Hitting the Slopes with Longines for Future Ski Champions
My story of visiting Äre, Sweden to talk time with Olympic gold medalists (and Longines ambassadors) Mikaela Shiffrin and Aksel Lund Svindal.
Timing is everything in Alpine skiing. The athlete needs to make split second decisions as they hurtle down the hills. One mistimed gate could cost the race. Trying to shave a few milliseconds off a tight turn could result in physical calamity.
Because races are won or lost within fractions of a second, the clocks in charge of timing such events have to be incredibly precise. Watchmakers who provide timing instruments for World Cup events are not just there for the branding opportunities (although high profile sponsorships don’t hurt either).
In March, Watchonista travelled to Äre, Sweden for the unveiling of Longines new timing clock for the FISA 2019 World Cup, to watch the next generation of ski stars and to talk to downhill legends Mikaela Shiffrin and Aksel Lund Svindal.
As the Official Partner and Timekeeper of the International Ski Federation (FIS) the governing body for international skiing and snowboarding, it’s Longines job to produce accurate results. In fact, the manufacture first got involved in sport timekeeping back in 1878 when it introduced with its first Chronograph.
Longines has a rich history in sport timing. But as sponsors of the Future Ski Champions race (which gives 12 of the best under 16 skiers from countries around the world the chance to square off on an official World Cup course), they are also committed to improving the accuracy of its instruments.
At the same time, Longines is also nurturing the next generation of downhill stars. The manufacturer is in a similar situation when it comes to managing its brand: it must leverage its history while advancing its technology and at the same time, connect the new community of watch buyers.
American Mikaela Shiffrin is preternaturally good at timing. The 28-year-old American is the youngest slalom champion in Olympic alpine skiing history and the current two-time reigning Overall World Cup champion.
As the most famous face of the future of Alpine Skiing, Shiffrin also has some interesting insights on millennials relationship to time.
“I got my first watch, my first nice watch, when I was 12,” says Shiffrin. “It was shiny and pretty, but it was kind of cheap. But I still wore it for two years and it didn’t even work.”
She talks about how, as a young racer, she felt fearless on the slopes, but as she got older she became more nervous before each event. To combat the nerves, she tries to find a balance between studying each course and trying to have fun.
If Longines was a person, I’d want to be friends with it
The same principles apply to Shiffrin’s choice of timepiece. She is wearing a Longines Conquest St. Moritz (an appropriate choice for this mountain setting). “It has an elegant look that matches anything I wear,” Shiffrin says. “And it works.”
Ultimately, when buying a good grown up watch you need to do your research but also rely on your instincts.
“I’m the one that looks at my watch. It’s a statement of who I am,” says Shiffrin. “Although If Longines was a person, I’d want to be friends with it.”
Time As A Instrument
At 35, Norwegian Super G star Aksel Lund Svindal is already a legend in downhill skiing. In 2013, he became the first male alpine racer to win titles in four consecutive world championships. This after a catastrophic crash in 2007 that took him off the circuit for a year.
Svindal is still at the top of his game, winning two golds at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics (and becoming the oldest man ever to medal in downhill.
“When you say ski for me it’s racing,” says Svindval. “It’s fast, it’s dynamic.”
Yet Svindval recognizes that one must also take a long-term view to keep a career going for as long as he has. “In what we do, timing is something we trust,” he says. “No one ever questions the reliability of the timing.”
Style and endurance are also a core values for Svindal, who co-owns a sustainable clothing line.
“I have a lot of experience with watches,” says Svindal. “My first was a Swatch. It was blue and green. Originally it was just blue but the strap broke and I replaced it with a green one.
“Most of my timepieces resemble instruments,” Svindal says, whilst wearing a Longines Master Collection Chronograph. “I’m an analogue kind of guy. I’m also less is more. I like remakes of old classics.”
Having watches steeped in tradition is a Longines signature, so being one of the brand’s ambassadors of elegance is a natural fit for Svindal’s own philosophy.
“One of the things about being experienced Is that you get to know your strengths.”