Ralph Lauren is a design icon in luxury products, and the brand offers everything from clothing to home furnishings and more, including watches and jewellery. Infused with the Ralph Lauren design aesthetic, the brand’s timepieces are classic, elegant and timeless.
The story of the relationship between Ralph Lauren and the Richemont Group’s Johann Rupert is legendary, how these two titans of industry struck up a friendship and decided to work together, both committed to fine watchmaking. The result is a company that has access to the movement makers of the Richemont Group and has created a team of watch professionals who certainly are experts in the field, and they are working directly with Ralph Lauren to translate his creations into watches for the market.
This year, Ralph Lauren watches are continuing to focus on the Art Deco period, with clean lines, strong geometric forms and simple, traditional designs. The feature piece for 2012 is the Ralph Lauren 867 Watch.
The Ralph Lauren 867 Watch
The Slim Classique Square was launched in 2011, and this year is being renamed the Ralph Lauren 867 Watch, with many different variations offered. The 867 in the name of this watch is in honour of 867 Madison Avenue – the location of Ralph Lauren’s historic flagship in New York. The flagship store first opened in 1986, revolutionising the traditional shopping experience by creating a retail space in an authentic residential environment – the Rhinelander Mansion. The Mansion was originally designed in the 1890s and is an architectural treasure and among the few remaining turn-of-the-century great homes in Manhattan.
Several new models of the 867 Watch are being introduced this year, including a new, very elegant 32mm size, as well as various diamond versions, with one or two rows of beautiful gems.
“We are expanding the three existing collections with a very strong push on Art Deco, while ensuring a consistent and coherent offering,” says Guy Chatillon, CEO, Ralph Lauren Watches and Jewellery. “The 867 Watch highlights the essence of Ralph Lauren and the DNA of the brand. In this timepiece we have everything we want to convey: authenticity, unique design, craftsmanship and timelessness, a watch that could have been worn decades before and will be worn decades from now. This year, we are adding references with diamonds, to broaden our offer in Asia and to women. We want to keep the spirit and the aesthetic, while offering different models to different customers.
“When we started the development of this watch, inspired by the round Slim Classique, we wanted to keep the thinness of this watch,” he continues. “Also, you will notice that the dial of the original Slim Classique has Roman numerals, but we decided to do a combination of Arabic and Roman numerals to highlight the eclectic design. We got the inspiration from different elements of Ralph Lauren Art Deco products – the result is a mixture of modernity and classicism.”
Art Deco is a very important period and aesthetic as a style influence across the board in Ralph Lauren’s product range, but nowhere is it more evident than in the watches. The timepieces feature geometric shapes, bold lines and the timelessness and purity of white and black.
“Art Deco has always influenced Ralph Lauren in his designs,” Chatillon explains. “The geometry and simplicity of the lines and the colours are very important for him. Art Deco evokes beauty and sophisticated glamour. ‘The Great Gatsby’ is from the period of the 20s and 30s, and Ralph Lauren actually designed all the suits for this classic movie starring Robert Redford.”
The Ralph Lauren design ethos carries throughout all the collections, along with a near-fanatical focus on the smallest design elements, to make sure that everything is as close to perfect as possible.
Attention to detail
One of the most important aspects of the Ralph Lauren watch collection is in the attention to detail. The design has been gone over with a fine toothed comb, by Ralph Lauren himself and every member of the team, so no detail is left out.
“This attention to detail is part of the DNA of Ralph Lauren and the Richemont Group,” Chatillon details. “Both value authenticity and craftsmanship and they are non-negotiable values. If you want to be credible in fine watchmaking, you need to have substance, and the substance for us is the craftsmanship. It’s so important to have manufacture movements and we want to focus on the attention to detail – we have to communicate and share this with everyone. It’s part of the educational process and giving substance to the end customer.”
Take for example the guilloche work on the original Slim Classique watches. The high quality of the work was clearly evident, but still understated.
Ralph Lauren designs
The hand of Ralph Lauren is clearly apparent in every watch the company brings to market.
“Ralph Lauren himself is a watch collector, so he knows a lot about watches,” Chatillon emphasises. “He knows exactly what he wants. He has a clear vision for our brand, which is very important. You can see behind every single product, his soul and his passion. He pays attention to every detail.”
“Ralph Lauren wears all the watches in our collection, but I noticed that the 867 has become a particular favourite, which is why he wanted to honour it with a special name,” Chatillon says.
The world according to Ralph Lauren
Unlike many other brands, Ralph Lauren started its distribution of watches slowly, carefully, without pressure to grow too quickly. For Ralph Lauren, it’s all about the partnerships making sense.
“We want our retail partners to be proud to offer and sell our watches, and our watches need to be coherent with the values of our retailers, in terms of quality, unique style and aesthetic, over the long term,” Chatillon says. “We want a partnership with a retailer based on true values, sharing the same values. The comments we get on the products is that we have qualitative product with great attention to detail, and we are reinforcing our identity.”
Recently, business has really been taking off. Once the foundation was laid, working with the best retailers all around the world was the goal.
“We want to keep the distribution exclusive with Ralph Lauren stores and the very best independent retailers,” Chatillon details. “We are focusing on the Ralph Lauren customer and the watch connoisseur, and we are having real success. Our partners need to share the same values as we do, and we are looking for the best partners, to keep the best distribution. We want everyone to be happy, and we truly need the strengths of our partners.”
At the same time that Ralph Lauren is expanding its distribution, its clientele is also growing. “Our customers today are definitely existing Ralph Lauren customers, which is quite a large pool to draw from,” Chatillon points out. “We also notice that people who appreciate design aesthetics are buying our watches, as well as some watch collectors,” he continues. “They like the attention to detail. Also, watch aficionados are buying, because they are looking for something different. We also had a number of car collectors who bought the Automotive watch with the wood dial.”
Ralph Lauren is staying true to its original ideal, focusing on a unique design aesthetic that is timeless and enduring, while at the same time insisting on the highest quality possible, from movements to finishing and everything in between. And, it’s working.
Source: Europa Star February - March 2012 Magazine Issue