back to top

Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton Steel Watch Hands-On

Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton Steel Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Ralph Lauren is still a name I tend to associate more with polo shirts than watches, but with recent offerings including minute repeaters and double tourbillons, there can be little doubt that the brand takes its watchmaking seriously. Ralph Lauren the man is a collector of rare and vintage automobiles, whose cars have won the “Best in Show” awards at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance twice so far before being exhibited at several museums. In 2015 the brand released some watches inspired by this car collection, the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches (Hands-On here). They have followed up this collection with a new steel version this year, the aptly named Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton Steel.

Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton Steel Watch Hands-On Hands-On

All hands-on images by Bilal Khan

Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton Steel Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton Steel is visually very similar to its skeletonized predecessor from a few years ago, but instead of a black PVD-coated and bead-blasted finish on the case and movement, this version opts for exposed steel in a variety of finishes. The brand’s “RL” logo at 12 o’clock and the small seconds counter at 6 o’clock feature circular graining, while the movement bridges appear to have been satin-brushed. Perlage and vertically brushed surfaces are also visible through the sapphire caseback, which is an improvement over the rather plain and industrial view offered by the previous RL Automotive Skeleton watch. This version also features hour and minute hands that are “shiny black oxidized” rather than filled with faux-vintage lume, which offers a good contrast against the mostly-steel dial.

Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton Steel Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The signature wooden bezel is still present with the Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton Steel, made of a wood called Amboyna burl, which apparently features in the interiors of some of Ralph Lauren’s own vintage cars. The securing screws are also automotive-inspired, and meant to reference “the rivets securing the chassis of a car.” On a more practical level they also provide a measure of legibility to the dial by marking every second hour. The watch case measures 44.80mm by 11.20mm, offers 5 Bar (or approximately 50m) of water resistance, and is delivered with two bracelet options: a 3-link steel bracelet, or a brown alligator leather strap. The “RL” branded crown is also notched for ease of use, which will come in handy as this watch is powered by the manually-wound Caliber RL1967.

Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton Steel Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton Steel Watch Hands-On Hands-On

This calibre was developed by IWC exclusively for Ralph Lauren and then further skeletonized by Val Fleurier, a Richemont-owned movement manufacturer. Although quite attractive to look at, this calibre oscillates at the tepid pace of 18,000 vph or 2.5Hz, which will affect both timekeeping accuracy and the smoothness of the second hand’s movement. The power reserve is also somewhat lackluster by modern standards at approximately 45 hours, so this is a watch that will need to be hand-wound often. A power reserve needle is visible through the caseback, but unlike previous watches in this collection it appears to lack a corresponding power reserve gauge on the movement’s bridge.

Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton Steel Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton Steel shows the brand’s growing refinement as a watchmaker, as it’s arguably a more attractively finished piece than previous versions, even though it’s priced considerably less than the previous RL Automotive Skeleton watch. And, although the skeletonization and decoration performed by Val Fleurier is impressive, the asking price of $34,200 certainly limits the buyer pool for this product, I have a feeling that lovers of the uniquely American luxury vintage/automotive style Ralph Lauren has honed will be enamored with this timepiece.




Disqus Debug thread_id: 6478673467

  • Yan Fin

    Is it April 1st yet?

  • wejpasadena

    If you buy this watch they will
    include a free GQ score…that stands for Gullibility Quotient.

  • There is nothing positive about this watch… It is an all time ugly

  • Chaz

    There’s something so unbelievably cheezy and cheap looking about that seconds dial and the numeral font they chose.

    But other than that, I agree with all below…

    • Looks like the font used for the small seconds is the same as the brand name just below it. But I agree it is graceless.

  • Kuroji

    This watch gives you wood.

  • Drazen B

    “there can be little doubt that the brand takes its watchmaking seriously.”

    You can’t be serious…seriously!

    • “there can be little doubt that the brand takes its overpricing seriously.”

  • Yanko

    His made in China western shirts have more value than this watch.

  • Tigran Khachatryan

    I just looked at this…….thing, and now my eyes are bleeding.

  • ProJ

    34000 what??? A fool and his money……….

  • Tea Hound

    $34,200? Astonishing. This watch is horrible and cheap looking from every angle. I’d struggle paying $342.00 for it, which is where the decimal point should be in its price.

    • IG

      Looks more like a $34.20 Chinese skeleton from Alibaba.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I think the logo could be a tad bigger.

  • IanE

    I guess it must look better in real life! [Pursuing my new policy of trying to find something good to say.]

    • No worse (in real life) – at least the renders have beveling on the skeleton bridges while the photos of the real thing don’t.

  • The price so utterly ree-dick-you-luss that it defies reason. Even in Hong Kong dollars the price would still make no sense.

    Anyone else notice that the renders have beveling on the skeleton bridges while the actual watch has none? Shame on your Ralph. Guess the designed but not implemented beveling was a casualty of cost containment. Sure is hard to keep production cost in line in such a shitty watch with its $34K price. Looks like the bridges were punched out of a plate of steel. But more likely brass and then plated.

    This is the Val Fleurier version of an ETA/Unitas 6498 with (2.5 Hz, small seconds, manual winding) cheap skeletonization, “industrial finishing” (to put it charitably) topped with a wooden bezel. While I do produce some watches with wood, it’s on the dial. Not out where it will get dinged and is exposed to the harsh realities of wrist wear on the bezel.

    Besides, I wouldn’t want to wear a watch with REAL LOSER initials so prominently printed on it.

    • Ian Macpherson – U Tube


    • I agree. Especially with your thoughts on the wooden bezel insert.

    • Chaz

      I thought it was Rectum Licker?

    • Gokart Mozart

      I just had a closer look at the pictures and the renders it looks like the real one is a Chinese copy of the original. A Panis Ralph Lauren if you like.

      Did someone check that that is not actually the case?

      You mention the bevelling, but did you see how bad the fit and finish is around the bezel on the metal work. It looks like a vintage watch from the 1930’s. ie 70 years of use.

      Really, really poor finishing. Quite surprised they would send that out for review.

  • Ian Macpherson – U Tube

    The watch is junk really, just a vehicle to feed RL’s ego.

    • IanE

      And his already highly bloated bank account!

  • DanW94


  • Omegaboy

    You can’t wear it to work because people might say, “Hey, cool watch. What’d you pay for it?” If I had $34k to blow, there are SOOOO many great watches to be had – even two or three of them.

    The movement looks like it’s stamped out of aluminum.

  • Andre Braz

    What is it ???!!! Horrible…. This big Logo…. the wood style bezel … What happen to the designers ….

  • Richard Baptist

    I’ve looked at the pictures of this watch a couple of times and I don’t like the dial side. Especially around the seconds at the bottom of the dial. I like the movement side although and I don’t know if its the photographs but the movement looks unfinished to me. Then I saw the price. Look at this point I’m used to ridiculous pricing. I literally fell off my chair. How, where when is this worth 34k? This is one of the most insane priced watches I’ve seen and that’s saying something. I thought the Watch industry had turned over a new leaf. I guess I was wrong. This whole effort – watch, pricing is bizarre.

  • David Lee

    It has HUGE RL written on it and the bottom Ralph Lauren. Why? From what I see in the photos, the finishing on the watch is worse than $3000 watches. Such nerve to price it so high. It’s offensive.

  • Sheez Gagoo

    This is a very poorly executed skeleton. Sad.

  • Pete L

    Fugly! How to make a huge amount of money look really cheap.

  • cluedog12

    “Perhaps lovers of vintage cars (and Ralph Lauren’s collection in particular) will be more enamored with this timepiece than I, which is undoubtedly attractive and unique despite my misgivings.”

    Let’s just say that Jason should have more confidence in his assessment. The look is unique, but the details are sloppy.

  • Playboy Johnny

    Wait for it……. Garbage.

    • If it was $2K it might not be seen as garbage. But at this point segment, I have to agree with you.

  • Nathan Likes Watches

    Was expecting this to be about half the price of an entry level IWC, max, but 34k??? I do think the power reserve needle is cool, but that’s about it.

    • Jason Swire

      So was I, to be honest. I hit the price tag at the end and did a double-take. Had this watch been priced around $10k my review would have been… if not positive, at least more understanding.

    • Gokart Mozart

      Agree, the only thing I like about this watch is the massive power reserve needle.

      Actually I do like the balance wheel. You can’t go wrong with a big balance wheel with lots of gold screws.

  • johnwithanh

    Holy aspirational pricing Batman!

  • Marius

    In my opinion, Mr. Mark Carson offered a great comment explaining why this watch is so ridiculous from all points of view. What surprises me most is not this watch, but certain paragraphs from this article, which I would like to point out.

    According to this article: “Although quite attractive to look at, this calibre oscillates at the tepid pace of 18,000 vph or 2.5Hz, which will affect both timekeeping accuracy and the smoothness of the second hand’s movement.”

    The operating frequency of a movement doesn’t affect its accuracy. What does affect the accuracy is the manner in which the watch is adjusted and regulated. Just because a watch operates at 5Hz doesn’t automatically make it than a 3Hz one. Case in point: A. Lange & Söhne. Although almost all watches produced by Lange run at a rate of 3Hz or less, they are extremely accurate because they’re very well adjusted and regulated. Similarly, the new Rolex 32XX caliber running at 4Hz (+-2 sec./day) is more accurate than a 5Hz Zenith El Primero.

    According to this article: “The power reserve is also somewhat lackluster by modern standards at approximately 45 hours, so this is a watch that will need to be hand-wound often.”

    I really don’t understand the fetish that ABTW writers seem to have for power reserves. It seems that the power reserve of a watch is one of the most important aspects, being more vital than fit, finish, decoration, or design. Sure, the power reserve is important only in the case of highly-complicated watches which are extremely time-consuming to set. However, in the case of such simple three-handers, the power reserve is essentially irrelevant because even if the watch stops, setting the time and winding it up will take you under one minute, so I really don’t see what the big fuss is all about. People for whom winding a watch is such a problematic aspect should maybe not buy a mechanical watch in the first place.

    According to this article: “And, although the skeletonization and decoration performed by Val Fleurier is impressive…”

    Are you kidding me? The skeletonization and decoration are “impressive?” Besides the fact that the “skeletonization” is probably the most basic and crude type I have seen in years, this watch also lacks any kind of decoration. Essentially, the components feature absolutely no finishing touches, and most of them look like stamped-out parts. I have no idea how the author of this article, who also wrote a book on watches, can describe this movement as impressively finished.

    • Jason Swire

      Many thanks for your comments and criticism Marius! I’ll take the points you’ve raised on-board.

      A few items I wanted to clarify; while you’re correct that proper adjustment and regulation have the greatest impact on a movement’s accuracy, the oscillation frequency plays a role as well. Generally speaking, the higher the frequency the more stable the rate, as well as offering some improvements in shock recovery.

      I agree that “impressive” is perhaps not the most suitable word to use for this movement’s decoration. “workmanlike” is perhaps closer to what I had in mind. In watch journalism we’re careful not to be too negative or cynical in our reviews, or we risk losing access to brand’s press releases and events. Ariel Adams wrote on this subject here:

      That being said, you’re correct that I was too gracious in my language for this particular timepiece. I will endeavour to be more accurate – if still objective – in the future.

    • True that a high frequency does not impart better timekeeping by itself. However the ability to settle back down to a stable rate after a position change is much better with higher frequency watches (lower polar inertia of the balance wheel). So in the real world of wrist wear (moving arms and all), a higher frequency mechanical watch will keep better time provided everything else is equal (which it never is). Having put a number of watches (Japanese, Swiss, vintage) on a timing machine, one of the interesting things to watch was how quickly or slowly the rate returned to a stable value when you cycle through the 6 standard positions.

      For a manual wind watch, an “over the weekend” power reserve of 72 hours is desirable as you can’t just put the watch on a winder on Friday night and have it set correctly on Monday morning. Well, unless it is fully unwound at 7 PM Friday and then you wind it at 7 AM on Monday. But that’s too hard to time, ha ha.

  • Mr. Snrub

    holly cow………….. I mean horse, I mean…. I don’t know what I mean.
    34 grand and as the venerable MC mentioned the beveled bridges seem to have disappeared??? for 34K large potatoes I am not sure what one expects, class, very high levels of finish, precious metal, what? and the answer is none of that you get a RL skeletonized like a cheapo Tissot. What is not to love may I ask?

  • loydb

    I think the RL should be way bigger. Maybe they could lose the hands, so as not to interfere with the logo… /s

  • Farkbinder012

    LOL!!!! I dare say…… Er……Cough……Ahem…….Invicta has better offerings!? There, I said it! $34,200 is a complete outrage! Criminal even! I have a mind to forward an official complaint with the Attorney General of the U.S.! Yes, yes I do.

  • hatster

    I am going to assume the price reflects the fact that the buyer also receives the 1960’s Morris Minor car, which is controlled by the steering wheel on which that wooden bezel is modeled?

  • Richard carroll

    The first time you bang that against a door frame will certainly be a special moment.