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Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

This is the tale of two watches with essentially the same movement, both in the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive watch collection. What is the Automotive collection within the brand? It is a sub-family of the larger Ralph Lauren Sporting watch collection that, according to Ralph Lauren, are inspired not only by Ralph Lauren’s legendary love of fine cars, but more specifically, his prized Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe from 1938. I’ve seen the car in person – along with other key automobiles from Ralph Lauren’s collection in Paris a few years ago. I wasn’t able to take pictures because it was in a museum exhibition, but it was a really impressive assortment of amazing cars.

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Anyhow, earlier in 2015, aBlogtoWatch discussed the Ralph Lauren Automotive Chronograph watch here. All of the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive collection timepieces have one thing in common, and that is a use of real wood on the dials or bezels. To date, Ralph Lauren does not yet have a model with a wood bezel as well as wood on the dial. I suggested to them that they do this, and I have a feeling that we are likely to see something like this in the near future.

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

As a subset of the larger Sporting watch family, the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive watches share the same basic case shape and overall theme. The Sporting collection has birthed other sub-families of watches such as the Ralph Lauren Safari as well. Right now, I’d like to focus on two models in the RL Automotive collection which I think are interesting because they focus on wood not on the dial but rather as the bezel material. Why wood? Well, anyone familiar with the interior of vintage cars – especially such as those made by Bugatti – know that fine woods are an important part of those cars’ interiors.

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

To mimic that feeling of wood in a car cabin, Ralph Lauren decided applying a fine burl wood to the dials of these Ralph Lauren RL Automotive collection watches would be an interesting idea. At first, it wasn’t a sub-collection at all but rather a Sporting watch with an Elm wood dial that they released in 2010. The idea then evolved into the larger Ralph Lauren RL Automotive collection which included both “accessible” models and even a tourbillon. Perhaps the second most exclusive model in the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive collection is the simply named Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton Model reference RLR0220708.

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

This rather pricey model is the even ritzier version of the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Model Wood Bezel ref. RLR0220710. They each share a manually wound movement produced for Ralph Lauren by IWC. While the more simple watch has a traditional dial and movement (visible through the caseback), the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton model is just that – a uniquely modern artistic approach to movement skeletonization that takes the caliber RL98295 of the more simple watch and skeletonizes it in ValFleurier (a Richemont-owned movement manufacturer) for the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton watch. The difference in price between the two models is a rather outstanding $36,000. So the question is what is behind that price difference, and who are these watches best for?

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Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Ralph Lauren continues to take heat from seasoned watch lovers because… well, let’s face it, no matter how high quality the Ralph Lauren watches are, the company is still synonymous for many people with things like Polo shirts and other items of clothing. Adding a high-end watchmaking division was a risky move for the brand, and I think they are realizing that even though their timepieces have the stuff that watch collector’s are looking for, their most typical clients are fashion and design lovers versus those who consider themselves “horologists.” That, however, is another story altogether.

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Each of these two watches comes in a 44.8mm-wide by 11.2mm-thick steel case which is water-resistant to 50 meters. Both are PVD-coated in black and given a bead-blasted finishing, which I like, as it contrasts with the glossy alligator strap and lacquered finishing on the wood. The non-skeletonized version also comes in a natural, brushed steel case with a matching steel bracelet. What works so well about the Amboyna burl wood bezels is that the wood material is not placed under a sapphire crystal and can be touched. There is a tactile pleasure in having the ability to feel and sense the wood with its warmth and texture that I think is very valuable in having wood be on the outside of the watch.

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Wood watches these days are quite popular – especially at the low end. There are a number of inexpensive watch makers with products (mostly produced in China and other parts of Asia) selling timepieces in full wooden cases with wood dials and even bracelets for a few hundred dollars (or even less). I think there is a novelty factor to many of these timepieces despite their popularity, and some of theme are even quite attractive. Among the most exotic wood watches are those with wooden cases and wooden mechanical movements. That is right, the clever Ukrainian watchmaker Valerii Danevych produces these exotic wonders. With that said, the appeal and quality of wood watches varies, and in the context of Ralph Lauren is given an automotive theme and rendered in a very fashionable way (which is really the point of the brand).

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

The wood bezels of these Ralph Lauren RL Automotive watches are uniquely made and screwed to the case. Their colors and textures are really nice and are easily the highlight of these timepieces. On the dial of the non-skeletonized RLR0220710 is a simple set of hands and hour markers in a vintage-style color (that is, luminant) with just the time and subsidiary seconds dial. I am still, however, not a huge fan of this particular Ralph Lauren logo, and much prefer the logo that the brand originally came out with on their timepieces.

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

The RL98295 manually wound movement produced for Ralph Lauren by IWC is a vintage-style mechanism operating at 2.5Hz (18,000bph) with 45 hours of power reserve. Relatively basic, being produced from 156 parts, movements like this are specifically designed as homages to the past. I think it is nice but would prefer a slightly more modern movement, personally – even if it is simple in its execution.

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

That same movement, however, gets rather uniquely transformed in ValFleurier for the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton watch and is renamed the caliber RL1967. Was it necessary to rename the movement that much? The movement is given a unique skeletonization treatment because much of the movement parts mimic the matte black finishing of the case. You have some lovely color contrasting thanks to the brass and steel parts of the movement, along with red synthetic rubies. While I like the look of the RL1967 and agree that it is very photogenic, I wouldn’t describe it as the type of skeletonized movement that has a “luxurious feel” to it. Why? Well, it lacks the appearance of meticulous hand-finishing or decoration, it doesn’t use any precious metals or other materials, and it isn’t particularly complicated. No doubt it was complicated to make, but so are other skeletonized watches and some of those that look amazing cost the same or less.

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton & Non-Skeleton Watches Hands-On Hands-On

When taken in the context of the vintage automotive world and the great Ralph Lauren fashion empire, these two Ralph Lauren RL Automotive watches are quite nice additions to a lifestyle approach to design and automotive passion. They are also expensive watches that exist in a space that no one will ever doubt is “pure luxury.” Price for the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive ref. RLR0220710 is $14,000 and the Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Skeleton ref. RLR0220708 is $50,000. watches.ralphlauren.com

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  • Ulysses31

    I liked the wooden-dialled models when they came out. The wood was protected safely under the crystal and added a certain warmth. The new model, particularly the dark skeletonised version, looks distinctive and I certainly find it appealing, but there are a couple of problems. First, the screws in the wooden bezel are ugly and distracting. They might well be necessary from a construction standpoint, but the steering-wheel they’re trying to emulate doesn’t have those. You can’t simply run your finger over the lovingly-prepared wood. The second thing is that the screws are not even centred on the midline, and they appear to impinge on the crystal slightly. Again, this may be a requirement of their design but it looks shoddy to me. As for durability, one can only hope this wood and the glossy finish is tough enough to handle knocks and scrapes, though I doubt it.

  • word-merchant

    When they’re making the bezel, do you hear the sound of a barrel being scraped?

  • Do you think they could have made the RL logo over the barrel a bit larger. The steel bracelet looks completely out of place, so that one is a no go.

    For a 2.5 Hz movement the power reserve should have been a LOT LONGER. Perhaps the only reason the skeleton version is $50K is so that one will think that the solid dialed one is a bargain at $14K (and it’s not). The lack of finishing, and I’m thinking beveling here, is unacceptable for a $50K watch. I get the feeling that customers will be directly supporting Ralph’s next vintage car purchase and that he is in a hurry to buy whatever it is with minimal watch sales volume.

    I echo U31’s comments except to say that vintage wooden steering wheels usually did have visible screw/bolts, but yeah, they usually were centered.

    I like that they used wood but I have durability concerns when it’s on the exterior of a watch. I find the black case works better than the SS finish with the wood. The solid dialed watch might be a good $7K watch. But at twice the price, I would feel more gouged than the wood bezel will be after a year of wear.

    • Shinytoys

      that is a lot of clams…very expensive for the offering…

  • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

    I actually like the general design, but as with other fashion watches I really do not think that 3 years from now it would still interest me (or most people). Maybe the wooden bezel was added to ensure that the watch does not survive longer so you would be forced to get the latest new watch from RL. Same way as the iPhones battery detritus after 2 years forcing you to get an upgrade.

    Anyways the price certainly put a smile on my face on this beautiful Saturday morning, so thanks for the article Ariel! 🙂

  • SuperStrapper

    Meh. The brand is evolving, but I’m still left flat with these. The bracelet one looks like $10 mall watch junk. The gator strap is probably good quality, but being black and that glossy the effect is faux. While I’m not generally a fan of skele-watches, that version is actually more spreading than the one with a dial. But I could think of so much cooler watches to chase after with $50k in the watch buying coffers.

  • Asad Abbas Awan

    good design (and I generally like almost all of the designed watches of RL, especially the shaped cases ones) but why is it an oyster bracelet on a company that is known for design? they should have come up with their own bracelet design..I find everything from RL watches, like the stirrup and safari and the centre wood dial version, all of them better than the skeleton one

    • Chaz

      Perhaps oyster bracelet because of RL’s fanboy status with Rolex watches? If you look at most RL/Polo ads from the earlier days and before his own watches came out, you’ll see most of the time, the models are wearing a Rolex of some sort. Usually Subs.
      Additionally, his boutiques used to carry vintage/second hand Rolex watches for sale through a vendor (Second Time Around, I believe).

  • iamcalledryan

    The back of the skeleton is nice but the mix of bezel, plates, and logo on the front get me lost somewhere.

    I do like the one with the metal bezel and the wood on the dial though.

  • BNABOD

    I liked some of the RL offerings but the whole wood bezel reminding folks of ancient steering wheel is just fugly. please stop with the glove pics too, may I ask who drives with leather gloves……

    • Don’t know who actually wears driving gloves while driving but you can get them with these watches: http://ablogtowatch.com/straton-watch-co-curve-chrono-watch/
      The tie-in is becoming cliche IMO. Why not goggles and leather helmets (assuming open cockpit racing/rallye cars? I want a watch whose strap has leather which matches the included leather helmet and the leather strap on the goggles.

      • Phil

        Driving gloves are quite useful especially when your steering wheel is made of alcantara.

      • word-merchant

        I wear driving gloves. No fingerprints. Know what I’m sayin’?

      • egznyc

        Heck, this sounds like a good fit for a flieger, too – a la Snoopy and his Sopwith Camel fighting the Red Baron … But yes, it gets ridiculous after a while.

        • BTW – that’s a photo of a Formula 1 world champion. Hint – he is Italian.

          • egznyc

            Sorry, but I’m not familiar enough with the personalities in Formula 1, now or in the history of the sport, and it’d be cheating if I just googled. But I can tell it’s not a beagle. 😉

          • Oops – While a Gran Prix diver, he was not a modern series F1 champion – a little after his time (he died in 1953). Tazio Nuvolari. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tazio_Nuvolari

          • egznyc

            Did you see the photo of him racing with the steering wheel literally in his hands – and not attached to the car? (I’m thinking the RL watch’s wooden bezel might suffer a similar fate – just not as suddenly.)

          • 1946 – had to use a wrench to turn, or so the story goes.

          • egznyc

            Reminds me of when I broke a crown – on my watch, not in my mouth. Not nearly as thrilling as the experience of “Il Mantovano Volante” we see above.

  • IG

    Nice hand-wound movement ruined by gimmicky old fart’s wood parts.

  • Omegaboy

    I’d get one, but we have trouble with termites.

  • Dinkee, H. O.

    Jealous?

    • Bill W

      “John Mayer’s riding shotgun and we’re off to get a few G&Ts and then make love in his secluded cabin.”

    • SuperStrapper

      If you’re so rich, why can’t you buy a pair of driving gloves that fit?

      • Dinkee, H. O.

        They’re John Mayer’s driving gloves. I’m just borrowing them for the photo shoot.

      • Chaz

        Ask O.J. 😉

  • Hydra

    lol 50k for a watch with no (or very little) finishing on the movement…

  • DanW94

    The wood looks better inlaid on the dial. The bezels are too much for my taste and it looks totally mismatched on the steel bracelet model. I will say the watches do a good job conveying that vintage roadster vibe though.

    • Shinytoys

      yes, much better inside than out. Classier by far.

  • Shinytoys

    I as well like the mating of the quality wood and the metal. Tres chic.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Meh,…………………………end of review.

    • DanW94

      Nice! See more at concisewatchreviews.com……lol

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Can’t think of what else to say except,………….why ?

        • DanW94

          Just my feeble attempt at a joke about how brief your review of this watch was.

          • Raymond Wilkie

            my befuddlement is why it was designed in the first place.

  • Timestandsstill

    Wow, I think Ariel was more critical (although at times one needed to read between the lines) of these watches than the majority of comments here so far. Let it not be said that ABTW fawns over all the watches they cover ?

  • wallydog2

    If money weren’t an issue, I’d go with the leather strap rather than the steel bracelet in that leather and wood are both organic and had previous lives.

  • cg

    Needs a horn button… That plays “sa sa sa sa sucker!”

  • hasty hughie

    These will be a great buy at the thrift store someday.

  • FrankD51

    The wood bezels look nice but that price is wack, especially for the skeletonized version which lacks any hand finishing by the look of things. And ditch the large RL logo….tacky looking.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Am sure the logo could have been a bit bigger.

    • Dinkee, H. O.

      Agreed!

  • Michael Kinney

    I’ve been kvetching about automotive-themed watches lately, but I think RL does it right, actually. It’s not “Hey! The dial looks like a gas gauge!” but rather taking some of the cues from the gorgeous decoration fine cars had in the day. Every car has a fuel gauge, not every car has burled walnut, and I think it looks as good on a bezel as it does on a dashboard. The PVD and gator look sharp. I can’t say I’m a fan of the skeleton (as in…yeesh) but the 39MM Chronometer Steel in the second photo really pops and it’s COSC.

  • Sevenmack

    The skeleton is interesting and unique. But not $50,000 worth of unique. More like $500, if that. And even then, offerings from Seiko, Maurice Lacroix and others would offer more-compelling watches.

    • egznyc

      Oh what’s a couple of zeros between a watch seller and buyer? 😉

  • word-merchant

    What Ariel wanted to write: “When I saw this watch, I was physically sick. The downside was that I ruined a lovely shirt, and rather destroyed the ambience at the restaurant I was lunching at; the upside was that I did wonders for the patina on my Daytona, and its value’s gone up by $20k.”

  • Marius

    This was a rather critical and harsh review. That’s strange. ABTW didn’t show the same critical spirit when reviewing the $10,000 Hublot that was using a cheap ETA caliber. Or when ABTW reviewed the $17,000 Romain Jerome Pac Man and Batman watches. Apparently, those were cool pieces of art.

    Secondly, I keep reading on ABTW about the “modern” 4Hz rate. The accuracy of a watch is largely determined by the way the movement is ADJUSTED and REGULATED, not the rate. Lange&Sohne watches are extremely accurate despite running at 3Hz or less. In fact, GaryG recently published an article in Quill&Pad, showing that his Lange Datograph Perpetual calendar was only off by less than 1 (one) second per day. So, this highly complicated watch running at 2.5Hz is more accurate than a time-only Rolex working at 4Hz and having a silicon hairspring.

    Lastly, I don’t understand the recent fetish for long power reserves. The power reserve is just a number. When I’m spending over €10,000 on a watch, I’m looking at the movement decoration, fit&finish of the case, etc. Only people who don’t know much about watches are interested in the power reserve since that is an easily quantifiable concept. The Lange Datograph is one of the great watches despite having a PR of only 32-34 hrs. Similarly, most watches produced by Patek, Journe, Dufour, AP, Voutilainen have equally short PR. Looking at the PR of an expensive watch is like looking at the gas mileage when buying an Aston Martin or a Bentley.

    • dennis

      Agree

    • iamcalledryan

      I agree that 2-5hz frequency on a three-hander means very little so long as it is well regulated and well constructed.

      I disagree on the PR point. If you rotate more than two watches on a regular basis, getting a reserve that lasts more than two days is a major plus. I personally quite like to breathe life back into my stopped watches so it’s not so big a deal to me, but it is to a lot of people.

      • Dinkee, H. O.

        There’s a new invention out that may be of interest you.

        http://www.amazon.com/Watch-Winders/b?ie=UTF8&node=378532011

        • iamcalledryan

          I am well aware of those hideous contraptions. I have one gathering dust as we speak. But your suggestion is much like offering up a stopwatch as a solution to someone seeking a chronograph. It’s not of interest to me, but thanks for caring.

          As I implied in my post, I don’t discount a watch with a low reserve, but I appreciate a double barrel, or more, especially in conjunction with a constant force mechanism – it’s a complication and complications have their fans. However, to assume that long power reserves appeal only to those without watch knowledge is simply short-sighted.

          • Dinkee, H. O.

            You’re welcome!

      • Marius

        The long power reserve is the solution to a problem that nobody really has. Firstly, as you very rightly mentioned, the long power reserve works best in conjunction with the constant force mechanism. However, how many watches have such a mechanism? Extremely few because it’s expensive and complex to assemble. In fact, 99% of the watches with a long power reserve don’t have this mechanism; the one that do are all priced at well over €100,000.

        Secondly, and most important, winding most watches (except the Lange 31, of course) will take you less than one minute. So, even if you wear a watch on each wrist and one around your neck, you should be able to wind them and set the time/date in less than five minutes. The people for whom this is a “problem” should maybe get out more in the world.

        • iamcalledryan

          A well constructed double barrel mainspring can deliver around a week of power without the need for a constant force mechanism. I mention the constant force in reference to movements that go further or need to use stronger springs to drive mechanisms (like the jump of a Zeitwerk). A watch with a long reserve but without a remontoire is not useless. A stopped watch is one of the most basic “problems” of a watch.

          Being given the opportunity to chose between a watch that lasts 48 hours and a watch that lasts a week is exactly what complications exist for – they solve problems that quite arguably do not exist if you are prepared to work around them or use alternative devices.

          I am not sure I follow your last point. A perpetual or moonphase can take rather a lot more effort to reset, and regardless, there are many people that do not want to reset their manual three-hander twice a week. I simply don’t follow the logic that their issue actually doesn’t exist and the solution is down to their ignorance?

          • Timestandsstill

            I was about to jump back into this 30 min ago and then decided “why bother?”

            Thank you for your reasoned rebuttal to the above statements, on behalf of those of us who find this particular “complication” useful and desirable

          • iamcalledryan

            A pleasure, sir!

          • Timestandsstill

            Sorry, just saw this. It’s the

          • Timestandsstill

            Sorry, just saw this. It’s the Reverso Grand GMT in rose gold. Just got it in January and absolutely love it. I passed on my Reverso Duo in the smaller GT case to my wife?

          • iamcalledryan

            Very nice. And hat’s off on the Elegante. It’s on the shortlist for my wife’s next watch.

          • Marius

            I`m sorry, but winding/setting your watch TWICE a week VS. winding/setting your watch ONCE a week is not a problem. It`s not an issue. It`s not even a minor inconvenience. So, yes, the people for whom this is a problem and an issue should get out more. Also, most Rattrapante/perpetual calendar owners openly admit that they bought those watches for the complication and craftmanship, not because they ACTUALLY NEED a split-seconds chrono, or because they have a problem with the date.

          • iamcalledryan

            No need to be sorry, you are welcome to dismiss it, but make no mistake that watches with large reserves will continue to be made and to attract people. Nothing really more to be said here…

          • iamcalledryan

            One more thing – you misunderstand the problem, it’s not about the effort it takes to wind a watch, it’s about the effort it takes to reset it. Having a watch that runs out every two days has a far higher liklihood that this very thing will happen vs one with a week’s reserve. Why should people just suck it up and make sure they wind all their watches every two days, when there exists a solution to the issue. I recommend you read up on the history of the seven day movement. It has as much of a problem solving origin as the chiming watch. I grant you that it is not as pretty to look at, but that is upside for a complication, not the complication itself!

          • Timestandsstill

            Agreed, and many of my thoughts exactly. Winding isn’t such a big issue as setting the time and date, especially if one is OCD about the time to within 10 seconds or so, and especially if one has multiple manual movement watches and rotates wearing them on a regular basis. Many of the top tier Swiss manufactures have considered power reserve to be a noteworthy issue and complication to address for decades and even centuries, including the “hallowed house” of PP, who have their own 8 day movements. Most clocks for centuries had almost or more than a weeks “power reserve”, but of course space and size wasn’t an issue. If it was so easy to do, most decent mechanical watches would have much longer reserves.
            And agreed, not much more to be said about this matter …

    • Timestandsstill

      My wife’s FP Journe Elegante has almost a 10 year “power reserve” ? and many of his watches are 4-5 days

    • Dinkee, H. O.

      As usual, we seem to learn a lot about the reviewer when it comes to watches such as these Ralph Lauren wooden masterpieces. Woodies, as I call them — because that’s what they give me!

      All of your points are obsidian scalpel sharp and cannot be questioned, as always. Bravo!

  • Looking forward to next week’s Michael Kors review.

  • funNactive

    If I spend money on a Luxury watch, I want to purchase from a watch company. Not a fission brand (I’m fine with buying their clothing). Just my thought.