On the Road to Miami with the Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton Steel
Ralph Lauren brings the Wow factor to the first edition of Watches & Wonders Miami.
Over President’s Day weekend, collectors of everything high end converged in Miami, Florida for the inaugural Watches & Wonder. Organized by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie and the Miami Design District, the event brings to the US the hottest timepieces from 2018, including many unveiled in January at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). It also intersects with the Miami Design District Concours and the Miami Yacht Show.
Just as Watches & Wonders celebrates the good things in life, Ralph Lauren has always been a brand that encapsulates elegant American style. So, it’s fitting that the company chose Watches & Wonders to show off the Automotive Skeleton which embraces the designer’s penchant for classic cars.
Watches & Wonders is one of those only-in-Miami moments where serious collectors and industry players from around the world come together to take in workshops and exhibitions by day, and crazy cocktail parties by night. It’s almost a Jazz Age scene.
Ralph Lauren, of course, became a household name after outfitting Robert Redford in looks from that era in the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby. Lauren is also a big-time car collector, with over 70 rare vehicles in his garages.
In fact, it’s the American designers 40 million-dollar 1938 Bugatti Type 57SCc Atlantic Coupé race car was the inspiration behind the Ralph Lauren Automotive collection, introduced in 2015. Says Lauren, “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.”
With their sleek cases and complex machinery, watches hold the same sort of sway over collectors. Which is just one reason why the Automotive Skeleton Steel is so compelling. The company’s first open worked timepiece lets you admire the motor of the watch from both front and back.
In our Online Age, one of the of the magical things about an event like Watches & Wonders is that being able to see luxury watches and automobiles (and yachts and jewelry for that matter) up close and personal.
In Miami, Watchonista got the chance to appreciate the Automotive Skeleton Steel in real life.
The Type 57SC Atlantic has been described as the world’s first supercar. It’s defining characteristics are a straight 8-cylinder engine with twin overhead camshafts and a compressor, and an innovative aluminum alloy coachwork, which made it one of the lightest cars of its time. Lauren’s own Atlantic is one of only four ever manufactured.
While the watch, like all things Lauren, tips its hat to the past, this new steel Skeleton also creates a modern feel by carefully cutting away unnecessary elements on the main plate to reveal the Swiss-made F.A. Jones mechanical movement made exclusively for Ralph Lauren underneath. This mechanism has been further tailored by Val Fleurier with vertical Côtes de Genève stripes and a circular graining technique, known as perlage, as well as an interlocking “RL” logo over a brushed steel plate at 12 o’clock position.
What’s under the hood? The manually wound caliber RL1967, which runs at a frequency of 18,000 vibrations per hour with a 45-hour power reserve.
Pedal to the Metal
The Automotive Skeleton Steel also features a mix of polished and brushed steel components—including polished screws that reference the rivets securing the chassis of a car— as well as brass gear elements and a shot-blasted stainless-steel case and a polished stainless-steel bracelet and clasp. These metal elements lend a clean, industrial edge to the timepiece.
The most distinctive design feature of the watch is the varnished, “bombé”-shaped bezel made from Amboyna Burl. Evoking the steering wheel of a classic Bugatti, Amboyna is rare, dense hardwood with a swirling grain that must be both hand-cut and finished. Its scarcity makes it a favorite finish for luxury automotive interiors — and is often seen in Ralph Lauren’s personal cars collection.
Upon examining both the car and the watch in person, one also notices other details such as the oxidized hands which mirror the Lauren’s Type 57SC Atlantic deep, black coat of paint.
As we learned from reading The Great Gatsby (or at least viewing the movie versions of the book), money can’t buy happiness. Ralph Lauren has worked hard to earn its haute horology credentials. And the combination of innovative design and fine finishes of pieces like the Automotive Skeleton Steel are a fine expression of the company’s commitment to both the artistry and craft of watchmaking.
Launched in 2008, Ralph Lauren Watches and Fine Jewelry is a joint venture between Ralph Lauren and Richemont. This arrangement allows the brand access to high-quality Swiss Made manufacture movements while adding a New World elegance that appeals to American collectors.
As seen under the sunny Miami sky, the new Automotive Skeleton Steel brings it all together. The lines of the case, the lustrous bezel and a skeletonized design that showcases the gear train and balance wheel— it’s a fantastic marriage of style and substance that demonstrates why Ralph Lauren has earned so much respect from connoisseurs and collectors in the brand’s short watchmaking history.
The Automotive Skeleton retails at $34,200. For more information, please visit ralphlauren.com
(Photography by Liam O’Donnell)