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In high fashion, the name Ralph Lauren immediately evokes an idea of elegant Americanism. From the Northeastern preppy perennials of the Polo collection to RRL’s Southwestern-style look, Lauren’s always been inspired by a traditional, born in the USA aesthetic.
In many ways, Ralph Lauren was an upstart. When many American designers looked to the European capitals for fashion direction, Ralph Lauren was dedicated to honoring the heritage of American style and elevating his collections to luxury status.
And while his clothing has become a symbol of refined living, there’s one level of luxury that Ralph Lauren is trying to crack—the world of haute horology. With the introduction of the new Ralph Lauren Minute Repeater, the brand is being taken seriously.
A minute repeater is a complication in a mechanical watch or clock that audibly chimes the hours and sometimes minutes with the press of a button. They were particularly popular in the time before electric lighting because it was hard to read the time in the dark. This is not a modern problem in America, but high-end manufactures still like to make them because they are a challenge.
And collectors love them because of their rarity: They are made up of hundreds of parts, including tiny gongs and wires, and are therefore a time-intensive proposition. Most—like the Ralph Lauren Minute Repeater—are made to order.
By embracing such as ambitious timepiece, Ralph Lauren is, once again, trying to prove that the company has a place at the luxury table. The question is, have they succeeded?
One of Ralph Lauren’s stylistic signatures is a love of the glamorous style of the Art Deco age (he did design the costumes of the 1978 movie version of The Great Gatsby after all). With the Minute Repeater, the guilloché dial and bezel feature an intricate barleycorn pattern of 80 waves spiraling from the center of the watch, all hand done by a master engraver. A small seconds sub dial at the 6 o’clock position is another nod to the Art Deco–inspired geometry of the watch. The white gold case is set on an elegant black alligator leather strap.
The Ralph Lauren Minute Repeater stands out stylistically for many reasons. You don’t see many modern watches with so many traditional techniques, yet it doesn’t quite look like an antique. This is, in part, due to the slimmed down silhouette of the 42mm case. It is only 10mm high, making it incredibly comfortable to wear (especially with a suit—it’s nice and thin so your cuffs won’t get caught on the case).
It’s What’s Inside That Counts
Although Ralph Lauren is all about American style, the company turned to the Geneva-based manufacturers La Barbeque du Temps (who also make movements for Laurent Ferrier and Louis Vuitton) to develop the super complicated caliber. The hand-wound RL888 movement, with a 100-hour power reserve, is water resistant to 30m (rare for a minute repeater).
The chimes are what defines any minute repeater. Ralph Lauren’s model features three distinct sounds that ring out the hours, quarter-hours, and minutes on demand by activating a slide piece. This complication is also protected by a mechanism that prevents the movement from being damaged if not correctly activated.
The Ralph Lauren Minute Repeater is priced at $206,000 and is available at select Ralph Lauren boutiques and retailers. ralphlauren.com