Founded in 1967, Ralph Lauren is a truly iconic brand from the greater world of fashion, yet it didn’t start producing watches until 2009. In that year, it launched a collection of timepieces as a joint venture with Richemont Group. Although some of the brand’s earlier offerings were premium models priced firmly within the five-figure territory, Ralph Lauren has released a number of more affordable timepieces over the years, including the Polo Watch collection that first made an appearance in 2020. Leaning fully into the prominent branding that defined much of the style during the 1990s and early 2000s, the Ralph Lauren Polo Watch could essentially be considered the timepiece equivalent of the shirts that the brand produced during the era, which featured enormous logos on the chest and were sold in a vast assortment of different colors. Earlier this year in 2022, Ralph Lauren extended its Polo Watch collection with additional colors and new interchangeable strap options to further expand the greater ecosystem of its most accessibly priced model.
Crafted from stainless steel, the case of the Ralph Lauren Polo Watch measures 42mm in diameter by 12.35mm-thick, with a standard lug width of 20mm and an overall lug-to-lug distance of approximately 52.5mm. While most of the models from the collection feature polished steel cases (a pair of bronze versions is also available), the sample that I was sent for review was the version that features a flat black PVD finish. Operated by a push-pull style winding crown that is signed with Ralph Lauren’s famous polo player logo, the case of the watch itself feels incredibly sturdy and solid, despite not having an overtly rugged and purpose-built design. A gently domed sapphire crystal protects the dial side of the watch, while a screw-down display caseback is fitted to the reverse side and helps provide it with 100 meters of water resistance.
Surrounding the crystal is a bezel that features a matte black eloxed (anodized) aluminum insert with a 60-minute scale that has the word “Polo” placed at the 12 o’clock location. Despite the fact that the bezel features a grooved edge for added grip and even has luminous markings, the bezel itself does not rotate. In my opinion, this may be one of the biggest technical shortcomings of the watch, as everything about it indicates that it should be a rotating elapsed time bezel — why else would there be grooves on the edge to provide grip? Given that the sample I was sent for review arrived with a few small marks and scratches on the bezel, I even double-checked the specs to verify that the bezel wasn’t just somehow stuck or damaged. Ralph Lauren makes no reference to a rotating bezel on the Polo Watch, so it seems that this component is purely decorative, despite appearing to promise additional functionality. Regardless of my gripes about the bezel, the overall case of the watch is undeniably well-executed and it offers an impression of significantly better quality than what I would otherwise expect by just looking at a photo of the watch.
Alright, let’s address the elephant in the room — or in this case, the horse on the dial. Set against a black lacquer surface with luminous Arabic numeral hour markers is an enormous 3D-printed polo player that stretches the entire vertical length of the dial. While Ralph Lauren often chooses to depict its iconic polo player logo as a simple silhouette, this time it appears in full color and is so large that the player’s mallet extends into the 12 o’clock marker, while the horse’s feet partially overlap with the 6 at the bottom of the dial. In fact, the logo is so enormous that the “Ralph Lauren” name is forced up into the minute track at the very top of the dial, similar to how the words “Swiss Made” appear on the lower half. The time itself is indicated by a pair of luminous sword-shaped hands with edges that have been given a black finish, and they are complimented by a thin red centrally-mounted seconds hand. That said, the polo player logo is the true focus of the watch, and in addition to being absolutely massive, the fact that it is rendered in both 3D print and full color means that it is guaranteed to stand out and get noticed; however, that is exactly the purpose of this watch. Rather than being about refinement and subtle details, this watch is all about in-your-face branding and outwardly celebrating all things related to Ralph Lauren and Polo.
This overt branding can also be seen on the straps fitted to the models from the current Ralph Lauren Polo Watch collection. Alongside more traditional two-piece leather strap options are both silicone rubber and leather NATO style straps that prominently feature the “Polo” name running down the length of each side. I believe the black PVD model that I had for review normally comes paired with a black leather NATO style strap, but the one I was sent came with both yellow and dark purple rubber straps. Regardless of material, all of the various two-piece strap options come complete with quick-release spring bars to facilitate tool-free strap changes, and what is also rather interesting is that the signed pin buckles also feature quick-release connections meaning that even the buckles can be swapped without the use of any tools.
Powering the Ralph Lauren Polo Watch is the brand’s Caliber RL200 automatic movement, which is essentially the Ralph Lauren decorated version of a Sellita SW200-1. As such, it runs at a frequency of 28,800vph and offers users an approximate power reserve of 38 hours. Although this movement is very much a known quantity within the industry and is arguably the single most commonly used Swiss-Made mechanical movement in the world, the version fitted to the Ralph Lauren Polo Watch is better decorated than many, and it includes perlage on the bridges, vertical Geneva stripes on the signed rotor, and it even features a small “RL200-1” engraving on the outer edge of the train wheel bridge denoting Ralph Lauren’s caliber number for the movement. While a decorated version of a Sellita SW200-1 is hardly anything groundbreaking from a horological standpoint, the movement powering the Ralph Lauren Polo Watch is decently finished and promises reliable performance with hassle-free maintenance.
I’m someone who generally likes as little branding as possible on my watches and clothing, so the enormous full color, 3D-printed logo on the Ralph Lauren Polo Watch really isn’t for me; however, my personal preferences aren’t really what’s important here, but rather the quality of the watch itself. Even wearing the watch in Switzerland as a spectator at a championship polo match failed to make me warm up to its design, but my time with it did ultimately give me a strong appreciation for the overall quality of the watch itself. It’s easy for all of us to sometimes get wrapped up in our own personal preferences, but it is also important to remember that this industry needs diversity, and not every watch will — or should — always appeal to our own stylistic sensibilities. The Ralph Lauren Polo Watch allows people to indulge in a decidedly lighthearted and playful design, while still being able to enjoy the premium quality of a true Swiss-Made mechanical watch — and setting aside my own aesthetic preferences, it’s impossible to deny that the watch itself is very well constructed. With an official retail price of $2,000 USD for the black PVD version, the Ralph Lauren Polo Watch is quite a bit more expensive than what typically comes to mind when you think of watches produced by large fashion brands. However, the Polo Watch is also Ralph Lauren’s least expensive timepiece by a significant margin, and the quality that this watch brings to the table is also exponentially greater than what you will get from some fashion watch that was purchased for a few hundred dollars at your local mall. For avid Polo fans or for those who simply want to lean into the big-logo spirit that dominated fashion during the 1990s, the Ralph Lauren Polo Watch is a fun and lighthearted timepiece that offers a level of build quality that far exceeds what you would expect given its colorful personality. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.