For some years already, the market of luxury sports watches – understand watches with integrated bracelets combining robustness and mechanical refinement – has been stronger than ever before. We’ve seen new entries to the category, in pretty much all segments of the market, from accessible to ultra-high-end. Even indie watchmakers are embarking on the concept. And with the two main icons (Nautilus and Royal Oak) being at turning points of their careers, the trend is not going to stop. Still, there’s room for more confidential watches, models with more soul and passion. And for that, we have the brand new Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto, a time-and-date automatic model based (but not entirely) on the Grand Sport watch presented with a tourbillon a couple of years ago.
The Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto isn’t the first attempt of the brand to enter the highly-competitive market of the luxury sports watch. Two years ago already, LF presented a watch that showed most attributes of the category, with an integrated design, a combination of robustness and superior mechanics, and a rather personal touch to make this Grand Sport unique in the sports watch field. Yet, the production was highly confidential and the price, since the watch was equipped with a complex tourbillon movement, was equally exclusive. Based on the nice reception this watch got when presented, the brand now introduces a model that feels far more relevant, with a simpler (sort of) automatic movement and a classic time-and-date display. And if the look feels familiar, the habillage has evolved too.
Behind the Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto – as you’ve probably guessed by the name – is a story of a friendship and passion for motorsport and watches. The brand Laurent Ferrier was founded by two long-time friends; watch industry professional Laurent Ferrier on one side, François Servanin, entrepreneur and investor on the other side. The creation of the independent watchmaking company is, however, just another step in their shared odyssey, which began next to racing circuits. In June 1979, behind the wheel of a Porsche 935 Turbo, the two friends will manage to finish 3rd overall, just behind a certain Paul Newman, at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As a token of gratitude, Laurent offered Servanin a Patek Philippe Nautilus (remember that Ferrier spent more than 35 years working at Patek). The answer of Servanin to this gift was the starting point of the next adventure “What if after this feat, we continued the adventure as a team by making our own watch?!” And thirty years later, in 2009, the watchmaking brand Laurent Ferrier was born. The new Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto is where the friendship between the two men, as well as their passion for watches and sports cars, meet.
The new Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto
This new Sport Auto isn’t an entirely unprecedented watch, as it is built around the design introduced by the Grand Sport Tourbillon of 2019. Still, there are numerous updates to this new watch to make a far more relevant model, not only because its price is multiple categories lower, but also because a fragile tourbillon movement with a double balance spring might not be the most adequate in this sporty context.
The shape of the Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto will be familiar to recurring readers of MONOCHROME and to fans of Laurent Ferrier, for the simple reason that it is basically the same as the Grand Sport. As such, it takes on the classic codes of the luxury sports category, with its barrel-shaped central case, an integrated bracelet and a raised, shaped bezel on top. However, Laurent Ferrier brings a rather personal touch here, avoiding the classic sharp lines and angular cases of the category, favouring a refined interplay of rounded curves. It feels sporty yet far smoother than most of the competitors. Even the crown guards on the side of the case are integrated in a curved, very fluid way. The side also shows the signature ball-shaped crown, which might not be to everyone’s taste in this context.
This smooth and curved profile, shaped like the aerodynamic bodywork of a fast car, creates the link with the rest of Laurent Ferrier’s production, known for his regular use of fluid and rounded lines. This continues with the domed sapphire crystal on top. Contrary to the Grand Sport and its oversized case, the new Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto has been redesigned to be more pleasant on the wrist. The case measures 41.5mm in width and 12.70mm in height, and feels even more compact on the wrist – it gives the impression of a 40mm case. And to add to the comfort, it is made of grade 5 titanium, making it soft and light on the wrist. The case is finished with brushed surfaces all around, highlighted by discreet polished accents on the sides. Thanks to a screw-down crown and screwed caseback, it offers a comfortable water-resistance of 120 metres.
A luxury sports watch wouldn’t be one without its integrated bracelet and the Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto is thus delivered on a matching grade 5 titanium bracelet, built around a 3-link architecture. Just like the case, the links are curved and smooth, bringing a very pleasant tactile feel to the wrist. It is closed by a triple folding clasp.
The dial of the new Sport Auto also brings back the design introduced in the Grand Sport, yet with subtle updates. The base relies on classic codes of the genre, with a dark blue colour. Its opaline, matte texture is here combined to a gradient effect, which combines with the silver crosshair in the middle of the dial, creates a focal point. It also relies on the brand’s signature drop-shaped applied markers and Assegai-shaped hands. Both have been enlarged for the occasion and are executed in white gold, then filled with light green Super-LumiNova and combined with a more present minute track on the periphery. The display also includes a snailed small seconds at 6 o’clock and, new for Laurent Ferrier, a date at 3 o’clock, integrated within a bevelled window.
A new micro-rotor movement
What truly matters with the Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto is the introduction of a new automatic movement, equipped with a micro-rotor (sounds familiar maybe…) and constructed around the idea to combine the brand’s usual mechanical refinement with more robustness as a daily-wearable sports watch. As such, the base is well known, being the calibre with micro-rotor and natural escapement found in the Galet, Montre Ecole and Square models. LF could have used the hand-wound movement found in the Origin watches too, but having a self-winding mechanism certainly feels more appropriate in this sports watch context.
The new Calibre LF270.01, designed, decorated, assembled internally, replaces the fascinating but relatively sensitive natural escapement with a classic Swiss lever escapement, more resistant to shocks and vibrations. In the same vein, if the movement retains the micro-rotor architecture, the traditional ratchet system has been replaced by a unidirectional ball-bearing mechanism. The entire self-winding system is solidly held in place by a transversal bridge to ensure stability and the oscillating weight is made of 950 platinum, a dense material, providing more winding efficiency. When fully wound, this movement stores up to 72 hours of power reserve. The escapement beats at a modern 4Hz frequency.
Even though its architecture has been slightly simplified, this movement remains nevertheless a typical Laurent Ferrier calibre. And as such, it is finely decorated by hand. The bridges are straight brushed and ruthenium-coated, providing great contrast with the polished bevels, and the brass or silver-coloured mobile elements of the movement. Protecting the micro-rotor, the transversal bridge is meticulously decorated by hand, with a mirror-polished top surface and angles that are softened then finished with gentian wood or diamantine. Underneath, the platinum micro-rotor shows a very unique decoration, with miniature literature in positive relief, paying tribute to the motorsport past of the brand’s founders.
While the previous Grand Sport model paved the way in a slightly too excessive way – too large, too complex, too unattainable – the new Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto feels like a very promising release. While the watch clearly relies on the codes of the category, it also brings a very personal touch to the vision of the luxury sports watch. Yes, the Sport Auto is a high-end sports watch and as such contrasts with the classic, dressy design of the brand. But it is also a Laurent Ferrier watch through and through.
The execution, the case/bracelet (the use of titanium makes it a joy to wear) and the movement are, objectively, all very impressive. The design, being quite personal and bolder than the rest of LF’s production, will certainly create stronger reactions. But this remains a highly subjective topic. When it comes to the question of price, at about 50k with taxes, the Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto is certainly not cheap and surpasses most of the heavyweights in the luxury sports watch category. But when you consider the current shortage and the fact that this watch offers far more soul and passion, as well as a high-end movement, it becomes more acceptable.
Availability & Price
The Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Titanium/Blue (reference LCF040.T1.C1GC5) is released as part of the permanent collection and is not a limited edition. It is priced at CHF 46,000 (excl. taxes). For more details, please visit laurentferrier.ch.