As almost any vintage automobile aficionado will confess, his love of cars is often seconded by a love of mechanical watches. Engines, big and small, have always fascinated America's legendary designer Ralph Lauren. His automobile collection is considered one of the finest in the world and when he ventured into watchmaking in 2009, it was a natural step to incorporate some of the more salient design features of his favourite thoroughbred machine into his new realm of watches.
One car in particular, the designer's curvaceous black 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupé, was responsible for the vintage styling of the Ralph Lauren Sporting Collection of men's watches. Launching in early 2015, the new 45mm Automotive Chronograph joins the Sporting Collection with its clear references to the beautiful Bugatti. Former members of the Ralph Lauren Sporting Automotive family include the first 2011 model with small seconds and elm burl wood inlay, the launch of which coincided with the exhibition of Ralph Lauren's car collection at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, a version of the Chronograph with a black matte ceramic case and bracelet, and the more recent Flying Tourbillon.
The sleek 45mm steel case of the Automotive Chronograph has been polished and brushed to a smooth matte finish and flaunts a sporty touch with the six exposed screws on the bezel. Unlike decorative screws used on many watch bezels, these screws replicate the original ones used on the hub that secures the steering wheel of the Bugatti to the column.
Looking at the dial is almost like opening the door to the interior of the Bugatti and recreates the feel of the interior with the use of brown elm burl wood, just like the wood used on the dashboard of the car. Here the elm burl wood has been used to frame the black galvanic centre where the time functions, date window and chronograph counters are displayed. Outside the burl wood circle is a tachymetre scale used to calculate speed or measure distances.
The chronograph counters echo the gauges found on the dashboard of the Bugatti and the dial maintains a distinct vintage appeal thanks to the use of beige SuperLumiNova on the hands and the Arabic numbers.
Like any sports car, what goes on under the bonnet is just as fascinating for motor fanatics. The new Automotive Chronograph model pays homage to its Bugatti muse with a bespoke movement made for Ralph Lauren by Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre. Fitted with a sapphire crystal caseback, you can admire the top class self-winding movement - calibre RL751A/1- which purrs at a steady 28,000 alt/h and offers great mileage with 65 hours of power reserve and water-resistance to 50 metres. Beautifully finished, like everything in Ralph Lauren's universe, the movement is decorated with vertical Côtes de Genève stripes and contrasting circular graining.
Presented on a classic black alligator strap with black Alsavel lining for additional comfort, this model evokes the classic styling of the sexy Bugatti, without the nuisance of having to fill her up at the petrol station.