Ralph  Lauren watches have taken a lot of heat in the time since their announcement a few years ago. Yes, Ralph Lauren (RL) is a fashion brand, and yes they are pricey – but they have a lot of redeeming values. One of the things RL did right in their partnership with Richemont was not to BS the movements. They simply use movements (sometimes made specially for them), from established and respected movement makers such as Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and IWC. When asked what movement is contained one of their watches – they proudly tell you that they didn’t make it, and who did.

Still, it is taking some time for the brand to be taken seriously. The common complaint about them is that “it is best buy a watch from a  company that makes watches.” Especially at these prices. In response to all this, Ralph Lauren watches just keep trying to get better in terms of design and what they offer. Every guy’s favorite new RL piece for 2011 is the Sporting Chronograph Black Ceramic. Coming in two sizes, the watch cases are in all matte black ceramic. RL isn’t the first brand to do this, but the result is pretty nice for them. Plus, this comes after a limited edition piece they did last year that was a virtually identical looking watch that I think was in black vulcanized rubber over steel with an orange versus red chrono seconds hand.

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Ceramic is a bit lighter than steel, and is very (very) scratch and wear resistant. For me, this makes it a really tough to pass up material. Aside from the screws, I think most of the case and bracelet are ceramic. There is also supposed to be a black tinted sapphire crystal over the caseback – but the prototype I saw didn’t have that.

Run your fingers over the black ceramic and it feels good. Really a slick watch with a good look it given the classic sense of sporting equipment the case design of the watch has. One thing that does not impress me as much is the “RL” logo that is placed on the crown and bracelet clasp. It is done in a polished on matte style and in my opinion does not seem fitting with the watch or the positioning of the brand. The logo looks more appropriate for sun Ralph Lauren sunglasses, and is not in line with the held-back, more elegant Ralph Lauren logo on the dial.

RL is offering the watch in a 39mm size and a 45mm wide. The 39mm size doesn’t have the red seconds hand, but rather a white one. For most modern men, it feels too small. So call it a nice ladies piece. The 45mm wide version is pretty “pimp,” but I would have likes the lugs to curve a bit more to wrap around wrists. The black and white dial is what you expect – classic looking with a hint of modern style and easy to read. Nothing revolutionary here. It is just “nice” without making your heart-throb.

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Inside the watch is an automatic Jaeger-LeCoultre chronograph movement that they call the RL750. It has a power reserve of 48 hours and lots of Cote de Geneve and perlage polishing on it. The price of the watch isn’t crazy actually. Though the difference between the 39mm wide version and the 45mm wide version seems artificially high. In the 39mm ceramic case the Ralph Lauren Sporting Chronograph Black Ceramic is $5,500, and $6,400 in the 45mm wide case.

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