Autodromo, is a New York brand that specializes in creating, as they say, instruments for motoring. From fine timepieces to the ultimate automotive accessories, they have the perfect gear for any driving enthusiast. Bradley Price is the president and creative director, as well as a child of the 80s… the era that inspired our very favorite Autodromo timepiece: the Group B. This model is patterned after the gauges and design cues of race cars built for the dangerous, hi-octane rallies of 1982 to 1986. We caught up with Bradley and talked shop around his latest edition, the Group B Series 2 Automatic – Safari – $975.
We’ve loved your automotive-inspired watches and accessories for a long time. Each piece always seems extremely thoughtful and takes the Autodromo positioning very seriously. Now you’ve released something that is extremely fun and self-aware. Can you talk about this new level of playfulness?
I think there have been changes in the buying mentality especially on the independent watch scene. A few years ago there was this focus on seriousness—people wanted the finest Swiss movement at a given price point. It was an attempt at connoisseurship, even though we’re talking about objects in a relatively low price category. But a shift has occurred and people are enjoying frivolity a bit more.
There’s also a taste for more adventurous color choices. I think that since there are so many silver, black and white objects out there, that products with alternative colors literally just stand out. And we’ve seen that colorful watches now tend to be our best sellers. For example, our Group B S2 Corsica Blue tapped into this Miami Vice color language (seen above) that people loved. Our new Safari Edition has a more subdued and sophisticated color palette, but it’s still a standout piece. There’s just not that many green watches with green bracelets on the market. It’s positioned now as an alternative to the monochromatic palette that so many brands these days have.
Speaking of green, tell us about the design decision to go with what seems to be a very style-conscious colorway. Green doesn’t seem like it’d be the obvious choice for your first plated edition, yet it works so well. How’d you arrive at this particular look?
Well, I feel like there’s been this renewed interest in green cars that’s been going on for a few years now. I think it was sparked by an Italian gentleman, Eugenio Amos, who painted a classic Ferrari F40 a dark green color. The internet went crazy over it. He’s recently applied a similar scheme to a Lancia Delta Integrale. Now people are even custom ordering green Porsches these days. I just feel that dark green is having a moment.
We actually made the Safari Edition quite some time ago, and since then Apple coincidentally made the iPhone 11 Pro in this dark green as well.
The James Brand just came out with a similar green version of the Ellis too.
Exactly. That’s a great brand, I really admire what they do. Yeah, the week we launched both Period Correct and Ruf came out with safari-theme products as well. There’s definitely a lot of cultural synchronicity going on right now.
We noticed that when you compare the dial design of the Group B Safari to the standard edition, the Safari typeface seems to slide perfectly into the layout between the words Group B and Automatic… almost like it was always meant to be there. Can you talk about the Safari type design?
I just wanted to have a very 80’s typeface that felt period and would have been used in an ad campaign or movie poster from that era. I discovered this typeface, that I felt was a good fit. And again, in a weird twist of synchronicity, a friend who designed plaques for Leh Keen’s Safari 911s used the exact same typeface. So crazy coincidences are abounding.
I love what Leh Keen is doing with his Keen Project Safari 911s. Which were a real inspiration for this Edition. I think what he’s doing is a great example of what we’re trying to do with this watch. On the hand it’s a Porsche and it’s a serious performance product. But he’s injecting a certain amount of fun into these highly capable vehicles. They have really fun colors and wild interiors. I really like the way he’s combining customization with performance.
We love the packaging for the Group B Safari. Obviously it has the iconic Porsche 959 illustrated on it, which had a rally version. Can you talk a bit about the inspiration for the packaging design?
I thought about putting a Keen Project Safari 911 on the packaging, but felt that would be a little too on the nose. For me, my favorite and the most extreme Porsche was the 959 rally car that they used for the Paris to Dakar in the mid 80s. I had a complete love affair with that car as a kid. I loved the knobby tires and the fact that it sat really high. It felt like a fitting car to put on the box instead of the Lancia 037, which is the car that’s on the standard Group B box.
So we’re having this interview while most of the world is locked down due to the COVID-19 crisis, and yet you just released a watch that is a pure embodiment of the idea of an escape. How do you think the context of this crisis impacts the concept of this watch?
My wife and I had a long discussion about whether or not it was appropriate to launch the watch given the problems going on in the world. From a business point of view, we asked ourselves, “Do we launch a watch and risk that maybe it doesn’t sell so well because of this crisis? Or do we hang onto the merchandise longer and hope that the situation changes sooner than later?”
We ultimately felt that it might be nice to have something new out there that people can be excited about in spite of the troubling times. I was a little worried that some might say, “How can you launch a new watch right now?” But in fact the reaction’s been overwhelmingly positive. And people seem happy to see us launch something new, even in this terrible time. They seem to like that we’re trying to keep things running. It’s selling well and I think it’s a testament to how strong this particular model is and it is a nice way to escape for some people.
Are there any projects on the horizon that you’d like to give us a little teaser about?
This is the last edition of this particular series of the Group B. So this is the last chance for a while to get one. Having said that, you are seeing the beginning of something new for Autodromo. We’re going to be more colorful and playful going forward. We’re seeing an appetite for people to have things that are more fun and easier to get into.
I think enthusiasts have collected more serious, expensive pieces over the past few years and are ready for something different. So we’re moving into a more approachable price point and a more playful zone. So the next watch we’re working on will be under a $500 price point with a wider range of colors and we’re aiming for it to be available for the holidays.