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dimanche 31 mai 2015
Rafael Nadal and the $775,000 Watch
Even in the middle of a match, the French Open champion’s wrist looks like a million bucks
When a player wins the French Open nine times, as only Rafael Nadal has done, there are perks. Take, for example, Nadal’s $775,000 watch.
At Roland Garros this year, everyone wants to know if this is the year Nadal’s reign finally ends. But among Nadal’s fellow players, the watch, made by luxury Swiss watch company Richard Mille, inspires almost as much curiosity.
Most agree that it looks cool. Others wonder how the watch—which Nadal wears during play—can withstand showers of sweat and clay, and the turbulence of Nadal’s running, sliding and lunging. Nadal hits a two-handed backhand and wears the watch on his right hand. How does he swing without it rubbing against his wrist or bumping into the back of his hand?
“It’s so big!” said former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport, now the coach of Madison Keys. “I couldn’t do it.”
Nadal, who has played while wearing a watch since 2010, was skeptical at first. “In the beginning there was a little bit of transition, we had to work together to adjust everything to my wrist,” said Nadal, who faces American Jack Sock in the fourth round on Monday. “It’s like you are wearing nothing. It’s part of my skin.”
Watch contracts are common among top tennis pros. Most players who wear them on court have one-handed backhands and wear the watch on their other hand, so it doesn’t interfere with their swings. The rest slap them on after matches and during trophy ceremonies.
Roger Federer is sponsored by Rolex. (He’ll practice with a watch, but doesn’t play matches with it.) Maria Sharapova has a deal with Tag Heuer. Novak Djokovic is sponsored by Seiko. Serena Williams is in the rare company of Nadal: She also hits a two-handed backhand and wears her Audemars Piguet watch during matches.
Players keep and collect the watches. (This is the third watch that Richard Mille has custom-made for Nadal.) Nadal has had two watches stolen. One, which was taken from a locker room, was never recovered. The other was lifted from his hotel room in 2012, while Nadal was having dinner to celebrate his seventh French Open title. The hotel caught the thief by tracing a magnetic keycard used to enter Nadal’s room.
Nadal would have lost a third watch if not for Eric Butorac, a doubles player who picked up a towel in the Cincinnati locker room a few years ago and found Nadal’s watch sitting there on a bench.
“I remember holding it and thinking, ‘Wow, this is worth more than my career prize money,’ ” Butorac said. He found Nadal in the training room and returned the watch.
The value of Nadal’s watch perplexes some players. It isn’t covered in expensive jewels and weighs a mere 20 grams. It has a Velcro strap.
“You would never know looking at it,” said doubles star Mike Bryan. He and his twin brother, Bob, wear Oakley watches when they play. (They both have one-handed backhands.) Mike pointed to Bob’s watch. “You would say that watch is more expensive,” he said.
The chief virtue of Nadal’s watch: It uses complex and sensitive mechanics found in the finest watches, yet can withstand the punishment of tennis, dirt and water—and the effects of gravity—and still keep accurate time, Nadal said. It is made of carbon and quartz with titanium screws. The band is the color of the red clay of Roland Garros. It can withstand 5,000 Gs of force, according to the Mille website.
“I bring it to the shower,” Nadal said. “You can go swimming in the swimming pool or in the sea.”
Bob Bryan has worn his Oakley while swimming, but it hasn’t held up as well as Nadal’s. After the twins won their second-round doubles match on Friday, Bob noticed that his watch was foggy. “I’m going to have to swap this one out,” he said.
Nadal’s watch is the first of only 50 that will be made. Mike Bryan owns one of Nadal’s earlier-model Mille watches. He won it at a pro-am event Nadal supported, beating Martina Navratilova. The watch has a tiny picture of Nadal in it. Bryan said its value stresses him out.
“They’re really sweet watches, but I’m never going to wear it because it’s too expensive,” Bryan said. He wants to sell it.
After Butorac reached the Australian Open doubles final last year, he splurged on a $5,000 Rolex.
“It’s the beginner Rolex,” Butorac said. “Literally to this day, I’m so stressed about that thing. I wear it when I go out to dinner or something, but I’m always like, ‘Which bag is it in and how safe is my hotel room?’ Imagine with [Nadal’s]!”