Up Close with the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton Wristwatch (Review, Photos & Price)

Ralph Lauren frequently takes inspiration from his Bugatti 57SC Atlantic for his timepieces, with the RL Automotive Skeleton the latest timepiece to be modelled on the convertible. And it happens to be powered by a skeletonised IWC movement.

An extraordinarily successful designer and notable watch collector, Ralph Lauren has his own line of watches that draws heavily on his hobbies, most prominently, vintage cars. Specifically, the gorgeous Bugatti 57SC Atlantic convertible – worth some US$40 million – is the inspiration for the Ralph Lauren Automotive collection of watches. The flagship of that collection is the RL Automotive Skeleton, the brand’s first open-worked wristwatch and one that’s powered by an IWC movement.

As your correspondent has written in another story on the entry-level RL67 Safari Chronometer, Ralph Lauren “are generally well designed, with appealing proportions and colours”. It’s obvious they are the product of someone who a good aesthetic sense. The RL Automotive Skeleton is no different.

The 45mm steel case is coated in a matte black ceramic layer, and topped with a narrow, glossy amboyna burl wood bezel. Rounded and secured by six screws, the exotic wood bezel is modelled on the dash of the Bugatti 57SC that is similarly made of polished burl wood. The bezel looks precious, and is no doubt expensive to fabricate, but how it holds up against knocks and scuffs is a question.

In contrast to the soft, rich look of the burl bezel, the hand-wound movement is stark, an attractive contrast. Nearly all the movement parts are black coated, save for a few gilded highlights that are mostly the movement parts of the movement like the gear train and balance wheel. The movement has been skeletonised simple, with clean geometric shapes and little that’s superfluous, save for the large “RL” logo at 12 o’clock.

A distinctive, extra-long regulator index (the long needle that sits on top of the balance cock) reveals this to be the IWC F.A. Jones calibre, originally designed for the vintage-inspired Portugieser wristwatch named after the firm’s founder. IWC itself has never executed a movement in this manner. Though IWC did have a skeleton version of this movement under its own brand, the F.A. Jones skeleton was heavily and elaborately engraved, giving it a look that is completely different.

An Achilles’ heel

Despite being a well made – and well designed – wristwatch, the RL Automotive Skeleton suffers from the same weakness as the rest of its watch collection, it is too expensive for something with the Ralph Lauren brand. With a retail price of US$35,000, the RL Automotive Skeleton is a universe away from the typical segment of the average Ralph Lauren product, even its top of the line Purple Label clothing. But it is a really, really handsome watch.


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Introducing the Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Chinese Zodiac Year of the Monkey

As is tradition, Vacheron Constantin has created a pair of limited edition timepieces for the upcoming Chinese Zodiac year, featuring a hand-made enamel dial and the watchmaker’s novel self-winding movement without hands.

As a prelude to the upcoming SIHH 2016 watch fair in January, Vacheron Constantin is marking the Year of the Monkey that starts in February 2016 with a Métiers d’Art La Légende du Zodiaque Chinois limited edition. Featuring a fired enamel dial with a golden monkey in relief, the Year of the Monkey timepiece is equipped with the caliber 2460 G4 that tells the time with no hands at all – the only hands on the dial are those of the monkey. Just like the Year of the Goat limited edition of 2015, four windows on the dial reveal the day, month, hours and minutes. Both the day and month jump instantaneously at midnight, while the hours and minute discs turn at a slow pace throughout the day. Because the windows are situated on the edge of the dial, it becomes a canvas for the decorative arts. 

The dial is a disc of solid gold that’s engraved with leaf motif, then painted with enamel and fired in an oven. In blue or bronze to match the case metal, the enamel dial is glossy and translucent, revealing the engraved foliage below. A hand-engraved monkey, made of platinum or pink gold depending on the case material, is mounted on the centre of the dial.

Limited to 12 pieces each in pink gold or platinum, the Métiers d’Art La Légende du Zodiaque Chinois Year of the Monkey is priced at €80,000 in pink gold and €100,000 in platinum.

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