For lovers of car-themed watches, there’s Autodromo.
It’s been around since 2011, the brainchild of designer Bradley Price. Price, a life-long car nut, mixes vintage vibe and minimalist design sense to create car-inspired watches with modern flair. He only releases one watch a year in order to devote attention to every detail, inside and out—resulting in some seriously nice-looking pieces.
The story goes like this: Price started blogging on Automobiliac years before he began making watches. It allowed him to connect with other gearheads outside NYC, and served as the catalyst for doing work that related back to cars in some way. So why watches? Once he found the inspiration to design a product around the gauges of vintage autos, Price did the research and found that no one in the watch industry was doing quite what he had in mind. Thus, Autodromo was born. And it’s expanded beyond just watches to driving gloves and sunglasses—all relating back to the act of driving.
So why does Autodromo command attention? Let’s take a look.
Because the brand only releases about one watch a year and only in limited batches, it’s fair to say they only have a few models. Each watch models draws inspiration from a different era of car design that makes them distinctive but cohesive.
The Monoposto was Autodromo’s first automatic watch, based on the gauge of a 1950s Grand Prix car. The goal with the design was to make the watch feel oversized–thin bezel, large dial–without being too large at 43mm. And the red line on the crystal? An homage to the old practice of applying red tape or paint to the glass of a dashboard gauge, so a driver could see the limits of his engine during a race.
The Prototipo is Autodromo’s only chronograph model to date. Bearing more than a little similarity to the early Heuer Autavia models, the cushion-shaped case and contrasting sub-registers amp up the vintage look of the dial. Inside is a Seiko meca-quartz movement: half quartz, half mechanical to run the chronograph reset, so you get the best of accuracy and technical credibility.
Based on Group B automobiles, the Group B is the true embodiment of the brand’s vintage/modern aesthetic. The early 80s Group B era saw technical advancement marry exotic material. Reflecting this, Autodromo’s Group B watches come in a variety of colors and are lightweight and sleek. (Our friend Ted Gushue of Petrolicious really loves his—check out the interview where he shows it off this way.)
Taking inspiration from the dashboard instruments of 50s and 60s Italian sports berlinettas, the Stradale is Autodromo’s flagship model. It features a multilayered dial–with hour markers printed on a glass ring that hovers below the crystal–and an automatic Miyota movement.
Making Watches in America
The US still has no watchmaking infrastructure—that makes manufacturing a truly “Made In America” watch difficult.
That fact doesn’t bother Bradley Price too much, though. Autodromo sources its movements from Japan and its parts from quality, specialized manufacturers in Hong Kong. That allows the brand to occupy a more affordable end of the watch market, while still keeping an eye on high-minded design and materials. It helps that Price’s approach is an emotional one that’s not focused as much on technical specs.
Recognizing that watch buyers of today focus a lot on the personal significance of a timepiece as much as they do what’s on the inside, he keeps his designs purposeful. And it certainly resonates, based on the devoted following Autodromo has accumulated in its short lifespan. Autodromo stands out from the Kickstarter names and Instagram-friendly brands of the past decade because of its adherence to the personal.
Images ©: Header,1,3,5-6; Crown & Caliber. 2,4; Autodromo.