Might the right wristwatch improve your tennis?
Well, I have evidence to suggest it can, having recently played a few points against a man almost 20 years my senior who was wearing the latest tennis-dedicated timepiece from cult watch brand Hublot – and the old boy absolutely thrashed me.
To be fair, however, I should reveal that he has a bit of form with a racket and, 20 years ago, was even inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
So perhaps it was just innate talent, not his watch, that enabled Ilie Nastase to make me look like a first-timer on court at London’s Queen’s Club.
But there seems little doubt that Hublot’s new Nastie Bang is set to be a smash hit with the Romanian ace’s many fans, although just 132 examples of the imposing, black ceramic Big Bang special will be available.
The unashamedly gimmicky timepiece is the latest brainchild of marketing genius Jean-Claud Biver, the brains behind Hublot, and was unveiled at the start of Wimbledon fortnight to mark the opening of the brand’s dedicated boutique at 31 New Bond Street, London – the only place where the £15,800 ($25,227) watch is available.
The limited edition of 132 refers to the number of victories Nastase achieved during his professional career, and the watch features a 30-minute counter in the image of a tennis ball and a 60-second counter subdivided into ‘15’, ‘30’, ‘40’ and ‘Game Nastase’ intervals in homage to the traditional scoring method.
In reality, as anyone who knows anything about horology will tell you, the best thing to do with your watch when playing high-impact sports such as tennis is to take it off – a fact that prompted maverick watch maker Richard Mille to defy convention by making a timepiece designed specifically to cope with the rigours of the game at the highest level.
And, to prove his RM027 tourbillon was really up to the job, he strapped one on to the wrist of Rafael Nadal just in time for his win at last year’s French Open.
Rafa then wore the watch again during his victorious assault on the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, both times providing the Richard Mille brand with priceless publicity.
Not surprisingly, the rough and tumble of top class tennis is not usually regarded as the ideal environment for a luxury timepiece, which is one reason why professional players are seldom seen wearing a watch on court.
But the RM 027 was allegedly developed, with Nadal’s help, to cope with the jarring vibration, sudden directional changes and stop-go movements that are all part and parcel of a top level game.
Renowned for using high-tech materials in his creations, Mille incorporated titanium, aerospace-quality LITAL alloy and carbon composite into the watch to reduce its weight to less than 20 grams including the polycarbonate strap, making it one of the lightest tourbillon watches in the world.
In fact, Nadal probably only notices he is wearing it when he tosses the ball skywards in preparation for another blistering serve.
For many lowly club players, however, the downside of the RM 027 will probably be its price. When I last checked, it retailed at £414,500.
But, if you are the type of person who can afford to string your racket with threads of gold, you will have the chance to bid for the actual watch Nadal was wearing when he won this year’s Monte Carlo championships at a charity auction being staged in the principality on September 23 (see auctions on Page 8).
Before Richard Mille’s effort, no other luxury brand had considered developing a watch to be worn by tennis players during matches, although plenty have embraced the sport as a promotional tool.
One of Nadal’s great rivals, Roger Federer, is a Rolex ambassador and wears an Oyster Perpetual Day Date (but you will only see it on court during exhibition matches).
Rolex also supports Belgian star Justine Henin and sponsors both Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
Other watch brands to have adorned the wrists of top players with their products include TAG Heuer, for whom Maria Sharapova is an ambassador, and IWC which has an association with Boris Becker in whose honour it produced a delectable, limited edition version of its Portuguese Chronograph with a dark green dial and strap inspired by the Wimbledon courts.
Longines, meanwhile, is official partner of the French Open and counts Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf among its ambassadors.
But if you really do insist on wearing a watch around the court and do not have Richard Mille money, you could try adapting TAG Heuer’s specially made Professional Golf Watch which is said to be 70 per cent lighter than a standard steel model, has an automatically expanding silicon elastic strap and a left-mounted winding crown to prevent “digging in” when playing those wrist-flexing shots.
It costs about £795.
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