Tennis and luxury watches go hand in hand.
Rolex, for example, has been Official Timekeeper of The Championships, Wimbledon since 1978. It’s also Official Timekeeper at the US Open, and the French Open recently also switched from Longines to Rolex as their sponsor.
Many of tennis’ biggest stars, too, are sponsored by luxury watch companies. Roger Federer has been endorsed by Rolex since 2004, Seiko renewed its partnership with Novak Djokovic in 2016, and Tag Heuer counts Petra Kvitova and Kei Nishikori among its ambassadors.
While these players are always seen with one of their sponsor’s timepieces on their wrists outside the tournaments, some like to take it a step further and keep their watches on while they play.
Some watches are built to take the strain
Between them, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Stan Wawrinka, and Naomi Osaka wore $776,500 worth of watches while they played at the 2019 US Open, according to the experts at luxury watch marketplace Crown & Caliber.
This mind-boggling price tag is largely down to the men’s champion, Nadal, wearing his Richard Mille RM 27-03, which was made especially for the Spaniard and retails at an eye-watering $725,000.
So why do these tennis stars decide to keep their wristwear on when others abstain? It is, of course, in part, down to personal preference. Tennis involves a lot of wrist action and some players avoid having extra weight on their forearms for obvious reasons.
However, it’s also down to the choice of watch. Nadal’s Richard Mille, for example, is made of carbon fiber, Quartz TPT, and Grade 5 titanium, which makes it not only ultra-light, but also virtually indestructible.
Though it weighs just 20 grams, the RM 27-03 was tested to withstand shocks of up to 10,000 G — for context, the record for highest G-force on a roller coaster is 6.3. So while the force of Nadal’s forehand is infamous, his watch should have no trouble keeping up.
“The real idea was to create a watch that was strong enough to wear while playing, but so light that I would hardly feel it,” Nadal — who first partnered with Richard Mille in 2014 — said before the French Open.
Odell Beckham Jr. wore a $189,500 Richard Mille while playing
Richard Mille recently received another unlikely sporting endorsement from Odell Beckham Jr., who wore an orange RM 11-03 in his first game with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Beckham paid $189,500 for the timepiece at a Richard Mille boutique, The Washington Post discovered.
“It’s indestructible,” Beckham told Yahoo Sports.
While Beckham’s RM 11-03 might be shatterproof, the players going in to tackle him are not, and Associated Press reported that the NFL will be speaking to Beckham about his violation of the rules, which prohibit athletes from wearing hard objects.
The Swiss watchmaker distanced itself from Beckham, writing in a statement provided to The Post that the player is “not a brand partner and it is his decision to wear his watch on the field.”
Should you wear a watch while playing sport?
While Nadal and Beckham might feel comfortable wearing their watches on the court and on the field, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should too.
There are various factors to consider before taking your timepiece out to play, Caitlyn Bazemore writes for Crown & Caliber’s Unwound blog.
First of all, you should consider whether your watch is built to resist the shock of impact, especially when playing a sport like tennis. If you have a vintage watch with lots of delicate parts, you risk damaging the watch crystal.
“Stay away from dress watches,” Bazemore writes. “Their movements are more sensitive to impact.”
She adds that people should avoid wearing gold watches for sport, since it’s a softer metal than stainless steel or titanium and therefore more prone to damage.
Finally, “leave the leather strap at home,” since sweat will seep into the leather and become trapped.
Instead, Bazemore recommends a strong dive watch, which are built to withstand intense underwater pressure. Quartz watches, too, she writes “both durable and lightweight.”
“In general, choose a model in stainless steel or titanium with either a bracelet or a rubber strap.”
Be warned: no matter what model you decide on, there is always some risk involved in wearing your watch for sport.