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Autodromo Group B

The next best thing to owning a rally car

If the recent resurgence of 8-bit video games, buzzy synthpop, and movie reboots are anything to go by, the 1980s are back in a big way. This '80s callback has unsurprisingly reverberated through the collector car market as well, with values of sports cars and exotica from that decade soaring to heights not enjoyed by any other decade save the 1960s. Cars like the Ferrari 288 GTO, Audi Quattro, and Ford RS200 have already shot way, way outside of the working man's budget, so any hope of picking up one of those brutally cool rally specials is nearly out of the question. Lucky for us, wearing the Autodromo Group B watch is the next best thing to parking a homologation special in our garage.

Before we check out this fabulously retro timepiece, let's take a quick dip into what the name "Group B" signifies. In the 1980s, the governing body behind the rally championship went a little nuts,  essentially lifting power and drivetrain restrictions for manufacturers by only requiring that they adhere to engine size restrictions and a minimum weight requirement. Additionally, the manufacturer had to create and sell at least 200 street-ready examples of these cars for the general public. Of course, this paved the way for overpowered all-wheel drive monsters to sling gravel down dirt roads at speeds we haven't seen since. These were race cars that wore experimental turbochargers and radical bodywork, churning out more than 500 hp from 2.1-liter engines.

As you might expect, both spectators and drivers began to perish in crashes with rising frequency. The FIA quickly regained their senses and cut Group B after just five short years.  A flash-in-the-pan moment for rallying, Group B is considered one of the last true romantic eras of motorsports.

Autodromo has made a name for itself catering to watch and automotive enthusiasts looking for a link to bygone eras of both the automotive and watch world. For watch enthusiasts, Autodromo's Prototipo channels the unmistakable wide-cased stance of '70s chronographs;  for gearheads, the later Stradale's dial looked as though it was ripped straight from a 1950s Alfa Romeo. Straddling the best of both worlds, the Group B shakes hands with car and watch enthusiasts alike.

The visual connection of the Autodromo Group B watch to its namesake is undeniable. The angular and very handsome 39-mm case appears as an aviation or industrial-grade item, hewn of one-part steel and one-part titanium. Outside, the steel case wears fixed-bar lugs. No band springbars here; this is a watch for the brightest, most eye-searing single-piece nylon strap you have. Inside the steel shell is a titanium inner-case, a material the madmen from Group B were just beginning to experiment with during its heyday. The lip of the inner case rests on the edges of the steel shell, serving as a subframe for both the movement and the crystal.

Autodromo has a history of embracing vibrant hues for their pieces, and the Group B is no different. Our loaner arrived in light powder-blue configuration, but buyers have the choice of red, yellow, and a demure white-on-black. The simple watch face wears no numeration, instead making use of bold five-minute markers set astride a field of minute marks. The dial's bold color scheme and simple design is a pitch-perfect homage to gauge clusters from rally homologation specials like the Lancia Delta Integrale and Rally 037.

The Group B's sapphire crystal wears a very interesting angled edge around the perimeter of the face, raising both the face and the movement deep into the subframe. This intriguing design contributes to the watch's svelte 9mm case thickness.

Inside beats an automatic Miyota 9015 movement, with both hacking and hand-winding capabilities. It's a reliable workhorse movement, although prone to sometimes rattling a little bit when the uni-directional rotor spins quickly.

Each Group B comes in a supremely cool collector's box with two nylon straps, featuring a stitched-on patch featuring the "Autodromo" name. In effect, each strap appears as a race-ready seat harness belt.

In creating a piece that both discerning watch and automotive enthusiasts love, the Group B does what so many other watchmakers try and fail to do. Unfortunately, it's far too easy to slap on some Ferrari or Porsche signage onto a gaudy and overwrought dial and call it a day. And with a price tag falling right underneath $1,000, the Autodromo is a comparably-affordable link to the glory days of rallying.

Stringback Gloves

While Autodromo has established itself in the field of horology, the brand also offers another assortment of what it calls "Instruments for Motoring." Alongside a range of Persol-esque sunglasses and wonderful keychains, the brand sells a classic stringback driving glove. Each pair is crafted using supple sheep leather, with threaded mesh on the top of the hand for better airflow. Autodromo sent us a pair to wear at this year's Lane Motor Museum rally, so we had plenty of time to test the gloves out in the ideal environment.

Before you question the purpose of driving gloves, know they aren't meant to be worn behind the wheel of your 2013 Toyota Camry, but they fit right in when gripping the skinny steering wheels of the Lane's 1976 Lamborghini Urraco and 1971 Fiat 124 Spider. The pencil-thin wheel of the 124 Spider was a slippery affair without the grippy leather of the stringbacks, and they felt deliciously period-correct in the Urraco.

The $125 gloves come in your choice of Verde Pino (green), Cognac (brown), and Black.