Introducing the Autodromo Monoposto Chronograph, the Automotive-Inspired Brand’s First Mechanical Chrono

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Cars and watches have gone together ever since one of the first two car owners uttered the immortal words, “what do you mean, yours is faster?” Timing and racing are inseparable. Yet designing a watch using cues from dash instruments is far, far harder than Bradley Price makes it look. He’s the man behind the automotive-inspired Autodromo and the new Monoposto Chronograph.

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Not only does the watch receive the worn&wound award for the most letter Os in a watch name, it’s the younger brother of the original Monoposto and Bradley’s answer to the people who kept saying, “yeah, I like those Autodromo chronographs, but I could never wear a quartz.”

Previous Autodromo chronographs have run the Seiko VK64 mecaquartz movement where the motive power comes from a battery, oscillations from a quartz crystal and chronography from a traditional mechanical train of gears. The combination gets you quartz-tight accuracy and mechanical snap-to-it chronograph action. For some people, it’s the best of both worlds. For others (see above), it’s like getting Banksy to re-paint the Sistine Chapel.

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The new Monoposto runs a rather more interesting modern, automatic chronograph movement. Like the ‘Tipo, it comes with a Seiko caliber, but this one’s all gears and springs. It’s the Seiko NE88 automatic movement.

Originally designed to show the ubiquitous Valjoux 7750 a thing or two, the NE88 has a column wheel and a vertical clutch. That gets you instant watch nerd bragging rights, but it also responsible for a smoother, more tactile feel to starting, stopping and resetting the chronograph. None of that slightly jerky, finger-denting snap-action you get from cam-and-lever chronos. And none of that trademark 7750 rotor wobble either.

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It’s a 34-jewel movement with a beat rate of 28,800 bph. It’s slightly smaller than the 7750 (not that it matters in a 43mm watch) and uses the rather clever Seiko triple-headed hammer piece that simultaneously resets each of the three chrono sub-dials. It’s sufficiently good looking for the Monoposto to be one of the few Autodromos with a display back.

The dial isn’t exactly shabby, either. You get a choice of silver, black or azzurro (that rather gorgeous sky-blue), a tight sub-dial layout with a 30-minute counter at nine, a 12-hour counter at six and running seconds at three. The chronograph seconds run from the center of the dial along with the hours and minutes.

Bradley’s enjoyment of classic cars comes through in the dial design. He has mentioned that his father ran a Jaguar XK140, and the closed minute track of the Monoposto echoes the closed miles-per-hour track of the XK’s speedometer—very clearly indeed in the white-on-black dial combination. It’s far from derivative though—those numerals don’t come from a Jaguar dash. And, like a speedometer or a rev counter—or any car gauge—the track isn’t a complete circle. See the gap at the top of the dial?  Neat, isn’t it?

There’s a nice bit of humor with “ORE x100” at the top too, picking up on a rev-counter design where revs per minute are usually marked in tens or hundreds.  Here, it’s not revs, but ‘ore’—hours in Italian—that are being measured.

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His trademark of depth-in-simplicity comes through in the sub-dials. We could have ended up with three sub-dials, each with the same scale and arrangement. Nope. Each uses a different scale design, from the five-minute ticks of the running seconds to the single-minute calibrations of the 30-minute dial.  The three sub-dials are pulled together with the same typeface and the same circular graining.

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Again, the dials could have simply been flat to the face of the watch.  Instead, there’s way more visual interest as each is deeply, flat-edged recessed with the three and nine sub-dials flanked with the trademark Autodromo screw-heads.

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But it would be a mistake to see just automotive influences and design cues in the watch. There are strong inputs from the world of watches, too.  For example, the 30-minute sub-dial has three longer minute lines at three, six and nine minutes. You’ll see the same three lines on a lot of vintage chronographs from the Benrus Sky Chief through to the Breitling ref. 760 and the 1958 Rolex 6236 Dato-Compax. What’s their function?  our correspondent is, in fact, old enough to remember British Telecommunications charging for telephone calls in blocks of three minutes. That’s why the lines are there—to measure the units you used during a telephone call. Not a concern today, but a proper vintage chronograph touch.

Bradley explains the thinking. “The difference between the original Monoposto and the new version is that the original was purely based on a gauge from the 1950s. The new watch also infuses elements from vintage chronographs. You’ll notice the number forms are more watch-like and the addition of the sub-dials pushes it further in that direction.”

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Hands make or break a watch. On the Monoposto it would have been easy to use three similar hands for the hours, minutes and chronograph seconds. Bradley instead uses three different hands: a needle minute hand, a similar but broader-based needle hand for the chronograph second and a semi-skeleton hand for minutes. The latter keeps the minute hand from blocking any of of the sub-dials. And, unlike the ‘60s style block-based counter hands of the Prototipo, these are tapering, flat-topped pointers that fit the watch’s style and design era.

Covering the dial is a domed, anti-reflective sapphire crystal that curves into the bezel. And it carries one of the Monoposto’s most distinctive features—the redline. “Back when Grands Prix began, there were no rev limiters or electronic aids to keep the driver from blowing up his engine,” explains Bradley. “Mechanics would apply a strip of red tape or a line of red paint on the glass of the rev counter to make sure the driver knew his engine’s limit at a glance.” This was featured on the time-only Monoposto, too, but it’s been repositioned here to avoid blocking the left sub-dial. Another detail that makes the watch more useable.

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Most vintage chronographs are about as water resistant as rice paper. Sometimes even wearing them in the rain results in that sinking feeling as you watch the crystal slowly mist up. Water creeps in through the stem tube, but floods in through the square pusher openings—a nightmare to waterproof. Not so with the new Monoposto. It’s not intended as a diving watch, but you get a very useful 50m of water-resistance and those gorgeous, heavy square pushers. And of course, with a column-wheel chronograph inside, the more mechanically-obsessed will enjoy starting and re-setting just for the sheer damn satisfaction of the chrono action.

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The lugs could so easily have broken this watch. At 43mm it’s far from a dinner plate, but heavy, conventional lugs could have made it feel very much larger than it is. Bradley’s wire lugs—as well as the lined bezel—make it feel smaller, rather than larger. The strap attached to them is leather, made in the USA, with a roller buckle that picks up the visual feel and wire motif of the lugs.

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All in all, the Monoposto is Autodromo through and through. It’s one of those watches that appears relatively simple until you start to look properly. Then you see the depth of design thinking that’s gone into every detail from the box to the buckle. It passes the test that a good watch always does—you find yourself looking at it when you’re not even interested in the time.

The Monoposto Chronograph marks Autodromo’s five year anniversary. It’s not a lot of time to make a mark in the watch world where some brands are ticking off two and three hundred year anniversaries. And today the grid is packed with Kickstarter “vintage racing” chronographs, too, some rather better than others. But Autodromo, bootstrapped by Bradley, has held its line. There aren’t many who’d dispute that this new watch is a proper winner.

monoposto-30There’s only one question. How on earth did Bradley manage to blag a drive in that stunner of a Lancia D50 for the launch shoot?!


The Autodromo Monoposto Chronograph retails for $1,800 and is limited to 500 units, with 200 black dials, 200 silver dials, and 100 in azzurro. To get yours, visit Autodromo.

 

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Mark developed a passion for watches at a young age. At 9, he was gifted an Omega Time Computer manual from a local watch maker and he finagled Rolex brochures from a local dealer. Today, residing in the Oxfordshire village of Bampton, Mark brings his technical expertise and robust watch knowledge to worn&wound.
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