When Autodromo sent us some Prototipo Chronograph watches to check out, the first thing I got excited about were the gloves that they also supplied. Based in New York and founded by watch and car lover Bradley Price, Autodromo is part of a new generation of lifestyle micro brands. Buying an Autodromo watch is as much about buying into the lifestyle they suggest as it is about enjoying their products. As a brand entirely devoted to the celebration of vintage European sports cars, having racing themed watches isn’t enough.
So in addition to watches like the Autodromo Prototipo Chronograph and Veloce, Autodromo also offers sunglasses and driving gloves. These happen to be the Autodromo Stringback Driving gloves, and while they aren’t cheap at $125, they are instant winners in my book for warmth, comfort, and offering finger dexterity. Putting them on and enjoying the experience made for a good beginning to learning about the brand and reviewing the Autodromo Prototipo Chronograph collection.
As of now, there are four different versions of the Autodromo Prototipo Chronograph. Each has a distinct dial color palette and there are three different straps among the four models. I like that they are not simply the same watch with some minor color differences. The different tones and straps give them each a distinct character and it is difficult to find a favorite.
According to Autodromo, the Prototipo Chronograph watch collection is inspired by the colorful design and fun ingenuity of prototype racing cars from the 1960s and 1970s. Anyone familiar with items from the era will easily recognize the Autodromo Prototipo Chronograph not only as a retro-inspired timepiece, but also one that draws heavily from classic racing watch design – mostly from the late 1960s to early 1970s… and that is all with a modern twist and sense of refined style.
At 42mm wide by 48mm tall, the Autodromo Prototipo Chronograph watches wear modestly, due to the lugless tonneau-style case. That means this isn’t a small watch, but is certainly not something that we would refer to as “large.” Having said that, there is an enjoyable boldness to the design, which is aided by the prominent thickness of the case (11.5mm thick). The case is in steel and water resistant to 50 meters with a sapphire crystal over the dial.
Some of the nicer case details include the black-colored chronograph pushers, as well as the hex-style crown. You’ll also notice some polished edges on the steel cases. Those can’t be seen, however, on the all-black version of the watch, which is known as the Autodromo Prototipo Chronograph Nero, due to its PVD black coating over the base steel case. That model has a character all to its own.
As a classic racing-inspired watch, the Autodromo Prototipo Chronograph dial makes good use of attractive, bold colors. These are used for the hands mostly, and help the dials be both legible and distinctive. From a fashion perspective, they are also interesting when trying to match them with the proper clothing. Overall, I find that each of the models gets high marks for legibility, even for the subdials.
Though, I will remark on the hands, which may be a controversial area. I like the design of the hands, and technically, they satisfy the rules of where they should end, but since the hour markers are so small, the hour and minute hands are almost the same length. Basically a good rule is to have the hour hand end at the start of an hour marker, and have the minute hand go all the way through it. These hands do that, but as you can see, it results in them looking very similar in length. I personally don’t really have a major issue with this, but some people might.
The Autodromo Prototipo Chronograph has a lot of nice detail on the dials, from the slick minimalistic tachymeter scale on the periphery, to the little screws at 3 and 9 o’clock. The refined design helps these relatively inexpensive watches look their best. Functionally, the dial offers the time, 60 minute chronograph, synchronized 24-hour hands (AM/PM indicator) and the date at 6 o’clock.
Inside of each Autodromo Prototipo Chronograph watch is a Seiko caliber VK64 “Meca-Quartz” movement. These are analog quartz movements that are pretty nice to use. So what do you need to know about the “meca” part? That is a good question. Unlike many cheaper analog quartz chronograph watches, there are more mechanical elements at play here, so using the chronograph feels a lot more like those in purely mechanical watches. How’s that? Well, the chronograph seconds hand sweeps similarly to that in a mechanical movement (versus moving forward once each second), and most important (for me), is that the chronograph hand instantly resets. On many analog quartz movement watches, the chronograph seconds hand slowly moves around the dial back to the zero position when you reset the chronograph – and I find that to be very annoying.
There is no “best version” of the Autodromo Prototipo Chronograph, so it is a matter of choosing the color and strap combo you like. If you are keen on the collection, as many people who love older cars and can’t afford a few thousand (to many thousands of) dollars are, then I think you’ll be happy with one of these watches. They are certainly stylish for fans of this aesthetic and well-made for the money. The supplied straps are comfortable and wrap around your wrist nicely without being stiff. They also offer some of that cool vintage racing vibe that helps complete the package. Entertaining and easy to enjoy, the Autodromo Prototipo Chronograph watches are each priced at $625. You can buy them online as well. autodromo.com
>Model: Prototipo Chronograph
>Price: $625 USD
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Fashion-thinking car-lover who is into vintage and on a budget.
>Best characteristic of watch: Nicely refined design and well-curated collection emblematic of an era, but for today.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Hour and minute hands might be difficult to distinguish for some people.