t’s nothing short of spectacular: A modern-day America’s Cup sailboat isn’t really a sailboat. Just like a Formula 1 car isn’t a car in any traditional sense of the word. Shaped like a projectile, in midnight blue with dashes of red and yellow, the Boat Zero, as it officially called by the Swiss America’s Cup team, flies above the water. Literally.
The two organically curved foils on each side of its 75-feet hull gives it a resemblance to a humpback whale, the main difference being that this particular marine animal is made of ultra-light carbon fibre and titanium and capable of speeds of up to four times that of the wind. Boat Zero can reach velocities of over 100 km/h, which is ludicrous at sea. It just takes one wrong turn, one foul wave, and the boat comes to a sudden and most violent stop.
- Alinghi Red Bull Racing unites the two-time America’s Cup winner, Alinghi, with Red Bull and will sail under the flag of the Société Nautique de Genève. The America’s Cup will take place in Barcelona in the fall of 2024.
“It’s like hitting a concrete wall,” says Nicolas Rolaz, a former Optimist World Champion and the youngest member of the Alinghi Red Bull Racing’s sailing team. The high-tech, the computer-aided performance, the know-how, is so advanced that one of the racing team’s representatives admits that some don’t even consider this sailing anymore. Perhaps that is why the 8 crew members wear crash helmets with intercoms in their lowered cockpits.
Now, they also get to wear Tudor watches on their wrists: In 2022, Alinghi Red Bull Racing announced Tudor as its Main Partner for the 37th edition of the America’s Cup. One year later, Tudor revealed two new Pelagos FXD watches created for the racing team, which are also available for consumers. We’re talking two sporty, feather-light, high-precision chronometers comprising a 42mm time-only model and a 43mm chronograph which is the first Pelagos to feature the stopwatch complication.
- The new Pelagos FXD and Pelagos FXD Chrono Alinghi Red Bull Racing Edition
We went to the official launch in June in Barcelona, home of the Alinghi Red Bull Racing’s sailing team, and sat down with Ander Ugarte of the Design Lab at Tudor, the man responsible not only for the Tudor Black Bay, but for every single Tudor watch since 2007.
Europa Star: What was the inspiration for this release?
Ander Ugarte: We decided to make our first watch out of carbon fibre, titanium and steel, which are the same materials they use on the Alinghi Red Bull Racing team. The company colour and the logo obviously played a part, which is why the blue and red is prominent, as well as the text in the rehaut. In terms of functions, we wanted to provide the team with a watch that could be submerged without being a dive watch. The bezel is bi-directional for that same reason, it works as a countdown during the start of the regatta. We also needed the watch to be robust which oriented us towards the monobloc case of the FXD Pelagos, and a handy strap for when you’re at sea and need to put it on top of a wetsuit.
What was the biggest challenge in the process?
Carbon fibre is new to us and it was quite a learning curve. New developments take time. Just only developing the mold took six months.
How big is this release for Tudor?
It’s important for several reasons. First, it opens up to new, more technological materials. That’s a very important step for us. Secondly, we hope to gain more visibility through the sponsorship.
Red Bull is known for being young and rebellious. How hard was it to incorporate that energy drink brand image into a Tudor watch?
Not that hard, really. It’s not just Red Bull, but Alinghi Red Bull Racing, it’s a joint project. They decided to create this team because they realized that in order to have a chance to win the America’s Cup, they needed to go further than ever before. Red Bull had no experience in the world of the America’s Cup, but they are doing very well in Formula 1. Teaming up with Alinghi was like getting together with someone with a similar spirit of always innovative, always going further. We can identify.
You’ve worked at Rolex in the past and now lead the design department at Tudor. What’s the biggest difference?
Tudor and Rolex are two different worlds even if we share our DNA and that culture of quality. One very visible difference, I’d say, is that Tudor is experimenting more, with bolder design and new materials.
How did you transition from designing for one brand to the other?
Many brands have one iconic watch, but our sister brand’s entire collection is practically iconic. That can be overwhelming when you sign up as a designer. At Tudor, I’ve always worked in small, gradual steps. First, I searched for a new identity in the archives, finding products that evoked the brand DNA. It emerged in 2010 with the first chronographs and with the Black Bay in 2012. That was the watch that launched us.
- Completed in 2021 after three years of construction with four storeys totalling 5,500 square meters, Tudor now has a brand-new watch Manufacture in Le Locle, Switzerland. The state-of-the-art facility is all decked out in Tudor red, and is physically and visually connected to the neighbouring Kenissi Manufacture, the Tudor movement production facility founded in 2016.
As a designer, what are you doing today to maintain Tudor’s growing popularity?
We keep working on details of existing designs, refining and redefining them. It means always taking a critical look at what we have done with the idea of doing even better. This goes for quality, design, manufacturing, marketing, everything.
What’s your method when developing new designs?
I don’t have a method. I am intuitive. I sense things and translate them on paper or to the objects.
Can you give an example?
The Black Bay is an example. I was looking at all the diving watches that Tudor had made during its history, analyzing them, trying to understand what made them so special. When you look at an old watch you can find inspiration in how beautiful it is. It can be seeing how the years transform the Luminova and parts of the dial, the colour changing into something warmer. It gives a watch a lot of charm and tradition, or solera, as we say in Spanish. Ot it can be a domed dial that makes the light fall differently on the watch face. I try and figure out what it’s all about, why a watch has that charisma. I then try to apply it without copying the original. Then I combine small, new things and see the result develop in drawings. Of course, getting feedback from others helps.
What has been your craziest design over the years?
The Tudor Black Bay P01. We visited Tudor’s heritage department and they showed us collections from the archives. There was a drawer with a prototype from the 1960s, some kind of Frankenstein watch, ultra function-oriented and developed for the US Navy. They had tried to make an unusual locking bezel mechanism, and I thought, this watch has such incredible charm! I told my boss we needed to do something with this. He agreed, so we made lots of prototypes over the years, and every time the management said: No, no, this cannot be, this is a monster. In the end, reworking the design again and again and explaining what we wanted to achieve, convinced them. The Black Bay P01 is related to our history of developing products for the Navy, with the spirit of the brand, and we managed to transform it into something contemporary. It was super controversial, the kind of watch people either love or hate. But we achieved our goal, we made people talk about Tudor again.
- Black Bay P01
Which watch design are you most proud of?
The challenge is not to be the designer of a watch, but to be able to do all kinds of watches. Personally, what I am most satisfied with is that, within today’s Tudor catalog, different watches are doing well commercially. Not only Black Bay and Pelagos, but Royal, 1926 and Clair de Rose. Each model has found the objective intended for them. That’s my job as a designer.