Ralph Lauren’s clothing and accessories designs have long been known for their aesthetic evocations of the American West, and with the new Ralph Lauren American Western Watch Collection, a range of limited editions launched to coincide with the fashion giant’s 50th anniversary, the designer brings that same sensibility to the timepiece brand he launched in partnership with the Richemont Group back in 2009. Here’s a closer look.
Described by the company as an “artful blend of Swiss watchmaking and iconic Ralph Lauren style,” the timepieces bring to mind the look of the vintage rodeo and concho belts worn by Ralph Lauren himself, with both the metal cases and leather straps adorned with the ornate, organic motifs found on such belts. The materials chosen for the various models, and their finishing, are also a nod to the historical tools and apparel of the American frontier: antiqued sterling silver and antiqued 18k rose gold for the cases and burnished vachetta leather for the straps. And while the watches are manifestly Swiss at their technological heart, they are also defiantly American in their outward-facing exterior design details: the metal cases and buckles are hand-engraved and aged in New York City, the worldwide headquarters of the Ralph Lauren company, while the leather straps are hand-tooled and burnished in Texas, from which much of America’s Old West mythology springs.
Two models in the Western Collection are in 1930s-1940s’-inspired, cushion-shaped cases measuring 42 mm in diameter and 10.6 mm thick. The lacquered off-white dials also channel the look of a well-aged timekeeper, with the combination of hand-printed Roman and Arabic numeral hour-markers that is a hallmark of Ralph Lauren watches, and vintage-look, Breguet hands in shiny, oxidized black to indicate the hour and minute. A 24-hour scale also appears subtly in the interior Inside the antiqued silver or gold case is a Swiss-made, self-winding movement, Caliber RL514, made for Ralph Lauren by Piaget, a sister brand in Richemont’s horological luxury portfolio.
Caliber RL514, which beats at a balance frequency of 21,600 vph, features 26 jewels, and holds an approximately 40-hour power reserve, also powers a round-cased model in the new collection, also available in both silver and gold, and measuring a stately 45.8 mm in diameter and 11.24 mm thick. Like its cushion-shaped brethren and, in fact, all of the new models, each watch could be considered one-of-a-kind, as the weights of the engraving strokes and the patina levels of the cases are all subtly different, owing to being applied by hand. The calf leather straps on both the round and cushion-shaped models are interchangeable, with 18k engraved gold pin buckles.
The other round-cased wristwatch, the RL Western Round Skeleton, offers the same artisanal charms as the previous models but also a skeletonized movement, the manual-wound, Swiss-made Caliber RL1967, which made its debut in 2015’s Automotive Skeleton watch. Developed by another of Ralph Lauren’s Richemeont stablemates, IWC Schaffhausen, and modified by the experts at ValFleurier, this version of that openworked movement boasts engravings on the main bridges and base plate that match those on the case for a harmonious look.
Rounding out (or, perhaps, rounding up) the Western Collection are two pocketwatches. One is in a 50-mm antiqued rose gold case and designed as essentially a pocketwatch version of the round-cased model, with its off-white lacquered dial, Breguet hands, black printed numerals and minute track and engraved case details.
Finally, the most exclusive piece, limited to just 50 pieces overall, is a full hunter-style pocketwatch in antiques sterling silver, also 50 mm in diameter but slightly thicker than the gold version, at 14 mm. The watch is notable for the floral engraved motif on its case cover, which incorporates two different types of engraving, and is topped off by a molded, vintage rodeo-inspired steer head from a hand-carved mold and finished with piercing ruby eyes.
Both pockewatches contain the manually winding RL98295 caliber, also developed by IWC and modified for Ralph Lauren, which has 18 jewels, an 18,000-vph frequency, and a 45-hour power reserve. Both timepieces’ chains, made of the same metal as the case, also have the same antiqued finish.
Prices are $24,000 for the sterling silver round and cushion models; $39,000 for the rose gold cushion; $42,000 for the rose gold round; $48,000 for the silver round skeleton; $58,000 for the rose gold round skeleton; and $44,000 for both pocketwatches. The Ralph Lauren Western Collection will gallop into retailers in November 2018.
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Author: Mark Bernardo