Design and fashion mogul Ralph Lauren tells it straight: "I have always had a sensibility to the consumer, because I am the consumer." Of course, he is speaking about all things sold under his label, from home furnishings to polo shirts to underwear, but most recently his business mantra is more apt to wristwatches following this year's launch of Ralph Lauren Watch and Jewelry Co. It's a collaboration between Polo Ralph Lauren and Richemont, owner of such prestigious watch companies as Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, IWC and Panerai.
This is no mere new fashion watch, the bulk of which have very little to do with fine timepieces and more to do with branding. The use of movements from such companies as Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget and IWC by itself sets the Ralph Lauren stable apart. And Lauren and his brother Jerry are keen watch collectors themselves. No one at Ralph Lauren would divulge what the Lauren brothers wear, but I have heard that the new watches are mostly Richemont names, including Panerai and Cartier.
The benchmark for the Ralph Lauren watches is the Stirrup Collection, which resembles a classic Cartier watch but in a stirrup-shaped case and leather strap. This dress watch with the classic Lauren country-chic style will be the icon watch in the 23-watch collection. It comes in 18-karat white or rose gold with a mechanical movement as well as limited-edition platinum in a chronograph. The small case uses a Piaget movement, while the two larger sizes as well as the limited edition use a Jaeger-LeCoultre. The latter is limited to 67 pieces in honor of the year that the Ralph Lauren brand was created. Retail prices start at $12,000.
Personally, I find the Sporting Collection the classiest and best- designed watches in the group. There's a bold boating look to the line that would fit in nicely in black tie or in swimsuit, T-shirt and boat shoes. They come in three variations, including two complications—Chronograph and World Time.
Jaeger-LeCoultre supplies the movement for the two latter models.
The World Time is available in rose or white gold on a black or dark brown alligator strap, while the Chronograph comes in a steel case with either a steel bracelet or brown calf strap. Both start at $9,000.