A year prior, following the close of the 2018 summer’s professional tennis season, I posted a resumé of the then-current state of the watch world’s seemingly enduring love undertaking with the white game , assessing what I’d seen that summer on wrists and on courts.
The reason for my need to write such a resumé was what I considered the exploding nature of the juxtaposition, in particular considering the fact that very few tennis players wear timepieces on court – however it’s beginning to appear as though more and more are indeed beginning to do as such. This trend was perhaps reinvigorated by current world number two Rafael Nadal back in 2010 when he signed on with Richard Mille, who stipulated in the contract that the Spanish lefty must wear the RM 027 on court – no mean feat for someone as perfectionistic and obsessive in his customs as Nadal.
Because of the great stresses and shocks a player’s arms and wrists experience in tennis, until Richard Mille signed Nadal as a diplomat watch brand sponsorships generally involved the player tying on the watch just before and after matches. Playing professional tennis with a watch risked both upsetting the player’s game and the intricate mechanics of the timepiece – and nowhere was the latter point riskier than with Nadal’s beast-like game.
Nadal has said that today he can scarcely imagine playing without his four leaf clover: “It currently feels like second skin,” he confirmed to me at a press conference at Roland Garros in 2015. After the RM 027, Richard Mille created other special editions for him: the RM 27-01 , the RM 27-02 , the RM 035, and the RM 27-03 – the latter being the one he currently wears; its splendid two-tone Quartz TPT case coloring replicates the colors of the Spanish banner out of appreciation for Nadal’s home country. Also, Nadal loves color.
Four of these Nadal pieces were among the best ten auction results for Richard Mille in 2015, which you can read more about in Richard Mille’s Top 10 Auction Pieces Of 2015 .
Nadal recently won the 2019 U.S. Open, additionally no mean feat given the excellent of his competition. This championship title was his fourth success at the U.S. Open and his nineteenth Grand Slam title (including 12 – twelve! – French Open titles) over the course of a stellar career – just one behind Roger Federer, whose 20 Grand Slam wins have prompted a multitude of “GOAT” cries (with great reason).
Nadal, who is such a genuine man and player, was obviously moved toward the end of his match, shedding a few tears as the prize ceremony progressed.
Richard Mille and the Gerry Weber (Noventi) Open
Branching out in the game, Richard Mille has been a primary backer of the Gerry Weber Open since June 2018. This announcement coincided with the brand placing the RM 67-02 on a second prominent tennis diplomat: world number six Alexander Zverev (who was number three in 2018).
As reported in 2018, Zverev became a represetative through Nadal. Unfortunately, however, the bond was not as solid as that of Nadal and the watchmaker, who have now been together for nine years.
“When Richard Mille initially met Rafa path back in 2008, he revealed to him the partnership would be for life through various challenges, win and lose,” a Richard Mille press release sent just after the Spaniard’s surprising 2019 U.S. Open win stated. “The RM 27-03 on Nadal’s wrist at Flushing Meadows the previous evening bears witness to this enduring friendship.”
Though Zverev and the progressive watch brand are no longer partners, Richard Mille was as yet a primary supporter of the Gerry Weber Open – presently called the Noventi Open – in 2019, one of the most delightful professional tennis tournaments I’ve ever had the pleasure to attend and the biggest and generally significant in Germany.
One of just eight grass court tournaments on the ATP calendar, the Noventi Open is an ATP World Tour 500 – meaning it comes just after the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in importance. With more than €2 million in prize money, it is Germany’s largest tennis event and the third largest in Europe. The third most watched tennis event in Germany (television, streaming, etc.), it enjoys around 4,000 hours of television coverage in a variety of countries, flaunting more than 33 million individual viewers.
Roger Federer won the 2019 event to catch his tenth title in Halle, where the tournament is played.
Weird and weirder: Serena Williams’ upside-down Audemars Piguet and Donna Vekić’s F.P. Journe on court
Right now it seems to me that there are more players than at any other time – including a great many, if not the entirety of, the prominent champions – with watch sponsorship deals. In spite of the fact that it is as yet rare (and admittedly somewhat weird) to see a professional playing tennis with a watch on, remember that Nadal was not the first to do it.
However, he attracted a great deal of attention when he started with Richard Mille back in 2010, followed by Stan Wawrinka additionally winning Grand Slam titles wearing massive Audemars Piguet timepieces on his wrist: he won the 2016 U.S. Open wearing his automatic Royal Oak Offshore chronograph , a heavy 42 x 14.21 mm watch guaranteed to be noticeable to him during match play due to its heft, size, and weight.
Wawrinka had been wearing a version of the Royal Oak Offshore on court for around three years previous to that (including during his 2015 tournament succeed at Roland Garros ), however preceding versions were encased in ceramic or forged carbon, much lighter materials. As he is a Swiss public, it very well might be a state of pride for him to wear such a noticeable Swiss icon on court, however without question this stainless steel version took some real getting used to.
For most, a watch worn on court would tend to be something of a distraction, even in the event that it is worn on the opposite wrist. It isn’t just the weight of the timepiece that can be upsetting, yet in particular the crown, which can poke the wrist if the player has a two-handed backhand or moves the arm very freely.
Serena Williams’ line of on-court Audemars Piguet timepieces (remarkably a quartz Royal Oak Offshore for ladies and a 18-karat gold ladies’ Millenary, both set with precious stones) – which came after she wore a few different Casios on court – can likewise be distracting for the observer as lately she has taken to wearing watches more for the jewelry value than timekeeping or sportiness. Be that as it may, nothing has been weirder than how she has worn her chosen AP this summer: upside down!
What the Quill & Pad team observed Williams wearing from Wimbledon 2019 through the U.S. Open 2019 is downright perplexing to me: an upside-down Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 37mm . While the likely reason for her wearing it upside down isn’t difficult to figure out – crowns jabbing the wrist – what perplexes me is the reason she wears it at all on court if it’s upsetting her. To the extent I’m aware she does not have the type of contract with Audemars Piguet that obligates her to wear a watch on court; my understanding is that she needs to wear it while playing.
She likewise claims a unique left-handed quartz Royal Oak – this we know because she wore it at Wimbledon 2016 and was additionally pictured with it on her wrist on the famous Wheaties box. So why wear a different watch with less ergonomic pushers? Wouldn’t you just pick not to wear any watch whatsoever while playing if that one’s being serviced or something?
And speaking of unusual: there’s the case of Donna Vekić, ranked 21 on the planet, and the F.P. Journe Élégante . This quartz-powered watch encased in gold or platinum and set with precious stones is really not the principal watch I would consider in the event that I decided to play tennis wearing an expensive Swiss made timepiece.
However, I recently learned that Vekić has been wearing this watch on court for close to two years. I guess it just came to my attention now because the 23-year-old Croatian tennis star reached the quarterfinals of the 2019 U.S. Open before bowing out to Swiss talent Belinda Bencic.
And then there is the unusual matching of Bovet and Daniil Medvedev , currently world number four gratitude to a summer series of wins and reaching the finals of the 2019 U.S. Open before bowing out in the finals in a tight five-setter against Nadal, a match savants have been calling one of the greatest U.S. Open finals every played.
While to me this seemed probably as unlikely a blending as we’re ever going to see, the strong personality that Medvedev exhibited during the New York fortnight discovered me changing my psyche. While from the outset his negative reactions to the New York crowds (which even I, as an American, find cruel) just produced further booing, the Russian player’s sense of self and cynicism at long last prevailed upon the tennis-watching public.
A press release issued by Bovet the week before the U.S. Open 2019 stated that Medvedev and Bovet CEO Pascal Raffy “have much in common in their respective challenges: they both have to demonstrate continuous effort, abnegation, modesty. Their meeting has even further manifested this sharing of values, continually going ahead by improving each day, the need to be and remain an incredible champion.”
A pretty, um, mundane description for this exciting, fresh face and his choice of watch, the Bovet Ottantasei Tourbillon , which is an energetic creation conceived of another partnership: that between Bovet and Italian automotive designer Pininfarina. Medvedev, however, has not chosen to wear this timepiece on court.
It was visible on his wrist in post-match interviews all through his fabulous run at the 2019 U.S. Open. Tennis needs solid personalities, and Medvedev is definitely one of those. Congratulations on the foresight, Bovet!
Zenith: a surprise entry in the tennis world or making the best of the local best?
Zenith isn’t a brand with characteristic ties to the universe of tennis, so I puzzled a piece concerning why the Le Locle-based brand supports the Swiss Open Gstaad, an ATP 250 tournament I had already visited back in 2004 when Maurice Lacroix had just signed on the then-22-year-old Roger Federer (who left a year later to begin his now-iconic partnership with Rolex).
The Swiss Open, which takes place in the center of enchanting mountain town Gstaad, is a visual treat: when the sun is out, the juxtaposition of red clay, blue sky, green mountain terrain, and sumptuous castle-like edifices alongside typical Swiss chalet-style structures seems as though it comes straight out of a fantasy written for tennis lovers.
And on the off chance that you happen to be a watch lover you will like this event even more: as Zenith is one of the supporters of the tournament, there is an onsite boutique where guests can take a stab at, talk about, and even purchase Zenith watches. Twin slices of heaven!
But for what reason would the brand take on the partnership of a local event that is too little to even think about evening generate much in the method of television outside Switzerland? The answer here is two-crease and clever: the first is the obvious access to the type of clientele that attends such an event. In Europe, people interested in tennis generally have some money as the game isn’t inexpensive to play, nor is it cheap to watch live.
In other words, it is anything but a game for everyone like it is, say, in the United States, where public courts make it inexpensive and widely available.
The second reason is surely that Zenith CEO Julien Tornare is a huge tennis fan and therefore understands the game and the sort of people who enjoy it. I spent a lovely day talking tennis with him as we watched the semifinals (when I could tear my eyes from the view, that is).
The Gstaad tournament is one of the most outwardly arresting tournaments I have ever visited. However, you don’t have to take my assertion for that; even ATP supervisor Carlos Sanches confided to me that the Swiss Open could be his favorite tournament on the schedule.
Zenith’s LVMH kin TAG Heuer is likewise engaging more in tennis after releasing Maria Sharapova from its bevy of ministers in November 2016 after the doping scandal that forced her to take a one-year break from tennis.
TAG Heuer’s four new envoys are altogether youthful, dynamic, and from the English-speaking world: 19-year-old Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime, 21-year-old American Frances Tiafoe, 20-year-old Australian Alex de Minaur, and 20-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov, the latter having already joined the team of TAG Heuer diplomats in 2017. “Label Heuer has been so helpful and has supported me since early on when I started shooting up the rankings. The brand has such countless stunning represetatives and I’m glad to be essential for the family,” Shapalov recently stated in a press release.
By selecting promising players whose professional careers have just barely begun, TAG Heuer explains that it might want to focus on supporting and causing to notice the next generation of talent. What’s more, TAG Heuer isn’t just supporting individual players however has additionally chosen to partner with the Italian Tennis Federation as its official watch provider and official timekeeper of the Next Gen ATP Finals , the season-ending 21-and-under event showcasing the future stars of the ATP World Tour.
A warm welcome back to Ebel in tennis
“I’ve heard [former tennis professional, presently Eurosport commentator] Mats Wilander saying in commentary that he didn’t know how Rafael Nadal could wear a timepiece on court. Yet, entertaining enough, I remember quite well Wilander himself playing Grand Slam finals with a watch on back in 1987, some cheap plastic brand, I never really knew which one it was. What’s more, this was not an isolated case: I additionally remember Boris Becker winning Wimbledon wearing an Ebel and Andre Agassi [now a Longines ambassador] in his denim shorts days circa 1988 playing with an Ebel that featured a blue-jean lash with red hearts!”
“Back then, during the 1980s and through to the mid-1990s, Ebel was huge, straight up there with Rolex in terms of perceivability, supporting players and events such as the Davis Cup. There were a great deal of smaller tennis events associated with more or less relevant watch brands, and the deals made were fundamentally due to local retailers (all things considered I can recall Korloff in Lyon) instead of a worldwide marketing strategy like the one Rolex has right now.”
This is a quote by noted tennis-and-timepiece writer Miguel Seabra that I included in Tennis And Timepieces 2018: Marketing Match Made In Heaven Or ‘You Cannot Be Serious!’? An Expert Weighs In .
That story with Seabra’s pleasant quote was timely, however we didn’t have any acquaintance with it at that point: Ebel is currently amidst a comeback both to the watch world and the tennis world. What’s more, to underscore that, the historical brand founded in 1911 sponsored the Ladies Open Lausanne in July 2019, which takes place at the Tennis Club Stade-Lausanne, a club founded in 1920.
Who else is wearing what?
Simona Halep, Wimbledon’s 2019 women’s champion, has been under contract to Hublot since 2016. Other Hublot tennis represetatives include Elina Svitolina (who previously partnered with Ulysse Nardin), Karolina Pliskova, and Borna Ćorić. Svitolina and Pliskova are top-ten players, while Ćorić, a Hublot represetative since 2015, is currently ranked at number 15.
Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon’s 2019 men’s champion, has been under contract to Seiko since 2014 when he switched allegiance from Audemars Piguet to the Japanese monster. He is currently wearing the Seiko Astron GPS Solar SSH003 .
Speaking of Japanese monsters, Naomi Osaka has been a brand minister for Citizen since 2018. At Wimbledon 2019 she debuted her fourth different Eco-Drive Bluetooth model on court since marking on. Modern, unisex, and in the hot blue tone trendy in watches at the present time, this lightweight, hardened titanium watch measuring 40.5 x 10.7 mm is a great fit for the agile game and the youthful Japanese-Haitian supertalent.
While this watch isn’t luxurious by all accounts, it fits the 21-year-old’s personality perfectly, and I’ll bet it is easy to wear on court.
Rolex undisputedly wears the tennis crown
“Of course, Rolex became the biggest reference in the realm of sports supporting, and particularly in tennis, this year celebrating the 40th anniversary of its deal with Wimbledon arranged by means of IMG (International Management Group), who assumed control over the business side of the Championships and followed up in tennis the strategy they already used in golf,” Seabra pointed out a year ago during the fortieth-anniversary year of Wimbledon and Rolex.
Rolex, who has spent the most recent two years hoarding a Monopoly leading group of significant tournaments to support, is the official timekeeper of most of significant tennis tournaments on the planet: from the lower ATP World Tour 250 echelon in Estoril and Geneva straight up to the Masters 1000 events, the ATP and WTA year-end championships, Davis Cup , Fed Cup, and now each of the four Grand Slams.
In 2018, Rolex announced a pristine multiyear partnership with the United States Tennis Association , which includes sponsorship of the Cincinnati Masters Tournament (completing a sponsorship imposing business model of every one of the nine of Masters events), the USTA National Campus in Orlando, supporting the USTA Foundation (the association’s charitable arm), and becoming the official timekeeper and the official timepiece of the U.S. Open.
“Having such a relevant director who was a decent tennis player like Arnaud Boetsch (former number 13 on the planet rankings and a Davis Cup hero clinching the 1996 prize for France in epic design) certainly helped Rolex become one of the biggest backers in the game, if not the biggest due to its widespread influence in the calendar and across all continents,” Seabra commented.
“And there’s never been another represetative like Roger Federer, who isn’t just Swiss however embodies a ton of what this ‘crowned’ brand represents. In the late 1970s or early 1980s I don’t recall the biggest stars – other than Aussie great John Newcombe for Rolex, if memory serves – being prominent envoys for watch brands. Bjorn Borg had more support deals than a Formula 1 team, however was not clearly associated to a watch brand, even however in recent years Rolex has added him to its ever-developing stable of greats.”
In fact, Rolex has managed to sign pretty much every living historical player just as a plethora of current champions and up-and-comers – so numerous it is presently practically impossible to recount them all.
Rolex wears the crown in tennis. Still. Undisputedly.
Follow Miguel Seabra on Facebook , I nstagram , and Twitter for colorful commentary on tennis and timepieces!
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