This Pony Seems To Balk – Hands-on With The 2020 Ralph Lauren Polo Watch
In a Nutshell: In equine terminology, to balk is when a horse or pony kind of refuses to play ball with its rider’s whims and fancies. The 2020 Ralph Lauren Polo Watch collection may have: a neat looking lacquered green dial; a wearable 42mm x 12.35mm case; a 3D pony and rider that appear marvellously reminiscent of a painting on the dial; an impressive and useful 100m water-resistance; and quality finishings as one would expect from a brand of such calibre.
But as much respect as I have for both Mr Lauren’s designs and for the majority of the watches his eponymous brand has produced in the past, these new more affordable versions to RL’s higher-end luxurious timepieces are a wee bit disappointing. My main gripe? The faux-dive bezel that doesn’t rotate, and a pony that needs to go on a diet to elegantly fit the dial.
To come full circle with my equine terminology analogy, the Ralph Lauren Polo watch as a timepiece seems a bit stubborn, not doing what I would expect a watch from a brand of this calibre — they are not a watch brand but based on their previous Richemont collabs — and ‘tool watch’ aesthetics to do. Let’s find out more…
Who Is It For
The iconic RL ‘Polo Player’ or the pony with a man has been adorning the RL products since 1972. Over the years it has garnered a wide fan-base (including this author). Appearing for the first time full front and centre on a watch dial, it ensures that this limited-time production is for the die-hard fans of the brand who are buying this purely for the big, splashy branding on the dial. Though if my horological knowledge tells me anything, it’s that these could also end up being collector items in the future.
A Bit Underwhelmed
It’s not a bad offering from any standpoint, just a bit underwhelming; and this is particularly difficult for me to acknowledge given how much I actually admire Ralph Lauren (RL) products.
Ralph Lauren I have always felt has been an under-appreciated watch brand, one that manages to enthuse it’s own DNA into classic timepieces.
The underwhelming feeling is perhaps more personal than what other enthusiasts may feel — though I have spoken to a few and scoured the internet for reactions and they seem to match with mine (watch buyers mind you, not writers, the majority of who will praise any and everything) — because I wanted this to be a collection that enthusiasts could be in awe of.
And it’s not just that this lets down their track history of coming up with interesting timepieces that have set excellent precedence since establishing the Ralph Lauren Watches and Fine Jewellery dept. in 2008. Another reason for the underwhelming feeling is that my personal wardrobe boasts of a lot their garments, and being an architect, I actually admire Mr Lauren’s design language.
So when they announced this more pocket-friendly collection earlier last year, I was personally looking forward to it, both as a watch reviewer and as a collector.
The Present Is Trying To Catch Up To The Past
In the past, Ralph Lauren has produced some exquisite timepieces that can put any century-old watchmaking brand to shame. From the elegant robustness of the ‘American Western Collection’ to the glitter of the ‘Stirrup Collection’, and from the glam of the ‘Slim Classique Collection’ to the timelessness of the ‘867’ collection, Ralph Lauren has offered a vast range of horological wonders, some of them being true Haute Horlogerie masterpieces.
The 2018/19 idea of including the RL bear on the dial was a stroke of genius, and I must admit I regret not having one of those in my collection.
But when it comes to the latest versions, for just shy of 3000 AUD you get a borrowed — based on the out-sourced — stock-standard SW200-1 movement with a dismal 38-hour power reserve, an aluminium not ceramic bezel that’s got faux-teeth and grooves — is notched — but is disappointingly fixed, and a watch face that is lazy and unimaginative to say the least.
Pinpointing to the major fashion faux-pas here, I think it’s the oversized logo and the lack of a rotating bezel that hampers the deal.
Talking about the movement, well frankly, there is nothing wrong with it. It’s a universally known, accepted, trusted, workhorse movement but it just doesn’t befit a RL timepiece. Lots of fashion brands with the power of their logo are guilty of using cheaper movements inside souped-up bodies, but somehow I expected a lot more from RL.
Anyway, the movement itself is called calibre RL200 that is derived from, or based on, the Sellita SW200-1. The 25.6mm diameter and 4.6mm thick self-winding movement beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h), comprises of 26 jewels, features customised Geneva Stripes and branding finish on the rotor, and features a 38-hour power reserve and central hacking seconds mechanism along with an anti-shock system.
For those who are not geeking over movements, the takeaway is that it’s a trustworthy movement, and is used in watches by brands such as Baume & Mercier, Oris, Christopher Ward, Eterna and Bell & Ross to name a few. So rest assured it’s meant to tick to satisfaction.
This stock standard Sellita movement can come in four grades, starting from a movement that’s been adjusted only in two positions to a top-grade version that’s COSC-certified. Since there is this possibility for COSC-certification, honestly, if RL can upgrade their versions to a more top-grade movement — and please oh please include a rotating bezel on the case — I would reckon the 2020 Ralph Lauren Polo Watch collection is a very decent offering especially for young watch enthusiasts who would like to tip their toes in the world of fashion and horology.
How Does It Do
The thing that works for it is that it’s got a strong brand recognition value, is well built, has an exceptional leather and silk strap with a comfortable deployant buckle, and the lacquered green dial has a vivid quality to it. The 3D printed/stamped pony and the rider have a good deal of welcome colour to make this offering more relaxed, and fun to flaunt. Plus, one thing that it’s designed to do it does well with flair – it is legible to the degree of crime.
To give credit where due:
- The shade of green is quite immersive
- The tough elox coating treatment of the aluminium bezel is welcome
- Given the Arabic numerals, indices and sword-shaped hands are all in-filled with lume, that’s again one more point in favour of the timepiece
- The orange second’s hand on the green version further elicits a comforting smile though they missed an opportunity to work that mallet as a more functional device on the dial
- Last but not the least is my favourite part about the watches, and that is the customisation option owing to a plethora of beautiful straps RL has available, including ones with a mixture of colourful Madras silk and fine calf leather
- And yes, while the movement may be nothing to impress watch collectors with, it is still worthy to note that it at least features some decoration in the form of perlage and Côtes de Genève.
In my humble opinion, the watch would be much more desirable:
- If the size of the pony on the dial could go on a diet. Physically, the 3D print is too large for the dial face
- The bezel needs to rotate; there is no beating about the bush here. Give this watch a diver appeal and watch it cut through the competition with ease
- The watch already is impressively a 100m water-resistant – include a screw-down caseback and a screw-in crown to finalise the deal
- Last but not least include COSC-certification. Heck, increase the price if you must, because darn-it I have always loved RL timepieces and I want to like these ones as well
Whether you buy this or not pretty much boils down to whether you like the big RL logo on the dial or not. If that’s something that catches your fancy, and you can afford to buy it, there is no reason to not buy it.
As for seasoned watch collectors and enthusiasts, I believe they might give this a miss but hey, different strokes for different folks. But yeah, if you do spot the ‘Bear’ version in the wild, do yourself a favour, and grab one. It’s definitely a collector’s item in the making.
And for anyone simply looking to scratch a new watch related purchase itch or a RL product but is not really in the market for a new timepiece, I would definitely recommend trying on their quick-release straps (in 20mm inter-horn spacing). Just like their clothing, they have an extra edge and are seeped in Ralph Lauren DNA. I usually don’t go about endorsing $390 AUD straps, but to give credit where due, they are very well made and stunning. Maybe it’s just me but one can almost smell the leather by just looking at them.
Bottom line: It is like the pony is leaping out of the dial and on to your wrist; it wants to connect but almost misses. I like the 2020 Ralph Lauren Polo Watch collection. I just wish for some changes so that I can love it.
For more information on this collection of four watches and other Ralph Lauren watches, head to their website here. All images unless otherwise stated are ©Watch Ya Gonna Do About It. These were released in September 2020 and can be hard to find in Australia. That said, the RL Boutique in Canberra has a few models available so you can check these out in the flesh.