Super-syncing smart watches are so hot right now, but Bradley Price is banking on the appeal of an entirely different kind of timepiece. The industrial designer (and avid auto enthusiast) launched Autodromo last November, and the company’s growing collection of driving watches is meant to evoke cloudless days hugging curves on Italian roadways with the wind blowing in your hair. No, they won’t remind you to pick up milk at the grocery store--but that’s also kind of the point.
“They’re emotional touchstones that remind you of driving, even when you are doing something mundane, like sitting in a meeting,” Price tells Co.Design. “The same can be said of aviation or diving watches. Most people are not pilots or deep-sea divers, yet they wear these watches because it speaks to their inner fantasies. For some of us, spirited motoring is just as potent a thrill as either of those more exotic pursuits.”
Price, who has previously worked on the award-winning HomeHero Fire Extinguisher and Skiff Reader, named the latest series Vallelunga after a particularly tough road circuit in Italy, and actually creating the chronographs came along with its own set of challenges. “The subdials and calendar wheel are in fixed locations, so you have to design the rest of the dial around those constraints and make the proportions work,” Price explains. While most mass-produced watches are made with an aesthetic eye to the face alone, Price approached his pieces with equal attention to all sides. “Our proprietary stainless steel case is a smooth, pebble-like form with flush caseback: no sharp edges that can dig into you, and no crevices where lint and stuff can collect. I think it looks just as good from the back as from the front,” he says. As an added bonus for easy upkeep, a small screwdriver can change the battery without the need for a specialized watchmaker tool.
Not quite sure if the look will suit? Print out the clever to-scale PDF on Autodromo’s Try One On page, cut out your favorite, and wrap it around your wrist. “You can even see how the watch will look under the cuff of your favorite shirts,” Price notes. And while chances are slim--sadly--that after you close up your laptop today you’ll pull on some leather gloves, slip into the front seat of a sweet roadster, and speed off for a super-stylish commute home, that needn’t stop you from making a fashion statement. “The ubiquity of technology in our lives has freed the wristwatch from its basic functional purpose, so it’s become a vessel for personal expression,” Price says. “Even very sophisticated watches, at the end of the day, are collected and worn for emotional reasons. People talk about the death of the wristwatch, but I’d say it’s alive and well. The only thing dying is the watch as commodity item. The watch as talisman object is thriving.”