It is hard to parody the overheated rhetoric of the luxury watch business’ merchandising arm. In his book Timekeepers, Simon Garfield has some very funny passages on the world of haut horologie. Garfield is evidently a watch aficionado, but one aware of the somewhat absurd side of this business.
Anyway, here is a passage on Jose Mourinho at Baselworld 2017. Mourinho’s campaign for/with Hublot can be viewed here and is as grandiose as you would expect (though in fairness in the below video he doesn’t seem to be just going through the PR motions). I present this piece really in the spirit of a previously shared profile of The Rock from GQ – as a relief from the times I fear a little too much of monasticism and worries about whether the classical and early Christian worlds were really in conflict dominates this blog too much…
Baselworld has chosen its name well. It is indeed a world of its own, held each March in a multi-tiered exhibition hall of 140,000 square metres, and most of the big brands have created a nation state within it. When I visited in 2014, for example, Breitling had built a huge rectangular tank containing hundreds of tropical fish above its stand, for no other reason than that it could. And it wasn’t a stand, it was a ‘Pavilion’. Elsewhere, Tissot and Tudor had giant walls of flashing disco lights above their wares, while TAG Heuer had placed one of its watchmakers at a bench at the front of its pavilion to demonstrate how doubly difficult it was to build a watch while being watched. Just as motor racing fans love the occasional crash, TAG Heuer aficionados stand around waiting for their man to drop a screw on the carpet. I crushed my way into the Hublot conference with José Mourinho, then still the Chelsea manager, the company’s latest brand ambassador. Every watch company needs its ambassadors: the fact that they do not usually wear the watch while achieving their greatest feats is not a major consideration. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have signed for Audemars Piguet and Jacob & Co. Alongside Mourinho, Hublot also has Usain Bolt. Breitling has John Travolta and David Beckham, Montblanc Hugh Jackman, TAG Heuer Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz, Rolex Roger Federer, IWC Ewan McGregor, and Longines Kate Winslet. Patek Philippe, ever keen to market itself as a brand with longevity and cross-generational worth, has shied away from asking, say, Taylor Swift or other shooting stars to represent its interests. Instead, it celebrates its client list from another era, starting with Queen Victoria.
Mourinho has just flown in to Basel from the Chelsea training ground at Cobham. He is wearing a grey raincoat over grey cashmere knitwear, and he accepts his watch with light applause and a short speech about how he has been part of the ‘Hublot family’ for a long time as a fan, but now it’s all been made official (i.e. he’s received his bank transfer). His watch is called the King Power ‘Special One’, almost the size of a fist, 18-carat ‘king gold’ with blue carbon, a self-winding Unico manufacture Flyback Chronograph with 300 components, 48mm case, all the mechanics exposed on the dial side, blue alligator strap, a skeleton dial, a power reserve of 72 hours, an edition of 100 and a price of $44,200. Just like Mourinho, the blurb says, ‘The watch is provocative . . . the robust exterior hides the genius below.’ Astonishingly, it’s both stunning and hideous at the same time. Call for availability
The strangest thing about the Hublot King Power was not that it looked like an armoured tank, but that it didn’t keep very accurate time. When the popular American magazine WatchTime conducted tests on an earlier model, it found it gained between 1.6 to 4.3 seconds a day, which is not what you’d expect from a Swiss watch costing so much. My Timex Expedition Scout does better, losing about 18 seconds a month, or about 4 minutes annually. Four minutes annually, in the scheme of things, is nothing. You can run a mile in that, but it takes longer to stroll the length of the Baselworld carpeted walkways. Because I only had Timex money and not Hublot money I spent most of my time at the fair looking at the marketing, the thing that had brought me here in the first place. I particularly liked the text for the Mondaine Stop2go, which, as with most Mondaine watches, modelled itself on the Swiss railway clock. But this one was designed to run fast for 58 seconds and then stop at the top of the dial for two seconds before moving on again. It was an unnerving thing to see on the watch itself – time really standing still – but I was also thrown by the accompanying tagline: ‘What does two seconds mean to you?’ At the Victorinox Swiss Army stand was a man who said that his watches reflected the same attributes as its knives, being both functional and reliable