23rd Nov 2022
Extra Time: The Evolution Of Football Watches
by Adrian Hailwood
Today, footballers are inextricably linked with flashy wristwear along with fast cars; hardly surprising when a young man has more disposable income than he can sensibly spend in a month, but this is a relatively new phenomenon only dating back to the late 1990s.
Was David Beckham the first footballer to spend a small fortune on luxury watches? Probably not, but he was the first to gain attention from the mainstream media for what he wore on his wrist. His status as a cross-over celebrity in both football and as half of ‘Posh & Becks’ focussed the press on every aspect of his lifestyle…including his wrist.
His friendship with Elton John put him in touch with celebrity jeweller Theo Fennell, an authorised retailer of Franck Muller, whose oversized diamond-set watches graced Beckham’s wrist in the paparazzi pics. Next stop was Jacob & Co, already popular with US rap and hip-hop artists, these quartz-powered, diamond-encrusted dinner plates found there way into several footballer’s collections including Beckham’s.
Players quickly became more discerning in their horological tastes and while diamonds still made frequent appearances, the watches went more upmarket including Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe. Notable amongst the more outrageous collections has to be that of Cristiano Ronaldo who has been spotted sporting iced-out examples from Rolex, Hublot, and Bulgari.
Of course, once footballers became marketable assets, the endorsements rolled in and it wasn’t just about the watches they chose to buy, but also the ones they were given to wear. Beckham lent his name and face to Breitling's Transocean Chronograph Unitime Worldtimer, before moving to Tudor as brand ambassador. Pelé came out of retirement to promote Hublot and everything from European and World championships to individual clubs became the subject of limited edition watches.
The evolution of footballers into mass media celebrities has allowed them to front watches with astonishing price tags. In a neat closing of the circle Jacob & Co is now back associating with footballers at the highest level 2019 saw the launch of the Leo Messi Epic X Chrono with a baguette diamond-set model retailing for $150,000.
This is eclipsed by the one-of-one $1 million Jacob & Co Bugatti Chiron watch produced for Cristiano Ronaldo this year to go with his supercar.