The round case’s sleek lines and sloped lugs immediately conjures an image of the classical car from which the RL Automotive Skeleton is inspired, Ralph Lauren’s award-winning 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe with a framework that’s nothing short of seductive. Interestingly, this isn’t your typical black PVD or DLC coating, but rather a thermal and chimical treatment that infuses the in case a matte black color through the process commonly used in making gunmetal. It certainly appears to be thicker and more scratch resistant than traditional surface coatings and platings.
Without a doubt, the talking point of the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton is its wood bezel. Made from varnished amboyna burl, and inspired by the wood steering wheel of Ralph Lauren's aforementioned Bugatti. To my eyes this is really where the team at Ralph Lauren Watches hit a home run, as it would have been all too easy for the wood bezel to look out of place and overpowering on an otherwise all-black watch. The proportions here are absolutely spot-on, as is the treatment of the rounded and slightly glossy wood. This is the kind of element that screams hand-worked and finished to the highest degree.
There is no dial per se, but rather two cut out portions applied on top of the movement, bearing an RL logo at 12 o’clock above the barrel drum and the small seconds dial at 6, both decorated with a circular azurage pattern. The sword-shaped hour and minute hands are oxidized black and filled with a vintage-looking beige SuperLuminova.
Looking under the RL Automotive Skeleton’s proverbial hood lays the skeletal RL1967 movement, based on the IWC FA Jones 98290 movement that has been reworked and skeletonized by Val Fleurier for Ralph Lauren. An appropriate choice for a watch that recalls the zenith of classic automotive design, the layout of the bridges as well as the black treatment gives an unexpectedly pleasing look to a familiar movement. The slower oscillation of the large balance wheel and sheer size of the movement are again evocative of the grand classical cars that the Automotive collection pays tribute to.
The Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton is indeed an interesting and singular kind of offering among the plethora of car-themed watches out there. It’s a balance of contemporary watchmaking aesthetics and proportions with more classical flowing lines and curves and of course, a stunning wood bezel that immediately gives it a unique sense of sporty elegance.
Pictures credits: Amr Sindi