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A live report from SIHH 2015 by Olivier Mueller of Delos Communications

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A few years ago, when a Ralph Lauren booth popped up in the middle of Palexpo, where SIHH is located, some laughed. Most people were wondering what a fashion/clothes/fragrance brand could be doing jostling for position with the likes of A. Lange & Söhne and Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Three years later, things have changed. The brand has defined its own territory without any overlap with its sister lines, creating a style that is now immediately identified and recognized. Ralph Lauren doesn't hide the fact that it's not a mnufacture. All its calibers come from third parties and Ralph Lauren clearly names its partners: IWC, Piaget or Jaeger-LeCoultre. Not bad.

But, even more important, the brand is consistent in its collections and style. Safari, Stirrup and pieces inspired by the passion of Mr. Ralph Lauren for vintage cars are now the main components of the brand's universe. For a couple of years now, Ralph Lauren has incorporated pieces of wood in its timepieces and, here again, this remains consistent with a brand new collection that further extends this inspiration. The difference now is that Ralph Lauren doesn't go further in the tourbillon experience. It seems like the use of a tourbillon was not understood by clients for such a young brand playing in the traditional Swiss Made watchmaking playground.

Bugatti style

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Today, Ralph Lauren comes with four different main models for men, in different collections. The RL Automotive collection is a perfect blend of fine watchmaking and the universe of old automobiles. Ralph Lauren finds his inspiration in one of the most legendary cars of all time: his award-winning 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe - only four of which are known to exist in the world. Six new Ralph Lauren Automotive timepieces (including variations on the same model) are offered for 2015, using a combination of materials, including rare hardwoods, to emulate the richness and clarity of the Bugatti's dash, which has been a model for the Ralph Lauren Automotive timepieces since the collection launched in 2011. All models are very well designed and finished but one detail might not encounter a huge success: Ralph Lauren's brand new logo, placed at noon, combining an R and an L. Modern, massive, it is supposed to represent an old car logo but actually fails. An interesting wish, but not relevant for a watch unfortunately.

RL Automotive Skeleton

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The RL Automotive Skeleton features an open-worked, hand-wound mechanical movement. The RL Automotive timepiece in a 45mm case size expresses the same philosophy, and has a similar engine - the caliber RL98295, a hand-wound mechanical movement made for Ralph Lauren by IWC.

The Automotive Chronograph

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The Automotive Chronograph features a dial enhanced with elm burl, which offers a subtly different expression of grain and depth from the amboyna burl. The last one, the Automotive Chronometer, is the same but COSC certified - with a caliber provided by Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Welcome to the jungle

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In 1984, Ralph Lauren introduced his first Safari collection. The RL67 Safari Chronometer with khaki-colored dial continues the integration of design motifs expressive of the Safari collection. The RL67 Safari Chronometer with camouflage dial completes it with quite a military look and feel. As with all RL67 Safari Chronometer models, the one with camouflage dial features a case with an "aged" blackened steel finish. It's interesting to note that Ralph Lauren doesn't use any more the 'gun metal' phrase to describe that very specific case finishing, which might have sounded too military when combining such a metal with a camouflage dial.

Visit the Ralph Lauren Watches website
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