The umbrella is a much sought-after commodity in the watchmaking community. Not the accessory used to protect from rain (and sometimes from sunshine), but instead the type of umbrella concept so highly prized by brands and which enables them to accommodate their strategy and their image under one consistent ‘roof’ that is theirs alone. Amid the stampede on motorsports, on sailing and aviation, Ralph Lauren has succeeded in finding an unusual Safari-inspired field of expression.
Safari to the power of three
Over the past two years, Ralph Lauren has effectively demonstrated the power of this theme that features three essential elements: the inspirational sources of the founder himself; aesthetic codes in tune with current tastes; and a brand universe well off the beaten track. As Ralph Lauren reminisces: “When I started out as a designer, I dreamt of going to Africa on a safari. It is a call to adventure. It is all about living a dream life and pushing yourself to your limits.” The maestro’s clear, crisp pencil strokes turn the inspiration into reality, featuring powerful lines conveying the natural harmony of the wild and its wide open spaces.
In addition, the safari theme also provides a chance to explore materials and colours as well as shapes. Ralph Lauren was the first brand to use an unusual steel finish known as Gunmetal, radiating a dark gleam that endows timepieces with unique depth. This process enables a new take on full-black watches, which are greatly appreciated but have become somewhat commonplace. The brand distinguishes itself with a subtly original chromatic approach that is exclusive to its own universe.
The materials clothing either side of the straps come in shades evoking those of African tents, while their olive green canvas adds a sturdy touch to timepieces cut out for adventure. The broad hour-markers enhanced with Super-LumiNova serve as a reminder of the functional purpose of watches designed to be consulted and thus easily legible both under the hot sun shining over the African savannah and by the light of campfires.
When the jungle is of the urban variety
The possible limits of the safari theme could well have stemmed from urban gentlemen’s need for elegance, a demand that might not sit well with the rigorous codes and discipline of traditional African adventures. Nonetheless, Ralph Lauren has once again managed to carve out a middle path, leading from the brushlands of the savannah to garden parties in private clubs and resulting in the Sporting models. The recently introduced Black Safari Flying Tourbillon has further enhanced the technical nature of the Ralph Lauren collection; while various new finishing touches – notably including subtle chestnut brown, black or blue leather strap versions and guilloché motifs – accentuate the classicism of its ranges.
“Safari means experiencing life in the wilderness and reaching the most remote frontiers,” sums up Ralph Lauren. So what (if any) limits has the brand set for itself? At less than five years of age, its very youthfulness gives it enviable room for manoeuvre. The Safari umbrella could well be broadened to encompass feminine models, as well as playing around with exotic straps and combining rare types of wood. The horizons are every bit as vast as the spreading African plains…