You know, we could probably do an entire article on watch brands that don’t quite get the credit they deserve. In fact, we did kind of do that in this guide right here. But while that piece was focused largely on heritage brands that have been overshadowed for one reason or another in a crowded market, there’s a whole other segment of brands that are a bit more contemporary and don’t get the love they deserve. Brands that take watchmaking seriously and have a clear, focused design language that, even if it doesn’t speak to you personally, is easily recognizable and could really only be the creation of one maker. If we were going to make that guide, I know the brand that I’d put at the top of the list, and that would be Ralph Lauren Watches and Jewelry.
Why Should You Pay Attention to Ralph Lauren’s Watches? The Polo Vintage 67 Might Answer that Question
You might be thinking, correctly, that any brand with the name “Ralph Lauren” in it surely doesn’t need a microscope on it for attention and press. Largely through the Polo brand, Ralph Lauren has built an apparel empire that really can’t be matched, certainly not by an American brand or designer. The house style, which is sporty and classic, mixing a clear “prep” influence with classic aspects of Americana, has had an enormous impact on how we dress, and made Ralph Lauren himself a billionaire several times over. The watch division, though, doesn’t get talked about much in enthusiast circles.
There might be a perception that Ralph Lauren or Polo branded watches are “fashion” watches, the likes of which you’ll find behind the counter at any American mall. The watches that come out of Ralph Lauren Watches & Jewelry, though, are anything but mass produced exercises in name brand licensing. If you’ve had the chance to see these watches in the metal, you know that they’re a step above the typical Mall Watch, and higher end examples (sometimes in precious metals) have used Jaeger LeCoultre made movements along with other luxury trappings. Their current offerings run a wide gamut, and include distinctive case shapes, engraved silver cases, and watches directly inspired by Lauren’s own cars, featuring burl wood accents.
The latest watch in the Ralph Lauren collection, the Polo Vintage 67, is styled to look like a pocket watch from the 1920s or 1930s, and features large Arabic numerals in a black lacquer. The hands are similarly black lacquered and in a traditional leaf shape, and a railroad style minute track surrounds the dial’s perimeter. Branding is simple and understated (well, at least compared with other Ralph Lauren watches prominently featuring the Polo Bear) and consists of the “Polo Ralph Lauren” wordmark at 12:00 and not much else. The dial is in opaline silver and presents as a shade of off-white that feels right for a watch in this style.
The dial, I think, is fairly inoffensive, and if you like the aesthetic of old pocket watches and the general vibe of the Polo brand, chances are you’ll find it at least somewhat appealing. What I think is more interesting, and perhaps a bit more controversial, is the case. It’s 40mm in diameter and just 9.1mm thick in stainless steel, and according to the brand it’s been distress polished, giving it an “aged steel” look. It’s hard to tell in the images provided by Ralph Lauren, but if you’ve ever picked up a well-loved watch that was made a century ago, you can imagine that this might mean the case has been given texture it might not otherwise have. The case has soft contours throughout, which remind me somewhat of the vintage cars Ralph Lauren is known to collect.
Powering the watch is a hand wound Swiss movement made by La Joux-Perret. Caliber 7380 beats at 3 Hz and has a generous 90 hour power reserve, and its Côtes de Genève and perlage finishing can be observed through a display caseback. The watch is mounted to a tan calfskin strap, with the option to upgrade to a Bund style strap, as seen in the photos provided by Ralph Lauren.
I don’t think we should expect Ralph Lauren watches to become enthusiast favorites anytime soon, but nevertheless, the watches offer an interesting alternative to typical Swiss luxury fare. At a recent panel at the Windup Watch Fair in New York City, a question was asked about what unique aesthetic qualities a contemporary American watch brand should possess, and I can’t help thinking that the Polo watches offer one of many possible answers to that question.
The retail price of the Polo Vintage 67 is $2,700. More information at the Ralph Lauren website, here.