New & Noteworthy: The Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium

If you are a watch enthusiast, chances are you also like cars. The mechanical complexities, aesthetic preferences, heritage, and culture in these areas tend to attract the same personalities. If there’s one independent watchmaker that best marries the two unified spheres of connoisseur, arguably it would be Laurent Ferrier. A professional driver, Laurent Ferrier raced against the likes of Paul Newman with considerable success. The Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium constitutes Ferrier’s tribute to his illustrious driving career.

Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium

History

Long before forming his watchmaking brand in 2009, Laurent Ferrier was a professional car racer. Few know that in addition to racing, Laurent Ferrier, came from a dynasty of watchmakers, and personally worked for 37 years for Patek Philippe. In his role with Patek, Laurent Ferrier was on the team involved in the design and execution of the Patek Philippe Nautilus. Thus, Laurent Ferrier was making waves both in the watch world and in racing simultaneously. Upon placing third in the 24 Hours Le Mans race — just behind Paul Newman — Laurent Ferrier gifted his business partner Francois Servanin a Patek Philippe Nautilus. Servanin is said to have mused that the two should build a watch together.

Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium
Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium

What began as merely a joke between business partners ultimately flowered into the start of Laurent Ferrier. In 2009, Servanin and Laurent Ferrier founded their brand. Today, Laurent Ferrier constitutes one of the most successful independent watchmakers of the current era. With an incredible amount of hand work involved in the creation of their pieces, as well as a unified design aesthetic across models, Laurent Ferrier has forged its own identity within the market. The Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium, based upon the aesthetics of the Grand Sport Tourbillon, serves as a tribute to the 24 Hours Le Mans and Ferrier’s racing career, representing the summation of Ferrier’s mastery of two distinct areas — motor vehicle racing and horology. 

Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium
Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium

Design Details

Laurent Ferrier has said that the Sport Auto design was inspired by the Patek Philippe Nautilus. While the Sport Auto has an integrated bracelet system and industrial case architecture, it nonetheless possesses an entirely distinct personality from the Nautilus. The key design choice that Laurent Ferrier has made with the Sport Auto is to contrast stark lines with sloping curves. From the dial side, the bezel has a slightly softened square shape, yet the crystal is circular. The bezel seems almost flat on its main surfaces, but suddenly drops off at a sharp angle to transition into the flowing case curve. This visual interplay between the lightly cambered flat surfaces and the sharp lines of the bezel and bracelet creates an aesthetic that is both sporty at first glance and refined upon further inspection. What originally appears to be a simple geometric case shape is actually a sophisticated exercise in supreme finishing expertise. Laurent Ferrier has borrowed the Nautilus’ satin finishing on the flat elements and high polish on the bevels and case flanks to draw the eye to the intersection points of the respective surfaces. 

Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium
Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium

The dial is also masterfully executed. Up close, the seemingly matte dial finish is actually a beautiful grained texture, with the subsidiary seconds dial receiving a snailed engraving that adds visual interest and further depth to the dial. Perhaps most unique is the date window. In an industry where many brands spend very little time executing a thoughtful date window, Laurent Ferrier has crafted a sloping bevel that draws the eye from the center of the dial to the date window gradually. This extra level of attention hints at the incredible amount of design work involved in this piece’s conception. Equipping this piece with all the necessary elements of a sports watch, the Sport Auto features a screw-down crown — a first for Laurent Ferrier. The bracelet flaunts strong bevels on the individual pieces, further accentuating the 3D effect and providing more opportunities to incorporate high polished elements. Together, all the elements of the Sport Auto make for one of the most impressive practices in design in the industry. This is precisely why Laurent Ferrier is among the few independents that have penetrated the broader market to inspire admiration globally. 

Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium
Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium
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Inner Workings

The sophisticated Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto is outfitted with an equally formidable movement, the caliber LF 270.01. The LF 270.01 features a 72 hour power reserve and a platinum micro rotor. Additionally all the bridges are coated in ruthenium, a material often used in aeronautics due to its high resistance to corrosion and oxidation. These elements are given a satin finish that contributes to a smooth and refined aesthetic. The finishing process on the LF 270.01 is incredibly extensive with over 140 individual operations performed by hand. This level of hand work is hard to come by with a general production company. The LF 270.01 is adjusted to six positions where a COSC certified piece is only tested in 5. This feature is matched by few, with F.P. Journe and Laurent Ferrier among the few that have accepted the standard of scrutiny.

Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium
Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium

Laurent Ferrier is perhaps most famous for their use of Gentian wood, also known as Swiss Peg wood, for the polishing of all edges and bevels. As the Gentian wood wears, it lightly abrades the surface of the metal, achieving an unparalleled shine and luster. This supreme finishing continues to the delicate bridge that extends over the micro rotor. This part alone receives hours of work refining the finish by hand. As a further nod to the automotive influences of the piece, Laurent Ferrier has chosen to use screws on the case back that are typically used as rivets on cars. 

Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium
Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium

Laurent Ferrier’s approach to movement decoration is truly refreshing in an industry where so many companies choose to use the exact same processes. Cotes de Geneve are beautiful, but for this modern piece, the use of a brushed surface seems significantly more in line with the piece’s identity. Additionally, Laurent Ferrier has chosen to put the escapement wheel and portions of the gear train on full display. These components are often obscured by automatic winding works, but by using a micro rotor, Laurent Ferrier has managed to couple the convenience of an automatic watch with the beauty of a manual wound timepiece. The base plate features perlage, which contrasts with the smooth and grain-like finish on all the components beautifully. Laurent Ferrier has also made the ratchet wheel visible on this movement, a feature typically found on pocket watches and popularized by A. Lange and Sohne on the Saxonia Thin. For more info on the Saxonia Thin, reference our previous article here

Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium

Versus the Competition

Comparing the Sport Auto to another watch is difficult. With Laurent Ferrier’s unique perspective, the most natural alternatives would be other pieces from the same maker. The Classic Origin is Laurent Ferrier’s most recognizable model. It features many of the same characteristics in finishing and design ethos, but brings the foundational philosophy to a different application. The Classic Origin is more dress oriented than the Sport Auto, and would make for a fantastic everyday watch. The dial is well balanced and the movement features the same modern finishing standards and hand tool approaches. Another attribute of the Classic Origin is the opportunity to explore a diverse range of dial colors and variations that are not offered with the Sport Auto.

Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium

Laurent Ferrier’s Galet Traveller brings a great interpretation of a travel time watch with a digital display in addition to the standard handset. This movement features perhaps an even greater spread of techniques and more complex componentry due to the added complication. The major advantage of the Galet Traveller is that it is difficult to find a comparable piece at any other maker. 

For another cushion case design, the Galet Micro Rotor represents a more streamlined and simple aesthetic. Each Laurent Ferrier has its own personality and the choice between the various offerings is largely personal. Nonetheless, every Laurent Ferrier is exceptionally well finished and contributes a very clean aesthetic that is unlike any other manufacturer. 

Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium
Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium

Personality 

The Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto is undoubtedly a sophisticated piece. This elevated sense of style will be most appealing to a seasoned collector who appreciates the craft philosophy of Laurent Ferrier. Those with an interest in racing will particularly take interest in this piece, with the added historical significance of Ferrier’s career. Those that purchase a Laurent Ferrier will typically have an extensive knowledge of the watch industry and will know precisely what they are looking for. The Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto will ultimately be considered the perfect addition to a collection of independent pieces. Within the world of independent makers, Laurent Ferrier has built a reputation for quality that is fortified by an exceptionally limited production. The brand’s production can be counted in the hundreds rather than thousands of pieces. This allows a customer to acknowledge that they are purchasing one of only a few pieces that the manufacturer has made. 

Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium
Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium

Final Thoughts

Few people will ever claim to be a master of their craft. Laurent Ferrier is a master of both horology and racing. The Sport Auto in Titanium represents the fusion of both these spheres of influence within one exquisite timepiece. On its own, this watch affords all the hand finishing and attention to detail of Laurent Ferrier creations, with a cushion case and sporty appeal that sentimentally harbor back to the styling of the 70s. Overall, the Sport Auto constitutes one of the best pieces from one of the most recognizable and prestigious brands in the industry. By purchasing an independent maker’s pieces, you are buying more than just a watch. You are ultimately supporting an ideology and a philosophy that resonates with you. Through supporting the maker, you are reiterating your appreciation for that artisan’s vision for horology and watchmaking. This connection between maker and client is hard to achieve with serially manufactured general production watches.

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