When the Lamborghini car company was sold to the Volkswagen Group, the Lamborghini family retained rights to their name. One member of the family is Tonino Lamborghini, and since the early 1980s, he has been a prolific designer who started out with wearable goods such as sunglasses, wallets, and watches. Today, the man and eponymous brand continue with a large assortment of watches and other Italian-designed luxury goods. For years, I recall seeing them at watch shows such as Baselworld, but I never had much of an opportunity to check out their timepieces, which didn’t always seem as intended for timepiece enthusiasts as they were for the mass consumer market. More recently, however, there has been an outcropping of a new generation of more watch enthusiast-oriented Tonino Lamborghini watches. One of them, the Cuscinetto R (“R” stands for racing), is the timepiece I am going to review today.
Like many Italian tools, the Tonino Lamborghini is a highly expressive machine. The design and its features are meant to capture your attention and create emotion. This is not a product that is at peace being merely a wristwatch. Instead, the Cuscinetto (which translates into “ball bearing”) R watch features a case with skeletonized lugs, a transparent dial, and an authentically spinning ball bearing-themed bezel that doubles as a cathartic fidget spinner. Tonino Lamborghini says that the Cuscinetto R overall is inspired by racing motorcycles.
The original Tonino Lamborghini Cuscinetto watch didn’t have this fancy lug structure, and it had a simpler dial. The Cuscinetto R ups the design ante with an interesting “bridge-style” lug structure, which, like the case, is made out of titanium. The titanium case is rated at 42mm-wide (and 12mm-thick with a roughly 52mm lug-to-lug distance), and this is a timepiece that wears large, albeit comfortably. In fact, the overall comfort of the case is among the product’s highlights. This type of case design isn’t exclusive to Tonino Lamborghini, but it is uncommon in the watch industry. Very high-end brands such as De Bethune helped popularize it, and it makes for an eye-catching wearing experience. The spinning bezel design is fun, with polished steel beads (representing ball bearings) on the otherwise black PVD-coated bezel and case.
While the case is distinctive and interesting, the watch is actually sporty. The Cuscinetto R’s titanium case has 100 meters of water resistance and there’s an AR-coated flat sapphire crystal over the dial. Another crystal is fitted over the movement, offering a view of it. The movement is the simple three-hand with date Swiss Made Selitta SW200-1 automatic movement — which is more or less equivalent to the ETA 2824-2 automatic. The Sw200 operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve. In this execution, the movement is simple, but satisfying, though I would have liked a bit more decoration on the rear-side of the movement. On the dial side of the watch, a small part of the movement is perlage-polished. It looks so nice, in my opinion, that I would have preferred all the movement bridge surfaces to be perlage-polished for maximum positive aesthetic effect. As it is now, the Cuscinetto R’s see-through dial is still very cool and executed nicely for the price of this product.
The watch face itself is not to everyone’s taste, but it is refined with details that are easy to appreciate. Around the dial is a sloped flange ring that helps offer even more depth and assists in the dial feeling more like a real instrument. The dial is slightly smoked in color and has white Arabic -numeral hour markers with strong-looking brushed steel hands. Though as always, I feel that brands go too far when they skeletonize hands, in most design instances. I get why they do it (for a more cohesive skeletonized theme), but I find that, most of the time, skeletonizing hands harms legibility without appreciably offering any aesthetic enhancements.
Attached to the case is a really nice strap whose design exemplifies much of what the Tonino Lamborghini leather goods side of the brand is all about. The tapering shape with its bright orange rubber insert is all about suggesting elegant lines and flashy colors. Tonino Lamborghini also supplies a rubber strap with the Cuscinetto R watch — that is probably best for actual sport activities — which this watch could easily be used for (as much as it makes for a cool cocktail hour watch).
Tonino Lamborghini’s mechanical watches are very different in aesthetic than many of the brand’s long legacy of quartz movement-based models. These automatic mechanical models are clearly intended to appeal more to seasoned watch collectors and have designs and themes much more aligned with the world of traditional watch-collecting than, say, Italian fashion. That said, the Cuscinetto R watch is unapologetically Italian in its concept and form, which you either love or hate. I personally found the overall watch design a bit strange in pictures but came to really enjoy the watch once I put it on my wrist. It isn’t the watch I’d wear every day, but like a loud pair of shoes or jacket, everyone needs at least a few in their collection. Price for the reference TLF-T02-3 Cuscinetto R watch in black with the orange accents is $3,120 USD. Learn more or order at the Tonino Lamborghini website here.
>Brand: Tonino Lamborghini
>Model: Cuscinetto R reference TLF-T02-3
>Price: 3,120 USD
>Size: 42mm-wide, 12mm-thick, and ~52mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: When I want social attention while wearing a distinctive-looking sports watch that is fun to fiddle with.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Lover of Italian fashion and the world of motorsports, especially those who love the Lamborghini name and legacy.
>Best characteristic of watch: Well-engineered original concept. Unique ball bearing-inspired design. Very expressive composition with a legible dial and overall cohesive outcome.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Design is not for everyone. Movement could use more decoration.