Grand Slams: The Courtship Between Tennis And Timepieces

Grand Slams: The Ongoing Courtship Between Tennis And Timepieces

Watchonista rounds up the signature watch-tennis star mixed double pairs we love.

By Rhonda Riche

Tennis’ Grand Slam just ended its 2020 season with a postponed French Open last weekend. There were upsets (Rafael Nadal routed Novak Djokovic for his 20th Grand Slam singles title) and surprises (54th ranked teen Iga Świątek became the first Polish tennis player to win a Grand Slam singles title). But in the end, everyone was treated to some top-notch tournaments. Brands and players also paired up for a wide range of signature timepieces this year.

With all this excitement, it is an excellent opportunity to take a fresh look at the most recent tennis stars to show off their watches. And the top seeds are serving some great signature timepieces. Here are four recent matches we love.

Citizen and Naomi Osaka

Timekeeping is hard-baked into the sport of tennis. Some theorize the scoring system was based on the clock face – players start with zero (aka love) and are then awarded points in increments of 15. The theory is that these intervals were chosen because it was easy to visually convey points by manipulating the hands of large a clock.

Partnerships also play an integral part of tennis tournaments at the international level. Many brands provide crucial off court services and sponsor athletes, thus assuring the future of the sport. One such player is Citizen, the official timekeeper of the US Open.

Naomi Osaka is one of tennis’ future icons. At the age of 22, Osaka came to the world’s attention when she defeated 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams at the 2018 US Open. This year, she took her third Grand Slam singles trophy at the same event in September.

Osaka’s hard-hitting style, as well as her age and candor, have made her immensely popular to a younger audience. More than just having a signature watch, Osaka has a whole collection of unisex Citizen Eco-Drive watches. For this year’s US Open in September, Osaka wore the Naomi Osaka Limited Edition signature model. With its sky-blue face and bright yellow, tennis ball-inspired urethane strap, and Super Titanium case, the “Naomi Osaka Model” is made of the most modern materials.

“The vivid color scheme is inspired by the image of a yellow tennis ball rising to the blue sky,” said Osaka. “It feels empowering just to wear it.”

It is also a technologically advanced, multi-band radio-controlled watch that can adjust its time automatically in 26 cities around the world. And with the Eco-Drive technology, it does not require periodic battery replacement to power the watch. A black urethane band is also available to accommodate style preference.

How popular is the Naomi Osaka? The 5,000-piece, limited-edition Citizen Eco-Drive Naomi Osaka Model is already sold out.

Zenith and Patrick Mouratoglou

Time is also crucial to the game of tennis because, in a close contest, taking too long and impeding the flow of the match can cost a player a point. Players don’t usually keep track of time themselves, but umpires and coaches do. That’s why it’s fitting that in September, Zenith paired up with Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou to create the Zenith DEFY 21 Patrick Mouratoglou. Time is also crucial to the game of tennis because, in a close contest, taking too long and impeding the flow of the match can cost a player a point.

Players don’t usually keep track of time themselves, but umpires and coaches do. That’s why it’s fitting that in September, Zenith paired up with Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou to create the Zenith DEFY 21 Patrick Mouratoglou.

The case and bezel of this precision chronograph are made of carbon, which is lightweight, has an excellent strength to weight ratio, and is used in professional tennis rackets to boost kinetic energy transfer. Additionally, the outer bezel is inscribed and filled by luminescent pigment with Mouratoglou’s personal motto “Little details make big difference.”

The dial features touches of blue and yellow reminiscent of a tennis ball. And inside, the movement is based on the El Primero 21, an upgrade of the famous El Primero, launched in 2017. The highlight of this mechanism is the split-second central chronograph hand.

Mouratoglou is also an entrepreneur and is launching his own tournament, the Ultimate Tennis Showdown, with a new format that seeks to appeal to a younger, more inclusive demographic by emphasizing the entertainment aspect of the game. To coincide with the event, the DEFY 21 Patrick Mouratoglou edition, which is limited to 50 pieces, will be launched in November 2020 at Zenith boutiques around the world as well as the Zenith Online Boutique. Priced at 19,500 CHF, the 50 lucky owners of the watch will receive an exclusive opportunity to spend one night at the Mouratoglou Academy in the south of France and enjoy a one-on-one training session with the coach himself.

Richard Mille and Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal is undeniably a legend of the court, as proven last week when he tied Roger Federer’s record for 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles. Nadal is also the rare player who wears a watch on the court. Typically, the Spaniard is spotted with a Richard Mille strapped to his wrist.

To commemorate the 10-year partnership between the brand and the star, Nadal wore the new Richard Mille RM 27-04 Tourbillon to cinch his 13th French Open victory (and 999th career win to date) at the Stade Roland Garros in Paris.

Rafa’s new signature watch uses a steel wire that crisscrosses across the face of the piece 38 times to create a tennis racket effect. But it also secures the tourbillon to the case, which is made from the exclusive-to-Richard Mille TitaCarb high-performance polymer. Its 38.5 percent carbon fiber content provides superlative tensile strength – 370 MPa (3,700 kg/cm2) – to make it resistant to impacts, like from, say, a 96 mph serve.

Did we mention that Nadal wore this watch – a tourbillon no less – in a high-powered match? As it turns out, the calibre RM 27-04 is capable of withstanding accelerations of over 12,000 Gs, a new record for the brand.

This 50-piece limited edition is available exclusively at Richard Mille boutiques worldwide and priced at $1,050,000.

Seiko and Novak Djokovic

Top tennis players are always dressed impeccably on the court, and they gracefully maintain composure with a seemingly calm confident facade. However, on the inside, tennis pros relentlessly push their bodies to pursue excellence like a well-oiled machine.

Number one ranked Novak Djokovic may have lost to Rafael Nadal at the French Open but did it with style and his own signature timepiece: the Seiko Astron GPS Solar Novak Djokovic 2020 Limited Edition.

Djokovic and Seiko have been partners since 2014. Over this time, the Serbian has built an astonishing record of 16 Grand Slam victories and 34 ATP Tour Masters 1000 wins. In 2019 alone, Novak won the Australian Open and Wimbledon as well as three other tournaments, including his first in Japan.

All of these achievements certainly warranted a new watch, the Astron GPS Solar. This timepiece celebrates the global appeal of tennis by offering Seiko’s most advanced GPS solar technology. The design of the watch pays tribute to the true collaboration between brand and athlete with a colorway based on the flags of Serbia and Japan.

Other details honor the flags of both Serbia and Japan. The deep blue dial honors the Serbian standard and signifies victory in Japan. Red and white, colors common to the Japanese and Serbian flags, also make an appearance on the dial. Along with the white UTC indicator ring and hands, the central second hand is tipped with scarlet, and the time zones of both countries are highlighted in red on the UTC ring (+1 for Serbia, +9 for Japan). Finally, the use of gold-tone on the hands and minute track of the dual time sub-dial at 6 o’clock denotes Novak’s many trophies.

Like Novak, who is at the top of his game, the Seiko Caliber 5X53 Dual-Time movement is state-of-the-art, connecting up to twice a day to a GPS network to automatically adjust to the correct local time, including during Daylight Savings Times.

Available in Seiko boutiques and other select retailers, this 1,500-piece limited edition is priced at $2,900.

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