Got wood? Ralph Lauren does. For cars and watches. For 2011 his wood finally gets into a watch. Based on the interior of one of his most prized automobiles (a 1938 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic Coupe), this Ralph Lauren Watches Sporting timepiece comes complete with an elm burl wood dial.

Interestingly enough I got have a hands-on (well sort of) experience with the car itself after seeing the watch itself. So rather than see the inspiration before the piece, I saw the piece before the inspiration. Last month in Paris I got to see the car first hand (no photography allowed) at the Ralph Lauren car collection exhibit held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (which is part of the Lourve). It is actually still going on and I highly recommend it if you are in Paris by August 28th, 2011.

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The exhibit is a very intimate view into what a man with good taste and a big bank roll gets for his car collection. Immaculately maintained, the collection contains some of the finest and most beautiful looking automobiles ever imagined. While there I realized something. Call it a theory, but I think there is some truth to it. Why is it that many vintage cars and vintage watches embody a certain sense of grace and beauty not found in much of today’s designs? I truly believe that one of the reasons for this (of course if you agree with me that many things today aren’t particularly graceful) is because items today are designed on a computer, and older things were designed by hand. This shift from hand to paper versus hand through mouse/tablet to computer digitally and expressed via small squares on a screen might be a major reason. Think about it.

Whether or not my crazy ideas have merit, you have to agree that the gorgeous curves on some older cars move your mind like the curves on a woman. These items are so emotionally powerful that items which remind us of them are nice to look at as well. I am told that when designing a lot of his clothing Ralph likes to hang out with his cars. So it makes sense that a watch gets the same treatment.

I previously discussed the Sporting Watch with Elm Burl Wood dial here. Now however I have the full hands-on experience and get to show this watch off. Of course the first thing I noticed was the wood on the dial – and is much nicer than the faux plastic wood in that old Buick you once had. It looks very nice and will never appear to be anything but real polished and treated wood. Unlike Mr. Lauren, I don’t get to drive around in vintage (or new) Bugattis, but wearing this watch made me feel just one step closer to being… his valet driver.

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The watch designers did a graceful job at incorporating the look of classic Bugatti dashboards into this dial. At the same time, if you weren’t familiar with the connection to the car, you would not sit there and spend too much time thinking “what is all that wood about.” The concept comes across as being very acceptable.

Based on the Sporting watch case, this large piece is 44.8mm wide in steel. I have to say, despite all the crap Ralph Lauren watches get given their price, they do (in cooperation with Richemont), make a pretty nice timepiece. Quality is good, and for the most part you are getting a Piaget/IWC/Jaeger-LeCoultre with another name on the dial. These are the three brands that make movements in the Ralph Lauren watches, and the cases and other components are from the same places as I understand it. Sure, Ralph Lauren Watches as a brand didn’t exist a few years ago. I don’t really care. In fact, what I care about with any watch is that it looks good and is made well. What they did in 1896 doesn’t really matter to me as much, because I promise you, they don’t do it the same way today – even if a brand was around back then.

Sporting or driving, this is a well-made fashion watch for those who have a special place in their heart for polished wood (or Bugattis, or Ralph Lauren). Inside the watch is an IWC made hand-wound movement that RL called their Calibre RL98295. Finishing is nice, and I can see how the design of the watch and movement feel very mid 20th century high society. While it isn’t a very complicated watch, it isn’t ludicrously expensive (comparatively speaking) at $13,400. You don’t need to rush out and get one, but it should be another step in you accepting the RL watch brand as being more than some expensive version of Emporio Armani watches.

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