At SIHH 2018 Ralph Lauren watches released an important new version of the Ralph Lauren 867 collection in a 35mm wide square case. This for me is the first version of the 867 collection that I consider appropriate for men, and it’s also the best value in the collection so far from a price perspective. Let me give a small bit of history related to the 867 watch collection so far. A few years ago Ralph Lauren debuted the 867 watch collection as a testament to Mr. Lauren’s appreciation of the Art Deco aesthetic as applied to timepieces. He was trying to go for a smaller look and the brand believed that there would be a growing market for men to wear smaller watches. It didn’t quite work out that way. NOTE: these watches are pre-production prototypes and have cosmetic and quality issues (such as paint on the hands) which are not representative of final retail models.
I actually remember the conversation at the meeting with Ralph Lauren a handful of years ago when I was informed “the fashion press feels that smaller men’s watches will become popular.” At 27.5mm wide (which was the original size of the first version of the square 867 watch) I recall thinking to myself “there is no friggin’ way even the fashion authority can convince men to wear such small sizes.” Turns out I was right and Ralph Lauren eventually pivoted the 867 collection watches for women. Later, a 32mm wide size of the 867 watch was released, but it was still merely a medium to large-sized women’s watch. At 35mm wide, and available on a handsome-looking bracelet, Ralph Lauren finally has the men’s 867 collection watch they were originally aiming for.
The 35mm Ralph Lauren 867 men’s watches come in four different versions, including two dials, case finishing styles, and strap options. They are the black dialed on leather strap reference RLR0150700, white dialed on leather strap RLR0150701, black dialed on steel bracelet RLR0150000, and the white dialed on steel bracelet RLR0150001. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any wrist shots even though I did spend a good deal of time with the watches taking beauty shots. At 35mm wide these watches sound petite, but I recommend you check out the width of your average Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. Consider for instance that a Cartier Santos (the largest version) is 38mm wide. On the bracelet with the wide-spaced lugs, I would consider the 35mm wide Ralph Lauren 867 watch to be solidly “medium” in size – and good as a dressier watch for those who typically wear long sleeves.
Existing Ralph Lauren 867 collection watches for women in 27.5mm and 32mm sizes all have prices which range from about $15,000–$19,000. Why so expensive? First of all they have precious metal 18ct rose or white gold cases, and different movements. With the 35mm wide 867 collection Ralph Lauren took the wise decision to focus on more mainstream [luxury] affordability – which means that each of these new for 2018 867 watches are priced at under $5,000.
According to Mr. Lauren’s personal wishes (as I was told), the two different dial versions of the 35mm 867 pieces have different forms of case finishing. I found that to be interesting (insofar that the customer isn’t able to have either dial with either case finishing), but regretted that the specific combo of case finish and dial that I would personally want isn’t available (that would be the black dial with brushed case and matching bracelet). As it stands for 2018, the white-dialed 35mm 867 will be paired with a brushed steel case, while the black-dialed version will be paired with a polished case and bracelet. Both of the two dials are attractive and relatively easy to read. For my eyes the black dial slightly had the edge on legibility. Or perhaps I prefer it because Ralph Lauren did the correct thing by having the pomme-style hands painted in white as opposed to polished steel as is the case in many other watches (a look that often times utterly destroys legibility and is a good indicator of extremely lazy design). So even in a “value” product like the men’s 867, I am happy to see a fair level of thought that went in to the detailing.
At 8.9mm thick with a 35mm x 35mm square (water-resistant to 50m), the steel case sits well on the wrist, and is very comfortable. I would consider the Ralph Lauren 35mm 867 to be an alternative to a Cartier Santos or basic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. Not only is the 35mm 867 cheaper than those other two, it has a slightly less common (albeit distinctive design), which I think adds to an exclusivity benefit. Keeping the watch from looking too narrow on the wrist is the wide bracelet/strap, which is 28.2mm wide (good luck trying to find a third-party replacement). The black calf-leather strap option is nice enough, with a tapered look and good quality construction. I do however feel that it is more than worth the few hundred bucks extra to get the matching steel bracelet – which is of a good quality.
Given that Ralph Lauren watches are produced by quality suppliers in the Richemont Group, the brand has access to high quality metals, case construction, dial making, and overall finishing techniques that would be unavailable to many smaller watchmakers. Of course, Ralph Lauren isn’t a boutique operation overall, but watches are a fraction of what they do. What helps keep the watches invigorated even though they are a very small piece of the Ralph Lauren product pie is the fact that Mr. Lauren himself is a hardcore (no kidding) timepiece collector.
I’ve liked the 867 collection dial design ever since the women’s models first came out. It isn’t easy to design a square dial, especially one that is distinctive looking (and not ugly). This style alternates Roman and Arabic numerals in a fun and elegant way. It very much feels like an Art Deco composition – which is exactly what the brand was going for. Having just the time (without seconds or date) helps the dial feel clean and uncluttered. Such design restraint shows the hallmark of a product team that seems to really care about the end result. This is sort of the anti-fashion watch, fashion watch – in that regard.
Given the “accessible” price point, the Ralph Lauren 35mm 867 collection doesn’t contain a fancy movement – nor does it need to. The movement is a sourced base Swiss Automatic (a Sellita SW300 I believe) that they call the caliber RL300-1. It operates at 4Hz with a power reserve of 42 hours. You can view the movement through the caseback and it is given some decoration.
If you are looking for an interesting dressier watch and fancy something square, then I recommend checking out the Ralph Lauren 35mm 867 watch collection. These aren’t easy watches to find, but apparently they are available in most flagship Ralph Lauren stores which are located in major cities. Retail price for the Ralph Lauren 35mm 867 reference RLR0150700 (black dial) and RLR0150701 (white dial) on the leather strap is $4,600 USD, and price for the reference RLR0150000 (black dial) and RLR0150001 (white dial) on the matching steel bracelet is $4,950 USD. ralphlauren.com