Published - A Driving Passion Influences Design

From the TAG Heuer Monaco, made famous by Steve McQueen in the 1971 film Le Mans, to the Richard Mille RM011 Felipe Massa, watchmakers have long enjoyed a tight partnership with the world of motor sport. The influence of fast cars has often been most obvious in dial design, with, for example, the incorporation of subdials suggesting the speed counters on racecar dashboards. Usually, the aim is to emulate the design smarts of the latest racers. But this year, the fashion designer Ralph Lauren is taking a few steps back in time to embrace a bygone era of gentlemanly thrills. Mr. Lauren teamed up with the luxury brand powerhouse Richemont in 2007 to create Ralph Lauren Watch and Jewelry, which introduced its first watch collection in 2009. In its newest version, which will be presented in Geneva this week, the RL Sporting Watch uses elm burl wood around the dial for a look directly inspired by the wooden dashboard and trims on Mr. Lauren’s 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic coupe, one of the rarest and most fabled machines in the designer’s classic car collection. True to the spirit of its original, the watch displays Arabic numerals on the dial for clear readability, while the matte black center of the dial and the strap of black calf leather recall the juxtaposition of wooden dashboard and black leather upholstery in the prized vintage automobile. The watch runs on a manual winding, mechanical caliber, the RL98295, made for Ralph Lauren by IWC, featuring a power reserve of 45 hours. This is not the first time Bugatti has inspired watchmakers. In 2004, Parmigiani Fleurier, which has been the official partner of Bugatti since 2001, released the elegant and unusual looking Bugatti Type 370, inspired by the Bugatti Veyron. This was the first watch to use a barrel-shaped movement reminiscent of a transversal auto engine block, with the dial positioned perpendicular to the strap, allowing a driver to see the watch face more easily with his hands on the steering wheel. Parmigiani produced 200 of the watches before winding down production last year in preparation for the introduction of a new version. Read the whole story in IHT.