Football is unquestionably the world’s most popular sport, watched and played by millions in nearly every country in the world and, according to Bill Shankly’s remark, more important than life itself. It is not surprising therefore, that watch brands get involved not only as sponsors, but also as manufacturers of watches for the managers, players and those fans rich or fanatical enough to want one.
- Football icon Pelé for Hublot
“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Bill Shankly, Liverpool Manager, 1959 – 1964
At Baselworld this year, I counted seven brands that were caught up in the all-consuming world of soccer: JeanRichard and Arsenal; Hublot and Chelsea’s Mourinho and the 2014 FIFA World Cup; Maurice Lacroix and Barcelona; Rotary and Chelsea; Ritmo Mundo and Brazil players, Breitling for Bentley and David Beckham and of course Carl F. Bucherer’s support to the Swiss Football team.
Football or soccer, depending on your continent, is a spectator sport, so this particular article, although it introduces you to the relationship between watch companies and the world of football, it is as much for your visual enjoyment (see Ritmo Mundo) as for your appreciation of the horological values of the illustrated timepieces.
Launching the Arsenal watches in the presence of Tom Fox, the Arsenal Chief Operating officer and one of the team’s great players, the affable Robert Pires, Bruno Grande, the Managing Director of JeanRichard, talked about how football and watchmaking are linked through both passion and team spirit.
- Bruno Grande with Arsenal’s long-time manager, Arsene Wenger
“We share the same philosophy of life, based on a determination to take on a challenge, a belief in the dignity of hard work and the desire to go one step further each time.”
Robert Pires replied with, “In 2003, JeanRichard was one of the first luxury watchmakers to support football at an international level [in Italy]. On behalf of Arsenal, I am delighted to be here today with Tom Fox to launch these two exclusive watches in the Gunners’ colours.”
- Arsenal legend Robert Pires at Baselworld
JeanRichard signed a new global agreement with Arsenal FC earlier in the year and is now the Official Watch Partner of the club, which means that JeanRichard will enjoy significant exposure within London’s Emirates Stadium on match days and the right to create and distribute licensed products through both Arsenal and its own retail channels.
What was patently obvious for anyone present, was that Bruno Grande was excited by the idea of teaming up with Arsenal and Tom Fox and Robert Pires were delighted to be associated with JeanRichard and more than happy to wear the Terrascope and the Aeroscope models.
So to the watches. The first is a unique version of the Terrascope in a stainless steel case water-resistant to 100 metres. It is equipped with a JR60 self-winding movement with a 38-hour power reserve and has a vertical satin-finished grey dial with touches of red on the dial and hands – the colour of Arsenal’s emblem - and the Arsenal cannon logo is printed at 6 o’clock.
The second watch is a Limited Edition of 250 Aeroscope Chronographs equipped with a JR66 self-winding chronograph movement and a micro beaded and sand blasted black titanium watch case water-resistant to 100 metres. There is a red dial with a small seconds hand at 3 o’clock in the shape of the club’s iconic cannon, 30-minute and twelve-hour counters, date aperture between 4 and 5 o’clock, with a tachometric scale on the bezel.
After the presentation, a smiling Robert Pires signed Arsenal shirts for fans and press alike and posed for many a selfie (yes, I’ve got one).
The Hublot booth was also geared up for its involvement in football, to the extent that the area around the booth’s entrance was covered in Astroturf – as was the stage in the conference room on the upper floor.
It was there that the press conference with Jose Mourinho, the Chelsea Football Club manager, was held and the Hublot watch called the King Power Special One was presented. For those of you who have been living on a different planet for the past few years, ‘The special one’ is the nickname Jose Mourinho has been given by the British press after he called himself that in 2004 when he joined Chelsea for the first time.
The conference began with a particularly effervescent Jean-Claude Biver, the head of the LVMH watchmaking group, giving an impassioned talk about Hublot’s involvement in sport and in particular with football. “I love sport, I love football,” and pointing to the sign on the wall cried, “Hublot loves football,” and with a huge smile broke into song, the Beatles ‘All you need is love.’ Proud of Hublot’s continuing technical innovations, Biver added, “Innovation is more powerful than knowledge. Innovation is the creation of tomorrow!”
By this time, Hublot’s CEO, Ricardo Guadalupe had joined the stage with Jose Mourinho and after a brief introduction full of bonhomie and smiles gave Mourinho a King Power Special One timepiece and passed the microphone to ‘The special one’.
And special he was. Compared to the good humour of the Hublot management representatives, Jose Mourinho was a picture of gloom. Effusing total boredom, he said nothing of interest, replied abruptly to a couple questions concerning Chelsea from the massed journalists and with a sour expression on his face said he’d only come to Baselworld for the watch.
From where I was standing, which was in the front of the crowd, Ricardo Guadalupe somehow maintained a smile on his face, but I had the impression that he cringed internally. In my opinion, if you’re going to accept the kudos of being an ambassador to a innovative brand like Hublot, you play the game with good humour, you don’t simply take the money and run.
My criticism of Mourinho may seem harsh, but I only have praise for the new Hublot watches that were presented.
The King Power Special One is a flyback chronograph equipped with the brand’s self-winding manufacture Unico movement with a 72-hour power reserve. There is a central 60-second counter and a small minute counter at 3 o’clock with a date window at 4 o’clock. The 48 mm case is available in either titanium or 18 carat ‘King Gold’ with a Jose Mourinho signature and it is water-resistant to 100 metres. More importantly, Hublot has also developed an Official Watch specifically for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and is also its Official Timekeeper.
- Big Bang Unico Bi-Retrograde Chrono by Hublot
The stunning looking watch is the 45 mm Big Bang Unico Bi-Retrograde Chrono in 18 carat King Gold (also available in black ceramic). Equipped with the new automatic HUB1260 manufacture movement with central chrono (patent pending), the chronograph is started and the chronograph’s second hand and minute hand move from left to right in an arc of 45 minutes – with an area for 15 minutes of added time up to 60 minutes (for the uninitiated, a match is two halves of 45 minutes with a 15-minute break between them).
The push button at 2 o’clock is also used to indicate one of four options: 1st half, half time, 2nd half and the end of the match, all indicated in the aperture at 12 o’clock.
There are also two permanently rotating hands in a counter at 6 o’clock that display the passing hours and minutes with the seconds shown in a small sector-shaped counter at 9 o’clock with a three-spoke hand that rotates permanently. The watch has a carbon fibre bezel and an 18 carat King Gold crown with moulded rubber bearing the Hublot logo. The black dial carries the national colours of Brazil, the World Cup’s host country, with a yellow retrograde display and a yellow minute hand and a green retrograde seconds hand. The watch, which is water-resistant to 100 metres, has a power reserve of 72 hours and comes with a ribbed natural black rubber strap.
Without question, it is the perfect partner for football fans, whether you attend the matches in Brazil or play the couch potato at home.
Maurice Lacroix had a huge screen on the exterior of its booth showing footage of Barcelona’s gigantic Campo Nou stadium and many of its footballers during a game. It was here that the brand announced its three-year partnership with the Barcelona FC club, which has a global fan base of 300 million people and a 100 million social media followers.
- Barcelona’s Vice-President Javier Faus and the Managing Director of Maurice Lacroix, Marc Gläser with a Barcelona shirt
Although Maurice Lacroix didn’t yet have a special Barcelona watch, the management said it will be ‘an affordable fan’s watch and will provide an entry-level opportunity for Swiss timepiece ownership. For lover’s of mechanical timepieces or for those wishing to make the big jump, a stunning player’s watch and a sophisticated executive model will be sold in all Barcelona FC boutiques and in the extensive worldwide network of official Maurice Lacroix retailers.’ Additionally there will giant clocks in Europe’s largest stadium and the name now appears on the 4th referee’s LCD screen on the touchline.
Marc Gläser said of the sponsoship agreement, “The Maurice Lacroix company is proud and enthusiastic about this exceptional deal. Our brands have the same desire for perfection and together we will create an impressive, powerful and successful team”.
Rotary announced last October that they had signed an exclusive four-year sponsorship deal as the Global Official Timekeeper of Chelsea FC. As the team’s Official Timekeeper, Rotary branding will be prominent within the Club’s ground at Stamford Bridge (London) and Chelsea’s star midfielder Frank Lampard was named as the Rotary brand ambassador for the 2013-14 season. Chelsea FC’s Chief Executive, Ron Gourlay, said: “We have never partnered with a watch company until now, but believe Rotary are a perfect fit as we share a similar outlook and goals. We are very pleased to be joining forces with a Swiss watch brand which has a worldwide name.”
The Chelsea watch is a tribute to the European champions of 2012: a numbered quartz chronograph, it has the Chelsea Lion crest on the dial in the middle of the small seconds counter at 3 o’clock, with a blue-tipped central chronograph seconds hand, a date aperture at 6 o’clock and the Chelsea blue colour running around the inside of the tachymeter bezel.
The Chelsea watch comes with either a stainless steel bracelet or a leather strap.
The Beverly Hills based company, Ritmo Mundo, recently announced a multi-year sponsorship agreement with several footballers in the Brazilian national team. The players are Paulihmio who plays for Tottenham Hotspur (London) and Willian and Ramires of Chelsea (London), Dante who plays for Bayern Munich and Bernard the Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) player. They will be involved in a global marketing campaign, which will be launched this summer featuring the players wearing eye-catching Ritmo Mundo timepieces in professional environments along with Reflex watches in their respective sports world.
- A Reflex watch in the Brazil colours by Ritmo Mundo
Ali Soltani, the President and founder of the brand said, “I am delighted to announce our partnership with not one but several of the top Brazil football players in the world in the year the World Cup is hosted in that country. These players are committed to excellence and achievement in their field with a passion to win; which are values we share at Ritmo Mundo.”
- A Brazilian-styled Reflex advertisement for the male of the species
The Reflex silicone LED slap watches are available in a full palette of colours and cater to an audience looking for the simplicity of telling the time and date both functionally and stylistically and with the versatility of usage from the sports club to the night club, and a swimming pool to surfing.
Last but not least, Breitling for Bentley have one of football’s most iconic stars, David Beckham as their ambassador. One of England’s most capped footballers and now building a stadium and a team in the USA, he appears in the Breitling for Bentley advertisements.
Source: Europa Star June - July 2014 Magazine Issue