Polo enthusiasts and watch aficionados have a lot in common—a passion for performance and an eye for beauty. It is therefore no surprise that many of the premium watch brands have focused on polo for their sponsorship, hospitality, and PR activities.
Recognizing the value of polo, Piaget and Cartier started their high profile sponsorships in the late 1970s and other watch brands soon followed. Today, from Buenos Aires to Beijing, the leading watch brands sponsor polo and host lavish corporate events for their clients, providing valuable revenue to host clubs and polo teams.
Polo is arguably the first sport to inspire a watch design. The first Polo watch was launched in 1931 with the iconic Jaeger-leCoultre Reverso, when a friend of Jacques-David LeCoultre’s showed him his watch’s broken glass and challenged him to create a model capable of withstanding the rigors of the game. French designer René-Alfred Chauvot found an elegant and effective solution with their unique, rectangular “slide and flip” mechanism that rotated, protecting the dial and exposing only the metal case back to impact; thus the great Art Deco Polo classic, the Reverso was born.
The classic Reverso has been expanded to more elegant dress watches including the spectacular Reverso Duetto Classique, with its two dials; the front is light, pink, and fully paved with 437 diamonds totaling 1.8 carats. The Grande Reverso Lady Ultra Thin is a curved version, available in rose gold with a white alligator leather strap and diamond-studded case and is a beautiful example of understated elegance.
While the rectangular cased Reverso remains their best selling model, they further developed the concept by introducing the square-cased Reverso Squadra. They produced a limited edition Squadra Polo Fields watch, with the reverse side of the watch displaying a transparent rotating world time indicator, marked with key polo venues: Sotogrande, London, Palermo, Dubai, and Palm Beach. The top of the line ladies’ model is the Reverso Squadra Lady Duetto, in 18-carat pink gold, set with 73 diamonds.
It was a logical move for Jaeger-LeCoultre to become the Official Sponsor and timekeeper of the Argentine Open at Palermo. Since 2014, they are also the title sponsor of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open at Cowdray Park.
The fabled French brand Cartier first sponsored the International Day at Guards Polo Club in 1984 and the event soon grew into the most prestigious Polo events worldwide, attracting over 25,000 spectators, royalty, and celebrities. After 27 years, Cartier ceded the sponsorship of the International Day and took over the title sponsorship of the Queen’s Cup instead, where Her Majesty The Queen first presented her cup in 1960 and historically attends Finals Day.
Cartier continues its involvement in Polo with the sponsorship of events such as the glamorous St. Moritz Snow Polo and the Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge, all of which set the bar in the art of VIP hospitality and effectively leverage media coverage of polo.
Longines has just launched a beautiful new range of watches called the Equestrian Collection, with shapes and materials inspired by iconic elements of the equine world. Longines’ relationship with equestrian sports has been intertwined for over a century. They are the official partners of the Fédération International Equestre and are sponsors of many of the world’s leading equestrian events, including the Prix de Diane and Dubai World Cup in racing and the Global Champions Tour and Masters’ Series in showjumping. In polo, they are principally associated with the very glamorous Dubai Beach Polo tournament.
Forms evoking horseshoes and stirrups are found in the bold lines of these feminine watches. The models feature white mother-of-pearl, polished black lacquer, and silver-colored flinqué dials, often surrounded by diamonds and offset by fine calfskin straps.
For horse lovers who also like show-jumping, Longines has a fabulous chronometer called the Conquest Jumping, which is fitted with an exclusive complication designed to time jumping competitions to 1/100th of a second. On the more formal side, Longines also offers a beautifully elegant Grand Classique 100 Diamonds model that is finely jeweled yet discreet.
In contrast to Jaeger-leCoultre, Piaget, Cartier, and Longines (all founded in the 19th Century) an irreverent upstart, Hublot, burst onto the stage in 1980. Founded by Carlo Crocco, formerly of Breil, who brought in the heavy hitter Jean Claude Biver from Omega, Hublot quickly distinguished itself as an ‘agent provocateur’ in the traditional world of fine watches.
Hublot shook up the Polo world with high profile polo sponsorships, including the Perfect Match at the Polo de Paris in 2009, the first time ever for two 40-handicap teams to play on European soil. In Switzerland, the brand continues to enjoy inviting VIP guests to watch the game at the Hublot Polo Gold Cup Gstaad, Hublot Polo Cup in Ascona, and the Hublot Cortina Winter Polo Cup.
Using distinctive, large cases and introducing the first-ever, all-natural rubber strap, Hublot’s Big Bang model reinvigorated the premium sports watch market. In 2011, Hublot launched the limited edition Chukker Bang model with a removable titanium grill that protects the watch face during play (echoing the face grill of a polo helmet) and featuring a Polo Fly-back automatic chronograph movement with a 7 min 30 counter for timing chukkas.
As with all the premium watch brands, China is a rapidly growing market. Hublot is the official timekeeper of Tang Polo Club in Beijing (home to the China Polo Open) and appoints Liu Shilai, Founder of Tang and China’s highest handicapped player, as Brand Ambassador.
For as long as the high-octane sport of polo continues to attract an affluent audience, the sport will undoubtedly build an even closer relationship with these luxury brands. It would be great to see a major watch brand to support ladies polo on an international level—watch this space!
About the author: Tracey Sheeran is Managing Director of Hawkeshaw, a boutique consultancy specializing in equestrian sports and brand strategy. She has over 25 years experience in marketing and media gained at leading advertising agencies (Euro RSCG, Initiative Media) and is the former Marketing Director of Newsweek International EMEA. Based in Ireland, she was the Event Manager for Herbertstown Polo Club, is an amateur polo player, and has competed in one day eventing and dressage.