Rallynetics & distilling the automotive spirit into watches

Three Rallynetics watches

It’s only natural for a car enthusiast to want their accessories to resemble the hobby that they’ve built their free time around. Often that takes the form of hats, shirts, hoodies, and on the pricier side, watches. Michael Lee chose the latter option when he founded Rallynetics, a watch company with designs that resemble some facet of the automotive world. Be it a tachometer with a 11,000 RPM redline or a tilted tachometer à la vintage race machines, it’s hard to look at one of these watches and not be transported behind the proverbial wheel.

I last spoke to Michael over a year ago, back when I was still writing for Drivetribe (RIP), and his company was in relative infancy. In that time, it has grown beyond its initial Kickstarter backers to a steady base of customers, so I pinged Michael again to get a follow-up interview on how both he and Rallynetics have fared since our initial conversation.

Q: It’s been a while since our last interview! How have you been?

A: I’ve been doing well. It has been about a year and a half since we first spoke. That was around the time where I was first launching my watch designs!

I’ve actually been racing in the Champcar Endurance series/24 hours of Lemons with a group of friends in a beat up 1983 BMW E24. It has been a fairly big commitment, so I’ve been keeping busy.

Q: And how has the watch business been going?

A: Rallynetics has been doing alright. After the fully funded Kickstarter back in May 2021, all the initial backers had their watches successfully shipped out and delivered by December 2021. Regular sales from other customers have been coming in since then.

Though, high inflation and big changes in the digital marketing space have definitely proven to be challenges over the past year. Many small businesses have been feeling the effects.

However, hearing the positive feedback from my customers about my watches must mean Rallynetics is doing something right. There’s definitely something satisfying about making a product that people enjoy, especially something that is made for a tighter-knit group like the car community.

The best thing I can do right now is to focus on growing Rallynetics as a brand and continuing to provide a positive customer service experience for my customers.

Q: Do you have plans for any new models?

A: Yes, It’s something that hasn’t fully materialized yet, but I’ve been keeping tabs on feedback from Kickstarter backers, customers, and general comments that I get on social media.

I am also considering different colorways for the Race model.

In addition, I am looking into making automatic versions of the current model lineup. Something with an entry-level mechanical movement, like the Seiko NH35, perhaps.

Right now, I can’t put any specific timelines on these plans, however.

Q: Would you ever expand into anything beyond watches?

A: Potentially. Although, I don’t have any particular plans at the moment. It’s something that I had in mind when I first created Rallynetics. I specifically wanted to steer the company name away from anything that might limit the brand into just watches.

If I do, it will still be automotive related.

Q: Any upcoming projects you can tease the readers with?

A: I’ve been floating several other watch design concepts around in my head even since before the Kickstarter campaign. I’m not even entirely sure if all the designs will be feasible to manufacture because I want to use more exotic materials like duplex steels, 7000/5000 series aluminum alloys, monel, and magnesium alloys.

These materials require special manufacturing considerations that are different from more traditional materials used in watches like 316 stainless steel and titanium.

I deliberately selected these materials because they are core elements of the specific design concepts I have in mind.

Cars throughout history have used all sorts of exotic materials, often with an interesting story behind it. I want to distill that story into a functional timepiece that you can wear.

These designs will likely use higher end automatic movements like the Miyota 9015/9039 and Sellita SW200.

I definitely need to create some functional prototypes before I reveal anything specific. I will have to do some proof-of-concept designs and experiments first.

Want your own Rallynetics watch? I can’t say I blame you. Head over to the official website and peruse the digital showroom until you find the design that speaks to you. It’s almost like picking your first sports car.

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