By now, most Watchuseekers have probably heard of Autodromo. The brand popped onto the scene about a year ago, offering incredibly stylish automotive-themed wristwatches designed in the USA.
Autodromo’s first products were all presented in lugless, brushed cases (designed fully in-house and unique to the brand) designed to evoke themes present in vintage Italian sports cars. This first series of watches (including the immensely popular Vallelunga chronograph) were all powered by Swiss Ronda quartz movements and have nearly sold out in a year’s time, according to Autodromo founder Bradley Price. This is no doubt due in part to watch enthusiasts’ near equal love for all things automotive, but in my mind, it is the killer styling and top-notch presentation for very reasonable prices that has turned the little brand into a noteworthy player in the ever-growing field of boutique watches.
As Mr. Price will freely admit, there was really only one point of critical feedback on his introductory line from certain watch enthusiasts– the quartz movements. There is no question that for many of his customers, attracted primarily by the automotive styling theme, the movement was a non-issue, and for that a high quality Swiss quartz would do the trick as well as anything else. But the same attributes of design and manufacture attracted serious watch enthusiasts as well – and as a member of that club, Mr. Price understood their desire for a mechanical movement quite well and took it to heart. With Autodromo’s most recent release – theMonoposto – he has addressed that issue completely, and the watch is spectacular inside and out.
For starters, the Monoposto is a new design from the ground-up, not a reworking of his original line. While it retains a strong automotive theme, the design cues bring it back to an earlier, simpler era of motoring, kindred but ultimately very different from the sharp lines of his early pieces. The design of the Monoposto is simple and fresh – welcome in a market populated primarily by hefty sports watches with bulky cases of brushed steel. Mr. Price designed the Monoposto, which means “single seat” in Italiano to evoke the simplistic gauge layouts in vintage open wheeled Grand Prix racecars, and the result is highly effective.
The first thing you’ll notice when looking at the watch is a red marker painted on the inside of the crystal stemming from the center of the dial and reaching out between 9 and 10 o’clock on the outer rim of the dial. Although initially a strange design to behold, it harkens back to that same era of racing – well before rev limiters or computer controlled engines – when drivers would literally tape a marker on their tachometer to indicate redline, and reduce the chances of blowing a motor due to over revving.
Despite knowing this little factoid of history myself, it took me a moment to appreciate it on the watch when I first got my hands on it. It was initially completely bizarre, and I can’t say that I bought in to it immediately. However after trying to visualize the watch withoutthe red line, I realized that it fits the theme perfectly – and the watch simply wouldn’t work without it. The 43mm case itself is a stunning dish shape with polished edges and wire lugs. Superbly retro and elegant.
The dial itself, like the others in the Autodromo line, is designed with vintage automotive gauges in mind. he non-luminous dial features Arabic markers from 1-11, laid out in a track evoking a speedometer or tachometer. It reads ORE x100 at the 12 o’clock position, similarly indicating its automotive heritage. A date window is placed directly above the 6 o’clock position, and two screw heads are visible just above. These are as aesthetic as they are functional. Rimming the domed sapphire coated K1 glass crystal is a machine-grooved bezel, and the crown is signed with the Autodromo logo.
Mr. Price, whose background is in industrial design, takes his focus not just to the aesthetic end of the timepiece, but also to the ergonomics of comfort and wearability. The wire lugs are perfectly placed for comfortable daily wear, and the convex case back was designed specifically to rest between the wearer’s forearm bones. Other brands try to address wrist comfort by implementing concavecase backs, while Mr. Price’s experiments showed this to be the more effective design. After wearing it on my wrist for a week, I concur with his decision.
Speaking of case backs - this is where things get important for Autodromo. Beneath the exhibition glass backing lies the heart of the Monoposto – no longer the criticized Ronda quartz, this new iteration makes use of the robust Miyota 821A automatic movement. Featuring 21 jewels and an engraved rotor, the movement is one of the best automatics coming out of Japan today, and with an ever-shortening supply of ETA automatics coming out of Switzerland, it keeps the price down as well. While there are numerous boutique watch brands utilizing the Miyota automatic movements on the market, Autodromo is the only brand I’m aware of with a fully proprietary case design.
As with the earlier releases, the attention to detail in the presentation extends beyond the timepiece itself. Most notably, the quality of the strap fitted to the Monoposto goes well beyond anything else in the price range. Each strap is full grain Italian leather, hand made in the USA. They feature bar tack stitching and a roller buckle, likewise designed to evoke the hood straps on a vintage racecar. A black strap comes with each watch, and tan straps are available from Autodromo for $95. I switched it back and forth a few times to play with the look but couldn’t pick a favorite.
Furthermore, each Monoposto comes with handsome packaging, including an outer box printed with vintage race circuit maps, a red velour lined faux leather slip case, and a number plaque corresponding to that imprinted on the case back of the watch. Unboxing is a treat.
The Monoposto is a limited edition run of 500 pieces (250 with black dial and 250 with white), and just went on sale this month. The price is $875. With the attention to detail throughout the timepiece and its accessories, I have no doubt that the Monoposto is going to rapidly become an essential piece of kit for the horologically-inclined motoring enthusiast. Bellisimo.
By James Lamdin for Watchuseek (c) - James Lamdin is a freelance automotive and watch journalist based in New York City. He is also the Founder of www.analogshift.com, an online boutique for a curated selection of exceptional vintage wristwatches.
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