Playing golf at the highest level is an unseizable quest for self improvement. Every little details matter. This is also a constant fight between perfectionism (self control) and creativity (laisser-faire). Knowing when to unleash the artist within me and knowing when to center back to the most rigorous method and discipline, leaving no room for error. A dimension that I found myself facing within the realm of horology, my biggest passion outside the golf course.
As a true watch nerd, I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you a bit of history that started the connection between two universes I hold dear. This is the story of two icons which, in my humble opinion, have served as the stepping stones for the unique association between the watch industry and the golfing world.
Jack Nicklaus & Rolex
It’s 1966 and Japan is hosting one of the biggest event, the World Cup (which will eventually become the famous “WGC” event). Nicklaus, still to this date considered the greatest of all time, is invited to a pre-opening party hosted by one of the sponsors, the emblematic watch manufacture Rolex.
Alongside his peers and fierce competitors Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, Rolex decides to offer the winning Tripod the watch of their choice, as a thank you for showing up to the party.
A few month later, Rolex delivers to Jack Nicklaus an 18 ct gold Day-Date (ref 1803), also known as “The President.” A legend was born.
The day-date became the watch that Mr. Nicklaus would wear his whole career. It’s actually very hard to find a picture of him without his watch as it would never leave his side. He even admits “as soon as I [He] walked off the 18th green, I would put my wallet back in my pocket and my watch on my wrist. So virtually any pictures that was taken after a round of golf the watch was on”. This propelled Rolex to the top of the golfing world, as we can see Nicklaus’s day-date being pictured on at least 12 out of his 18 major trophies and during Ryder Cups.
Instead of passing it on to the next generation, Nicklaus decides to break the codes and auction the watch so that the proceeds would benefit his charity (The Nicklaus’s Children Health Care Foundation) while the watch would be passed on to a collector. Nicklaus’s Day-Date is said to be amongst the 3 most important sport watches that ever came up at auction. It sold in December 2019 at Phillips for 1.2 million US dollars.
The president day-date remains to this day one of the most emblematic watch in the Rolex roaster, which has been seen on the wrist of prominent people and watch coinoisseurs.
Sir Nick Faldo & Audemars Piguet
Audemars Piguet (AP) has been an emblematic brand in the golf industry the last decades, which is why I thought I would shed light on its origins.
Back in 1990, AP comes out with their first ever watch in a single-tone, bi-metal configuration, the reference 56175TT. Indeed, the words “TT” refers to the unique association of Tantalum and Steel used to produce the watch. This is truly unique for the industry at the time, but most importantly this reference was made in honor of Sir Nick Faldo and commemorates his win at the Masters and the Open Championship during that same year.
The watch was a limited edition of 2000, with a case diameter of 33mm which was pretty common men’s sizing back in the 90’s. It holds a quartz movement (we shall not forget that at the time quartz movements were considered as the way forward in the watchmaking industry).
AP admits that “this is how Nick Faldo became the prestigious Audemars Piguet ambassador on golf courses around the world and chose the Royal Oak to express his privilege to dominate the competition at the highest level.”
From this success emerged the association between AP and the golfing world so that “following the example of this exceptional champion, young talents will have the opportunity to prove themselves thanks to the active support of the Royal Oak Team,” the latter founded by Audemars Piguet to reveal the best prospects in golf.
Even though it’s very rare to hear about The Royal Oak Championship, it is for me a true true gem, reminiscent of the era that started it all.
While watch markets have become more and more speculative the last few years, it is for me important to remember the intrinsic value of those pieces that are so highly coveted, with which Rolex’s motto takes on its full meaning “it doesn’t tell time, it tell stories.”