(Luca de Montezemolo and Jean-Claude Biver)
As the most coveted partnership one could possibly court, it’s hardly surprising that Ferrari has been associated with more wristwatch brands than any other since the Italian manufacturer was founded in 1947. Enzo Ferrari had been at it since 1929, with his racing team Scuderia Ferrari, but it’s the past 66 years that contain the history of his eponymous vehicles.
Since 1988, when ‘the Old Man’ shuffled off to that race course in the sky, Ferrari has not been shy about sticking its instantly-recognisable logo on anything from briefcases to laptop computers to baseball caps. This brazen, almost militant commercialism has – as expected – generated more than a few acidic comments from motoring scribes.
Perhaps the final straw was the Ferrari amusement park in the Middle East, relegating the company’s prestige to the same infantile level as a EuroDisney or Alton Towers, but, hey – we’re grown-ups, and Mammon has replaced most other deities. Watches, though, seem to be an exception.
As confirmed by Jack Heuer in a recent interview, Enzo Ferrari resisted overtures from non-automotive sponsors, even after the floodgates were opened by Lotus in the 1960s. Heuer’s name was among the very first to appear of a Ferrari, Grand Prix car, thanks to the company’s role as official timekeepers in motorsport.
While Enzo held out against any form of sponsorship that didn’t relate to automobiles or, more specifically, racing – cigarettes and soft drinks and hotels and banks were prohibited – he had no problem with the name of a tyre manufacturer or electrics producer endorsing his cars. Equally, his standards seem to have dictated who was allowed to put the Prancing Horse on a watch dial.
Here’s a freebie idea for a colleague more industrious than myself: there’s a book to be written solely about the watches that have appeared over the decades bearing a Ferrari connection. Yes, there are that many to discuss, and Lord knows there exists a cult of collectors who covet any watches bearing the Ferrari name. Among the most noble of the watches to collect are those from Girard-Perregaux.
Thanks in part to the racing career of the late Gino Macaluso, the man who rescued Girard-Perregaux, his watch company was able to produce a series of handsome and tasteful models connected to specific Ferrari cars. It’s pure coincidence that the brand’s initials are ‘G-P’, though the appropriateness is unmistakeable.
In addition to G-P’s formal arrangement, which ended in 2006, some of the companies producing watches with a link to Ferrari – however ambiguous – include Cartier with 120 Ferrari-badged chronographs in the 1990s (one of which was presented to Michael Schumacher), Omega, Longines, Richard Mille and Cabestan. As for the quartz Ferrari watches now flogged on their web-site, their origins are not publicised, save for identifying the movements as Swiss-made Rondas.
Following the models produced by G-P, there was an ill-fated marriage with Panerai that should have been a match made in heaven, but it lasted only from 2006-2010, despite the creation of some fabulous pieces. Collectors are already hunting down the models from 2008 models which used vintage Minerva movements.
Quite why the venture failed is open to speculation, but there are those who will argue convincingly that 1) Panerai enthusiasts want their watch dials to say ‘Panerai’ and not ‘Ferrari’, while 2) genuine Ferrari owners have no need to buy tie-ins to broadcast their possession of the real deal. The key fob on the bar does that sufficiently well.
Now it is the turn of Hublot, amusingly just as Rolex has signed up as the Official Timekeeper and Official Timepiece of Formula One. That, however, will not stop the industrious Jean-Claude Biver from creating a big bang with the Big Bang. Formula One may be more important than any single team, but Ferrari remains the most powerful name in the sport, and Hublot’s partnership with the Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 race team ensures that the Hublot name appears on the cars and the drivers’ fireproofs. Watch-spotters will be eager to see what Felipe Massa does about it, since he’s been linked to Richard Mille for many years.
Hublot and Ferrari announced their collaboration during the 2011 Ferrari World Finals at Mugello, which was described as ‘a long-term strategic partnership which will officially start on 1 January 2012, making Hublot Ferrari’s “Official Watch” and “Official Timekeeper”.’ It was launched with two models, the Hublot Big Bang Ferrari Magic Gold and Big Bang Ferrari Titanium, and the success has ensured that the partnership will continue for another season.
During the first year of the two brands’ relationship, the two have participated in more than 130 events, while Hublot says that several limited-edition watches have sold out. As would be desired by any partner of Ferrari, it has increased brand awareness for Hublot … not that it was under-exposed. And perhaps the magic ingredient has been both brands’ obsessions with new and cutting-edge materials – an essential ingredient for Formula 1 success, and a pursuit that Hublot has followed ever since it first put a rubber strap on a high-end watch.
For 2013, Hublot has announced all-new models to follow the first family of Ferrari timepieces. To be launched at BaselWorld in April are the Big Bang Ferrari Carbon Red Magic with flyback chronograph function, powered by Hublot’s in-house Unico movemen. The carbon fibre case has been fitted with a distinctive red sapphire glass, notable in that the red was introduced when the glass was made, so is not a coating, and it will not wear off. The Ferrari All Black – nothing to do with rugby – is, like the name says, all black with a distinctive red sweep hand and red stitching in the black strap, while the King Gold Carbon replaces the All Black’s multi-material case with 18k rose gold.
As macho and noticeable as these are, restraint has been exercised. With every model, the Ferrari labelling is confined to a discreet Prancing Horse positioned at 9 o’clock. Even Enzo might have approved.
(Your London, 2013)