In contrast to the big-name luxury manufacturers that debuted their novelties at Watches & Wonders Geneva, Time to Watches 2024 was somewhat of a horological palate cleanser, with a diverse assortment of exhibiting brands that exist well below the five-figure price point. One of the standouts we encountered at the show is the proudly Czech company Robot, which manufactures a significant percentage of its components in-house and offers a distinctly Czech-inspired design influence. Among the brand’s current-production lineup, my personal favorite is easily the Robot Aerodynamic, which is a retro-futuristic timepiece with a titanium case and manual 8-day movement that is inspired by the Tatra T77: a legendary Czech automobile that is widely considered to be the world’s first mass-produced car with a streamlined aerodynamic body.

Launched in 1934, the Czech Tatra T77 was the brainchild of automobile designer Hans Ledwinka and Zeppelin aerodynamic engineer Paul Jaray. Based upon Ledwinka’s chassis design that consisted of a backbone frame with swinging half-axles and an air-cooled engine, the Tatra T77 also benefited from Jaray’s aerodynamic expertise, and the results of the collaboration yielded a truly revolutionary vehicle that would ultimately lay the groundwork for industry-defining cars from brands such as Volkswagen and Porsche. In fact, Tatra originally wanted to sue Volkswagen for design infringement due to how heavily the VW Beetle borrowed from the work of Ledwinka and Jaray, although the German occupation of Czechoslovakia during World War II put a stop to Tatra’s legal actions, and Volkswagen eventually ended up settling out of court in the 1960s.

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Taking the core design ethos of a car and turning it into a watch sounds like it should be a fairly straightforward task, although tastefully pulling it off is quite a bit harder than you might expect. In my opinion, the most successful efforts are the ones that are immediately apparent to car enthusiasts, yet unrecognizable to those who are unaware of the watch’s automotive-themed design inspiration. The Robot Aerodynamic does an excellent job of simultaneously being unspoken yet obvious. With a smooth rounded profile and arc-shaped cutouts throughout its dial and movement, the overall design of the watch is immediately reminiscent of the vents and streamlined body panels on the Tatra T77. However, even without its automobile-derived concept, the Robot Aerodynamic can easily stand on its own for its unique design and inherently retro-futuristic appearance.

Crafted from grade 5 titanium with a sandblasted finish, the case of the Robot Aerodynamic measures 39.5mm in diameter by 12.2mm thick. It’s characterized by a smooth profile that extends to the domed sapphire crystal above its dial and the curved edges of its display caseback. Sitting between two rounded guards at the 3 o’clock location is a large winding crown signed with Robot’s logo, while water resistance for the collection comes in at 50 meters to protect against daily contact. Despite its fairly modest on-paper case diameter, the thin design of the Robot Aerodynamic’s bezel means that it wears a bit larger than you might expect, although its rounded profile and downward-facing lugs also allow the case to feel quite flat relative to its overall perceived size.

At the time of writing, the Robot Aerodynamic collection spans seven different colorways that include Silver Metallic, Copper Brown, Cobalt Blue, Bronze Aura PVD, Streamline Beige, Black Nickel, and Titanium Green. While most of the models have sandblasted titanium cases in their natural-gray metal finish, the Black Nickel version has a black PVD treatment, and the Bronze Aura PVD offers a warm bronze PVD coating throughout its grade 5 titanium case components. Although the Silver Metallic colorway is arguably the variant that feels the most automotive-inspired, my hands-down favorite among the current lineup is the recently-announced Titanium Green version that features a unique color-changing dial that dances between different shades of green and blue with flashes of purple depending on the lighting.

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Regardless of color, all of the different Robot Aerodynamic dials follow the same fundamental design and layout, with a pair of centrally-mounted hour and minute hands, a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock, and a running seconds sub-dial with a circular date display sitting on the opposite side at the 6 o’clock location. Raised arc-shaped cutouts inspired by the body panels on the Tatra T77 radiate outward from the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock locations, while the minute track appears as a separately attached ring that surrounds the periphery of the dial. The color-changing effect of the Titanium Green dial is achieved through a chemical process, and attention to detail is quite high throughout the entire dial and handset, with a small decorative cap covering the mounting point for the central luminous hour and minute hands.

At the heart of the Robot Aerodynamic is a manual-wind movement with an eight-day power reserve produced by the Swiss manufacturer La Joux-Perret. Since the upper plates and bridges of the movement have all been open-worked to mirror the Tatra T77-inspired cutouts on the dial, this isn’t exactly an off-the-shelf design. However, based upon the fundamental layout of the caliber and its on-paper specifications, I’m fairly certain that the Aerodynamic’s movement shares its core architecture with the La Joux-Perret Cal. F100, which runs at a frequency of 21,600vph (3 Hz) with a power reserve of eight days (approximately 192 hours). Lastly, completing the Aerodynamic series are two-piece leather straps in various colors and textures to complement the dials, and the straps taper from 20mm at the lugs down to 18mm where they connect to simple sandblasted titanium pin-buckles.

The Robot Aerodynamic represents an incredibly charming overall package, although the model really comes alive when you get a chance to experience it in the metal — and this is especially true for the color-changing Titanium Green dial version. The largely sandblasted surfaces create a deceptively simple initial appearance. However, closer inspection reveals a harmony of lines and layers that ultimately offer a surprising amount of visual intrigue. While the watch itself is admittedly rather difficult to photograph, the Aerodynamic’s retro-futuristic design is casual enough to not feel overtly formal, yet its streamlined shape and considered proportions allow it to easily be dressed up to accommodate more elevated settings. Although there will inevitably be some individuals who prefer something a bit more traditional, it’s undeniable that the Robot Aerodynamic offers a truly distinct appearance that stands out in a sea of mid-century designs and vintage-inspired models.

Given its grade 5 titanium case and 8-day La Joux-Perret movement, the Robot Aerodynamic is positioned as one of the more expensive offerings within the Czech brand’s catalog, and official retail prices for the model are set at €7,280 EUR (approximately $7,800 USD, at the time of writing), with a small additional premium accompanying the Bronze Aura PVD version. At this price point, a vast assortment of other options will also be within reach, including entry-level models from some of the world’s most famous luxury manufacturers. However, the Robot Aerodynamic isn’t a watch for the person who is just getting their feet wet in the world of horology, and the individual buying this proudly Czech automotive-themed timepiece specifically doesn’t want a universally recognizable status symbol, but would rather own something truly unique that they won’t spot on anyone else’s wrist. For more information on the Robot Aerodynamic collection, please visit the brand’s website.

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