Tee Time: Golfers & Their Watches
Mark Twain famously described golf as “a good walk spoiled,” suggesting the lauded American author never appreciated the thrill of a cleanly hit tee shot or a well-deserved birdie putt. Some sixteen years before Twain published The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the world’s oldest major tournament – The Open Championship – was held at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland.
Later this month, the 142nd iteration of the world-renowned tournament will take place at Muirfield in East Lothian, with South African Breitling ambassador Ernie Els looking to defend his title against a field including Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy.
The relationship between luxury watches and professional golf is indelible, with Rolex having acted as the official timekeeper of the Open Championship for the past 30 years. The London-founded luxury marque also hold the same role at the US Open, while Omega are the principal sponsors for the European Masters and several events on the European and US PGA Tours.
Of course, fans of timepieces and the most gentlemanly sport will be keen to know which watches are best suited to a round of 18. Unfortunately, the answer, according to Oliviero Bottinelli — the managing director of Audemars Piguet in Asia — is no watch at all.
“When the golf club hits the golf ball, the impact creates a multitude of vibrations which will go up the shaft of the club and finish in the arm,” he explained to the New York Times last year.
“The wrists, and therefore the watch on the wrist, receive all these vibrations — and a mechanical movement will feel them quite strongly. The movement has a good chance of not working so well after a while.”
Despite the incompatibility of watches and stroke play, the world’s greatest golfers still share a close affinity with luxury wristwear. Some will slip on a watch before and after their round to fulfil their ambassadorial roles, while others throw caution to Bottinelli’s advice and wear a mechanical piece on the fairway. A few ingenious watchmakers have also attempted to combat the innate problems of wearing a wristwatch while playing. Here are some of the brands worn by the planet’s top golfers…
The aforementioned Open Championship timekeepers have a long-running association with golfers dating back to the 1960s, having sponsored the “Big Three” of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
Their stable of links luminaries is no less impressive today, with Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson all sporting the Swiss brand.
Tiger — who earns around £60m a year from endorsements — signed a sponsorship deal with Rolex in 2011, having ended a lengthy relationship with TAG Heuer.
Four-time major championship winner Mickelson, meanwhile, is one of the few pros who actually wears his Rolex while playing. He often wears a Rolex Cellini Danaos on the course and owns several Oyster and GMT-Master models too
These days, precocious Ulsterman Rory McIlroy is an Omega ambassador, along with fellow European tour star Sergio Garcia and the legendary Greg Norman. But not so long ago, McIlroy was rarely seen without an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph, such as the one he wore when he lifted the 2011 US Open trophy.
Among the golfers currently sporting a Royal Oak are 2008 Open Championship runner-up Ian Poulter and former world number one Lee Westwood.
As previously noted, Tiger Woods and Ian Poulter were both formerly proponents of TAG Heuer, but in the fickle world of golf sponsorship, they have both since moved on. The sporty Swiss brand, however, are one of few to have actually attempted to create a watch to meet the demands and challenges posed by golf.
Introduced in 2005 in association with Mr Woods, the extra-thin TAG Heuer Golf watch features a fine-brushed steel and titanium case that weighs just 30 percent of a regular steel watch. The crown is located at the 9 o’clock position to avoid digging into the golfer’s hand during the backswing, the clasp is integrated into the case so that it does not pinch the wrist and the rubber strap is designed not to slip down and snag the glove.
The other notable luxury brand to make a golf watch is Richard Mille, who specially built the sublime RM 038 Tourbillon that Bubba Watson wore during his 2012 Masters victory.
The manually-wound tourbillon within the ultra-lightweight titanium casing is specifically designed to counteract the G-forces of a golfer’s swing.
The American continues to wear the watch in tournament play to this day, perhaps justifying its cool £300,000 price tag.
LEAD IMAGE CREDIT: Rolex.com
EXPLORE MENS SPORTS WATCHES »