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08/29/2019
 6 minutes

US Open Special: Tennis Stars and Their Watches

By René Herold
CAM-680-Nadal_2_1

US Open Special: Tennis Stars and Their Watches

The worlds of watches and tennis have a long history together. Landing a big player as a brand ambassador is good business for both sides: The brands gain more exposure, and the players get exclusive timepieces. In this article, we’ll be exploring some of the most successful partnerships of all time.

Rafael Nadal and Richard Mille: The Dream Duo

Let’s cut to the chase and start with perhaps the most successful partnership in the tennis game: Rafael Nadal and Richard Mille. The Spaniard has been the face of this Swiss manufacturer for several years – with tangible results. When Nadal plays, interest in the brand spikes dramatically, as evidenced by traffic on Chrono24. When Nadal took the court at Wimbledon 2019, visitors flocked to our pages for Nadal and Richard Mille:

 

visitors who accessed Chrono24's Nadal pages
Number of visitors who accessed Chrono24’s Nadal pages via search engines during Wimbledon 2019.

Still a rather young company, Richard Mille has been shaking up the watch world with their groundbreaking developments and innovative ideas since 2001. Thanks to modern materials, some of which originate from the aerospace industry, their watches are light as a feather yet extremely robust. It was this combination that ultimately won Nadal over. Since then, Richard Mille has released multiple special editions for the tennis star.

The latest result of this collaboration is the RM 27-03 Rafael Nadal. In this high-tech watch, the baseplate and main body of the case form a single unit. Richard Mille engineer’s craft this component out of Carbon TPT, a material made up of countless wafer-thin layers of carbon fiber. On the other hand, the manufacturer constructs the case out of Quartz TPT. This material takes thin layers of quartz crystals and injects them with resin before melting them into one solid piece. The resulting watch is incredibly light and nearly indestructible. In a nod to Nadal’s home country, this timepiece shines in the Spanish national colors, red and yellow.

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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Richard Mille (@richardmilleofficial) am

While it may look spectacular, the true highlight of the RM 27-03 is its in-house caliber. It’s made largely of Grade 5 titanium, has a tourbillon, and – thanks to its sophisticated anti-shock system – can withstand forces of up to 10,000 g’s! To compare: The astronauts of the Apollo missions only ever experienced a maximum of 5 to 6 g’s inside the Saturn V rocket. That means not even Nadal’s hardest forehand could knock this timepiece out of step.

All that innovation has its price, of course. With a list price of $725,000, the RM 27-03 is perhaps the most expensive watch ever worn on a tennis court.

Loyal Partners: Roger Federer and Rolex

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal share more than just the tennis court. Both are all-time greats, and both have a taste for exquisite timepieces. Federer has maintained a partnership with Rolex for years. The Swiss maestro landed his first sponsorship contract with the Genevan luxury watch manufacturer early on in his career. After a short intermezzo with Maurice Lacroix in 2004, Federer returned to Rolex two years later and has remained loyal to the brand ever since. His collection by now includes classics, as well as rather unusual models.

Rolex GMT Master 'Batman'
Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Batman’

For example, he was wearing a Rolex Datejust II ref. 116334 on his wrist when he lifted the Wimbledon trophy in 2009. In 2012, he raised that same trophy while wearing a Day-Date II in Everose gold (ref. 218235). A GMT-Master II ref. 116710 BLNR accompanied him on the court as he celebrated his victory at the 2017 Australian Open. This timepiece is popularly referred to as the “Batman” due to its blue-black ceramic bezel. His collection also includes a Sky-Dweller and a Yacht-Master II, as we saw at the 2009 French Open and the 2018 Australian Open.

One of Federer’s most exceptional timepieces is his Daytona ref. 6263. This chronograph with a black dial and white subdials is extremely rare and was produced in 1981 – Federer’s birth year. With a little help from Rolex, his wife, Mirka, gifted him this watch for his 30th birthday.

On the women’s side, stars Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber are also Rolex brand ambassadors. Their preferred models are the Rolex Datejust and the Daytona.

Serena Williams and Audemars Piguet

Serena Williams is arguably the best women’s tennis player of all time. She has won every Grand Slam tournament at least three times, holds the record for the most singles Grand Slam titles in the Open Era, has four Olympic gold medals (1x singles, 3x doubles), and has spent well over 300 weeks ranked number one in the world. Her luxury watches are nearly as impressive as her résumé. This American legend can often be found on court with a timepiece from storied luxury brand Audemars Piguet on her wrist.

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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) am

She’s particularly fond of the Royal Oak Offshore Quartz with a rose gold case, diamond-studded bezel, white dial, and a white rubber strap. At first, she sported the standard model with the somewhat cumbersome reference number 67540OK.ZZ.A010CA.01. However, during more recent matches, she has been seen wearing a variant made especially for her with the crown relocated to the left side.

Other models in her Audemars Piguet collection include various editions of the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph and the manual Millenary. Perhaps her the most exquisite piece in her collection is the AP Diamond Outrage, a diamond-encrusted work of art that stole the show at the 2017 Met Gala.

Seiko: Special Editions for Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic also has a past with Audemars Piguet. He wore watches from this Swiss manufacturer from 2011 to 2014. Since then, the current world number one has been working with Seiko. As a result, the Japanese watch giant has tailored countless limited editions for his wrist.

Take the Premier Kinetic Perpetual Calendar SNP145P1 with a black PVD coating and SNP146P1 with red gold plating, for example. At almost 43 mm in diameter, these dress watches offer a large date and a perpetual calendar. The latter automatically takes months with fewer than 31 days and even leap years into account. Seiko’s Kinetic caliber 7D56 ticks away inside this timepiece. In this hybrid movement, a rotor generates the electrical energy that the watch needs in order to run. If the watch isn’t worn for a longer period, it goes into a sleep mode, which can last up to four years. When you wake it up, the watch automatically sets itself to the current date and time.

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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Novak Djokovic (@djokernole) am

Another Djokovic model is the Astron GPS Solar Chronograph SSE022J1. This watch has a solar-powered quartz movement that can pick up GPS signals and automatically adjusts itself to the correct time and date anywhere in the world – perfect for a frequent flyer like Novak Djokovic. The stopwatch function including a tachymeter scale adds a sporty touch.

What the Stars of Tomorrow Are Wearing

It’s often difficult to establish new partnerships with well-established stars. That’s why many brands focus on upcoming talent. Breitling, for example, recently entered into a contract with British number one Johanna Konta.

On the other hand, Naomi Osaka, winner of the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open, has been wearing Citizen watches for a good year now. On the other hand, Hublot scored partnerships with two top players, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova.

However, aligning yourself to a big name can also backfire, as it did with Maria Sharapova. In March of 2016, the Russian tennis star admitted that she had taken a performance-enhancing drug, a medication recently added to the list of banned substances, at the Australian Open a few months prior. She was banned for 15 months and was dropped by  Swiss manufacturer TAG Heuer to avoid bad publicity.

Read more

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About the Author

René Herold

My name is René Herold, and I first discovered Chrono24 in a job listing. Admittedly, I didn't really care about watches before coming to Chrono24. However, after a few …

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