Game, Set And Watch At Wimbledon 2019

Game, Set, Match: The Watches And Storylines Of Wimbledon 2019

More than 300 competitors, 50,000 tennis balls, 28,000 kg of strawberries, and half a million spectators engulfed Wimbledon for the 2019 edition. If that’s not enough, the world’s premier tennis tournament was also the perfect place for watch spotting.

By Simon Howson-Green

The two competitors were brought to the Centre Court just before 2 pm London time. Around them, the roar of the 15,000 strong crowd pulsated. Both were fully wound up for the coming ordeal with strong reserves of energy to keep them going. One, a shining example of finely honed swiss perfection; the other powered by the light of the sun with accurate movements controlled by satellites.

Two Major champions

Four hours and fifty-seven minutes later – the longest Wimbledon final in history - they were on the court for the world to see… a billion people would be watching as they ticked away on the wrists of the Wimbledon Champion, Novak Djokovic and runner up, Roger Federer.

Despite the euphoria of Novak and the despondency of Roger, both players managed to dip into their immense racquet bags, retrieve their watches and have them on their wrists in plenty of time for the presentation and the cameras. It’s a move they must have practiced almost as much as their second serve. Unlike that famous Andy Murray incident in 2016 when his Rado appeared to be telling the wrong time, the Rolex and Seiko were both bang on – as if either player needed a reminder of how long they had slogged it out on the court.

Djokovic had been super-efficient in showing off his Seiko Astron GPS Limited Edition in all his post-match interviews. He has developed a neat wrist movement to full effect. While answering journalist's questions, his watch arm emerges on screen as his fingers massage his left eyebrow giving us a good shot of the watch clasp and bracelet. Odd that BBC didn't show the watch face close up. One wonders if that was by arrangement with the advertising shy BBC.

Federer had that similar wrist action for his Rolex during interviews. This year, his familiar steel and gold Datejust II with slate grey dial was less evident and it was a rose gold Day Date which Federer favored for the final and the bigger press conferences.

Wrist spotting

Rafa Nadal may have faded in the semis by losing to Federer, but his orange-colored Richard Mille RM27-03 Tourbillon was very much evident. Rafa plays with his watch on after all. An easy feat when it weighs a mere 20 grams. Federer’s Rolex weighs in at 143 grams and that Seiko of Novak’s… even more. It’s tough enough wielding a racquet without having your backhand weighed down by your wristwatch.

Team Rafa had another trick up its sleeve to ensure the Richard Mille got screen time. The Spaniard’s coach, Uncle Tony, also wore one as he watched his nephew on the court.

The 2019 Wimbledon Championships marked half a century since the great Australian, Rod Laver and Britain’s Anne Jones lifted the trophy. They were the pioneers who gave the open, professional era of Lawn Tennis true legitimacy. It was finally OK to earn money from hitting a ball back and forth over a net.

Back in 1969 Laver’s Wimbledon winnings were £3,000. That’s worth about £42,000 in today’s money, the equivalent to what a first-round loser in the Gentlemen’s Challenge would take home from the All England Lawn Tennis Club in 2019.

Not bad, but nothing compared to this year’s jackpot. Djokovic walked off Centre Court triumphant £2.3m richer. We have come a long way.

Of watch endorsement

But that’s only the prize money. The big bucks come from endorsements and some of the biggest endorsements come from the watches the top players wore. Tennis is more about wrist action than ever before. It took a decade from the game going pro in 1968 for the sponsorship deals to start kicking in and it wasn’t until the mid-eighties and the arrival of Boris Becker that tennis player's wrists became valuable real estate.

Back in the day, Becker first endorsed a quartz Ebel, then an IWC Portuguese and then TAG Heuer. By the time he was coaching Novak Djokovic in 2015 he was sporting a Seiko Astron. This is rumored to have been a gift from Novak and sadly auctioned off when Becker was declared bankrupt last year.

Watches are synonymous with sporting endeavors, they are precise, reliable and are built to perform. Wimbledon is possibly the perfect showcase for any watchmaker with celebrity endorsements. Not just those on the court but they myriad of watch wearing fashionistas who rock up to watch the action on Wimbledon’s show courts.

The Centre Court is intimate, up-close and personal. The times between games when players change ends, the medical breaks and those 25 seconds allowed between services are all opportunities for the camera to wander and enjoy some breathing space to scan the stands for famous faces and, of course, their wrist hardware is very much in evidence.

On the last weekend alone, serial watch endorsers were out there in droves. Benedict Cumberbatch was there with a JLC tucked neatly under his immaculate jacket. Tudor Ambassador David Beckham was sporting what looked like the Tudor Black Bay Chrono on bund strap. Beckham added to the effect of the matte black finish of the dial by dyeing his hair black to match.

Although they do not endorse anything it was comforting to see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had front row seats and were both wearing their long-serving Omega Seamaster 300 quartz (ref: 2561.80.00) and Ballon Blue de Cartier respectively. William has worn that watch for a decade suggesting it was most likely a gift with huge sentimental value.

Coincidentally, Wimbledon 2019 coincided with the 50 years since Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar module and onto the surface of the moon. A first for mankind. Armstrong left his 105.102 Speedmaster back in the lander for those first steps as it was substituting for a faulty internal clock in the lunar module. So, it was left to Buzz Aldrin to be the first man on the moon wearing his Iconic Omega Speedmaster.

With that snippet of historical trivia, you could argue that it was Aldrin’s small step for a man which sparked a giant leap for the world of watch endorsement.

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