noble hardwood, is hand-cut and finished by an expert craftsman – handiwork so exquisite, it reveals intricate patterns and depth of color in its rich, twisted grain. And finally, the “bombé”-shaped bezel is set by hand.
Underneath, the bridges of the movement have been blackened to reflect the aesthetics of the watch. The RL Automotive Skeleton is the brand’s first open-worked timepiece. The main plate has been artfully cut away, to reveal the intricate mechanics underneath – manually wound caliber RL1967 runs at a frequency of 18,000 vibrations per hour and has a 45-hour power reserve.
This hand-wound mechanical movement made by IWC has been customized by Val Fleurier for Ralph Lauren, and is one of the things that make this vintage automotive inspired timepiece one of the finest ever crafted. It is classic, made by hand and it captures the imagination. At $50,000, it’s definitely the highest valued of the Automotive collection.
The 45mm RL Automotive timepiece on the other hand, is priced at $14,000. and shares a similar design philosophy, except that its caliber RL98295, a hand-wound mechanical movement also made for Ralph Lauren by IWC, is only visible through a smoky sapphire crystal case back. Featuring an Amboyna burl wood bezel and black gunmetal steel case, it too bridges the automotive and horological worlds and captures Ralph’s love of fine watchmaking and things made by hand.
Disclosure – I partnered with the brand to write this article but every word is mine