Ralph Lauren’s 1938 Bugatti and the Watches it Inspired

As one of Jean Bugatti’s most controversial cars, the Type 57SC postulated poise over performance in every sense of the word. The 57SC Atlantic Coupe — “57” for its 3,257 cc engine, and “SC” for supercharged — boasted poor seat visibility on its driver’s side as well as a body design that looked far more sleek that its purpose ever allowed. What it lacked in driver benefits, it more than made up for with its 170 horsepower, much more than the cars touting 120 mph during that time period. The Atlantic was one of Jean Bugatti’s final projects. He was killed in 1939 while testing a new version of the Type 57 car after crashing into a tree to avoid hitting a drunken cyclist who’d somehow snuck onto the track.

Of all the Atlantic models made, only two have survived — and one belongs to Ralph Lauren. Lauren only made further controversy when he dubbed the Atlantic 57SC the “most beautiful car in the world,” drawing special attention to the car’s flawlessly crafted dashboard. In an editorial that appeared in RL Magazine, Lauren proudly revealed that the car’s “sculpted panel of burl wood and polished steel served as chief inspiration for his Automotive watch collection.”

The RL Automotive Skeleton mimics the Atlantic’s smooth steering wheel with a bezel made of rare amboyna burl wood, the exposed screws on the watch pay homage to the Atlantic’s signature exposed rivets, and the watch’s visible Swiss-engineered visible movement offers a “metaphoric peek under the hood of the magnificent machine.” As a lasting nod to the Atlantic’s influence on Lauren’s latest collection, the black alligator band on the watch echoes the jet-black finish on the 57SC.

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