The Ralph Lauren American Western is fit for the Wild West The Ralph Lauren American Western is fit for the Wild West

The Ralph Lauren American Western is fit for the Wild West

Fergus Nash

Escapism is the source for a lot of humanity’s great works, whether it’s the novels of Jules Verne or the post-impressionist paintings of Van Gogh. For the legendary fashion designer Ralph Lauren, it was the John Wayne and Gary Cooper led Hollywood Westerns of the 1940s and ‘50s. When his company reached its 50th anniversary of making clothes other than neckties in 2018, the Ralph Lauren American Western Watch Collection was created to honour the founder’s love for cowboy culture. Ever since the introduction of the Polo Western range in 1978, the crossover between denim workwear and Western style has been deftly explored by Ralph Lauren and is perhaps their most sought-after output besides the Polo shirt and Polo Bear.

The cases

There’s a certain timelessness to the American Western style, and not because it can’t be traced back to a very specific time period of the late 1800s. The image of a stoic hero riding through the Wild West imbues a sense of enduring freedom, comprised of both their lawless honour and their hard-wearing clothing. That “rugged elegance”, as Ralph Lauren puts it, has carried over to the American Western Watch Collection through expert choice, decoration, and finishing of the case material. Each of the cases in this collection is made from 18k rose gold or sterling silver. The silver cases are a lot more authentic to the kind of jewellery that Wild West cowboys were adorned in, but the rose gold has that brassy tone which evokes the warmth of the desert. The metal is then hand-engraved by an artisan in New York, before being given an “antiquated” finish that elevates the decorative contrast and prevents them from looking too new.

Four distinct watches have been designed for the Ralph Lauren American Western Watch Collection, each with a reference in either silver or gold. The first two references are limited editions of 50 pieces, and certainly a niche offering. Pocket watches aren’t worn a lot these days, but if you’re truly dedicated to old Western fashion then a wristwatch would be far too anachronistic. The version in silver is a hunter case with a flipping lid, while the gold version is an open-face with more floral motifs in the engraving. Both are 50mm in diameter, which feels like a good medium size for a pocket.

The Western Round Model feels by and large like a pocket watch conversion, even down to the wire lugs which would have been soldered to a case for the purpose of strapping it to the wrist. Thankfully, Ralph Lauren have managed to capture that style without any of the clumsy drawbacks of a real conversion. The case size is brought back to reason with a 45mm diameter, which does sound massive still, but is ultimately tamed on the wrist by a 48mm lug-to-lug length and the fact that it’s a loud watch no matter the size. The crown is located at 2 o’clock instead of at 12 like the pocket watch, and instead of the lugs being fixed they take a 20mm quick-release spring bar. The Round Skeleton Model also shares the same case.

The straps

It’s not usual to talk about the strap before the dial in a Time+Tide review, however the leatherwork on display here is one of my favourite aspects of the collection. You can’t visit any frontier-style town without seeing at least one leather stamping shop, but beyond novelty collectibles the art of leather tooling was always a way to express identity on saddles, chaps, and belts. The straps of the Ralph Lauren American Western Watch Collection are hand-tooled in Texas from a rugged calfskin, and burnished in Italy for a leather strap experience unlike any other. The floral patterns suit the engravings on the case well, and the underside is padded and smooth for comfort.

The dials

To be brutally honest, the majority of pocket watch dials from the American West of the 1800s were pretty boring. White dials with Roman numerals and no other details were the standard, and brand power wasn’t quite what it is today. Ralph Lauren have used some artistic liberty to create something that looks more characterful, while still having a sense of belonging to the cowboy movies of old. The Western Round Model and the pocket watches share the same style of dial, with an off-white cream base and Breguet hands. The numerals alternate between Roman and Arabic at the quarters, with a small 24-hour ring on the inside. The Ralph Lauren logo is printed simply, letting all of the other details speak for themselves.

The Western Round Skeleton Model is much more of an ornate affair, exchanging tradition for an all-out love letter to American Western engraving. The plates and bridges have been given a similar treatment to the case, which is just a stunning effect that breaks down the barriers between case, dial, and strap. The skeletonisation also allows you to trace the transfer of energy from the balance to the gears, putting on a mesmerising display.

The movements

Ralph Lauren isn’t a brand known for it’s horology, but that doesn’t mean the American Western Watch Collection isn’t full of incredible movements. The calibre RL98295 residing within the pocket watches is manufactured by IWC, and was inspired by some of the early Jones calibres that powered the early Portuguese watches. That same movement seems to be the base for the RL1967 that is used by the Round Skeleton Model, indicated by the telltale regulator needle that stretches halfway across the calibre. The decoration and finishing are immaculate, with a power reserve of 46 hours and a 18,000vph beat rate. The regular Round Model uses a calibre RL514 that’s made by Piaget, which beats at 21,600vph and has a 40 hour power reserve.

The Ralph Lauren American Western Watch Collection pricing and availability:

All watches in the Ralph Lauren American Western Watch Collection are made to order, so you’ll need to get in contact with your local Ralph Lauren store to begin the process. Ralph Lauren has a brand new flagship store on Pitt Street in Sydney, where you’ll be able to experience these watches in the metal. Price: A$63,500 (45mm Round in rose gold) / A$68,500 (45mm Round Skeleton in sterling silver) / A$70,000 (50mm Pocket Watch in rose gold)

Brand Ralph Lauren
Model American Western
Case Dimensions 50mm (Pocket Watch)
45mm (Round Models)
Case Material 18k Rose Gold
Sterling Silver
Water Resistance 50mm
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial Off-white
Lug Width 20mm
Strap Hand-tooled calf leather
Movement RL98295 (Pocket Watch)
RL1967 (Round Skeleton Model)
RL514 (Round Model)
Power Reserve 46 hours (Pocket Watch and Round Skeleton Model)
40 hours (Round Model)
Availability Made to order, with the pocket watches limited to 50 pieces.
Price A$63,500 (45mm Round in rose gold)
A$68,500 (45mm Round Skeleton in sterling silver) 
A$70,000 (50mm Pocket Watch in rose gold)