Cristiano Ronaldo and His Winning Lineup of Watches
CRISTIANO RONALDO IS ONE OF THE WORLDS MOST RECOGNIZABLE FOOTBALL (SOCCER) PLAYER AND IS WORTH APPROXIMATELY $361 MILLION. HIS INCREDIBLE WATCH COLLECTION ACCOUNTS FOR A PORTION OF THAT NET WORTH.
The “sponsorship” — that is, the association between athletes and horology, has always been very tight since the beginning of company branding, from the humble beginnings when a company merely gifted the person with a timepiece for him or her to wear, to the modern times where instead we have complex contracts drafted by professional lawyers determining when and how this business relationship is finalized.
If we search through the old newspaper and magazine ads (which offer us a privileged viewpoint of the styles of past), we find that this link has always been instrumental to establish certain horology brands as market leaders in one field or another.
And this search, which is fascinating, brings us some amazing results.
FROM THE FIRST TESTIMONIALS…
One of the first documented efforts of this cooperation between a watchmaking company and sportsmen (or in this case, sportswomen) happened at the beginning of the last century.
And the protagonist was the sports watch par excellence — Rolex.
Rolex had launched a revolutionary watch in 1926, which was touted as “water-proof and dust-proof”. But despite the claims, people did not believe the qualities of the watch.
So, it happened that Rolex’s founder — Hans Wilsdorf — found out the perfect occasion, and the perfect testimonial to prove that the watch was indeed water-resistant. And resorted to a semi-professional British swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze.
Ms. Gleitze, who was called “beautiful London stenographer” by the American reporters who covered the news, was a symbol of perseverance, as well as a heroine of women’s rights. She was determined to demonstrate that even a woman could do what only the best male athletes had made: crossing the English Channel. And she had the looks, with her long, flowing dark hair as well as a character made of steel.
Six times, she tried the enterprise and failed. But the seventh, she finally made it — but to no avail. Noting that the attempt occurred late in the season and had few witnesses, the English Channel Swimming Association refused to recognize her swim as legitimate.
So, she embarked for a much-touted “vindication swim” to clear her honor. This was the time she was approached by Hans Wilsdorf, who offered her a complimentary Rolex Oyster watch. The only catch was that she had to wear it during her late-October Channel swim and, if the watch withstood the swim, to write a testimony about its performance.
The rest is horology history. Mercedes made the swim, with the Oyster hanging around her neck, secured on a chain, and sent back to Wilsdorf the following letter:
“You will like to hear that the Rolex Oyster watch I carried on my Channel swim proved itself a reliable and accurate timekeeping companion even though it was subjected to complete immersion for hours in seawater at a temp of not more than 58 and often as low as 51. This is to say nothing about the sustained buffeting it must have received… The newspaperman was astonished and I, of course, am delighted with it.”
One month after her feat, the company purchased the entire front page of the Daily Mail and titled it “Rolex introduces for the first time the greatest triumph in watchmaking. Rolex Oyster, the wonder watch that defies the elements”, featuring a recounting of her story.
The use of a Rolex Oyster in its main element, that is, the sea, proved that the watch was indeed doing what it claimed, and the publicity coming from the swim of Mercedes Gleitze helped broadcast the fame of Rolex everywhere.
From this first attempt, other companies, understanding that this kind of exposure was indeed effective on the public, did the same, hiring famous VIPs to broadcast their qualities.
Among the crowd of testimonials, the record breakers have always played an important part. This is what happened — again, with Rolex — when in 1953, the explorer and climber Edmund Hillary became the first man to climb to the top of the world, Mount Everest, along with his sherpa, Tenzing Norgay.
He had at his wrist a Rolex — a custom-made Oyster Perpetual that would become the prototype of the Explorer.
The watch was manufactured in 1950 and was assigned to the 1953 Everest Expedition which was sponsored also by Rolex. One of the terms was to wear the Rolex during the expedition, and then bring it back to the company for testing and development.
And after returning back, and — as legend says — uttering to one of his friends the unapologetic “Well, George, we finally knocked the bastard off”, Hillary sent back the watch to Rolex.
After some years, the historical watch was donated by the company to the Beyer Watch and Clock Museum in Zürich, where it is on display today.
In the same year, the first Rolex Perpetual Explorer was released, among a thunderous fanfare — and achieving a huge success between the lawyers, merchants, and doctors who could glance at their wrist and imagine being the first man getting on the top of the tallest mountain on Earth.
… TO THE RACE FOR STARDOM
As time went by, also the reputation of athletes and record breakers increased. The enhanced reach of media rendered the whole world smaller, and all the main protagonists of every field — movies, music, sports — became global stars. And with the added notoriety, also the money involved increased exponentially.
Modern-day athletes earn unbelievable amounts of money every season. Something that any former athlete just thirty years ago wouldn’t earn their entire lives.
Also, while once it was common that your public figure was linked to a specific product for a long time, today this time is shortened sensibly. And several famous athletes have mastered the art of becoming the perfect — if not very loyal — testimonials.
So we come to our hero, one of the most famous football players in modern history, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, also known as CR7, from the number he wears on his football shirt, is a Portuguese professional athlete who is currently playing for the Serie A club Juventus of Turin, Italy and is the captain of the Portugal national team.
He is considered today the best player in the world and rightly regarded as one of the greatest of all time. He has personally won five Ballon d’Or awards, the most prestigious prize for a European football player. With the teams he has played for, he has collected 29 trophies in his career, including six league titles, five UEFA Champions Leagues, one UEFA European Championship, and one UEFA Nations League.
Ronaldo holds several records in football, like for most goals scored in the UEFA Champions League (126) and the UEFA European Championship (9), as well as those for most assists in the Champions League (44).
With these stats, it is of no surprise that he is one of the most marketable athletes in the world. Forbes ranked Ronaldo as the world’s highest-paid athlete in 2016 and 2017 and ESPN dubbed him as the world’s most famous athlete in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
And last, Ronaldo is currently the most followed user on Instagram.
Between all of his sponsorships and advertising contracts, Ronaldo makes an estimated amount of more than one hundred million dollars per year split around 60 million for his “basic” salary, and the rest coming from sponsorships. And I’ll repeat it, per year.
With all the money he makes, he has developed some expensive — and rather ostentatious — tastes. And watches seem to represent one of the most important and lucrative weapons of his sponsorship arsenal.
He is often seen wearing some pretty extravagant timepieces, with a taste for the most glam. Something that goes far beyond the mere technical excellence, and comes into the area of extreme exhibition, being studded with dazzling arrays of precious gemstones.
THE HIGH JEWELRY TIMEPIECES
One of the most famous is a watch that has caused a lot of controversy in the world of watch aficionados: the fantabulous timepiece studded with diamonds and rubies that he wore during a press meeting in 2018, and which attribution was widely disputed between Jacob & Co. and Franck Muller.
A definite answer was not reached, even if there seems to be more consensus about Franck Muller, but we see that both watches share some very similar specs.
The Jacob & Co, precisely the Caviar Full Baguette, belongs to the Caviar line and offers the manually winding caliber JCBM05 featuring a one-minute flying tourbillon, with 100 hours of reserve charge, mounted inside a gold case studded with 585 baguette-cut white diamonds and 216 rubies, around 42 carats of invisibly set precious gemstones.
The Franck Muller timepiece, instead, is the Invisible Setting Imperial Tourbillon, and features 474 baguette-cut diamonds, with the tourbillon at 6 o’clock on the dial, which is framed by 21 rubies with a 2.42-carat value. Set into the dial are 122 diamonds. On the bezel, there are 40 diamonds, while the case has 44 diamonds. The strap features more gemstones in the form of 268 diamonds and 70 rubies.
As you can see, both shine with the intensity of a thousand suns and would set you back around $1,5 million. Each.
But not all of his watches, as you will see, are like these. Some of them are almost understated — for a watch which price lies in the several thousand, that is.
For example, Ronaldo was spotted in a dressing room while wearing a “plain” Hublot Big Bang Automatic Chronograph. The Big Bang, with its round case in stainless steel and its chronograph feature, is actually one of the most simple and sporty Hublot timepieces.
This version, featuring a rubber band, expresses well its creative muse’s, Jean-Paul Biver’s, famous marketing slogan which says “the art of fusion”. That is, combining traditional elements with more daring and assertive ones, also coming from other industries, and creating that particular style that can be loved or hated, but for sure cannot be ignored.
A Big Bang of this kind — and there is a huge variety of them — hovers around the $6,000 mark: so, especially from Ronaldo’s viewpoint, could be considered a sort of daily beater.
But the football star also wore some other models as well from this iconic Swiss watchmaker. When the St. Catherine’s Airport in Funchal and Madeira was renamed “Cristiano Ronaldo” International Airport, CR7 was present and when he unveiled the bronze statue of himself, immortalized by the media, he had on his wrist a Hublot Aerofusion King Gold Chronograph, a watch costing around $38,000.
Featuring a large 45mm case made of Hublot’s “King Gold” special alloy, which is touted as being redder than traditional red gold, this Classic Fusion Chronograph features an elegant black dial with two counters and a date window at 6 o’clock. Complementing the dark dial is an elegant black crocodile leather strap with a King Gold deployant clasp.
CR7, for a long time, was an ambassador for TAG Heuer — the first football player to be enlisted in the St Imier’s company lineup in this role. And talking about their cooperation, Ronaldo cited the brand’s philosophy “to totally change the game, push the limits and make [their] own rules”, adding that it is “a great honor to be a part of such a powerful and pioneering legacy”.
Other than words, he has worn some spectacular timepieces made by the company, like this awesome TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrotourbillon S, which is a $180,000 watch.
The reason why it is so expensive is that the Mikrotourbillon S features two tourbillons, one for regular timekeeping and the other used only to drive the chronograph escapement. The escapement of the chronograph vibrates at a staggering 360,000 vibrations per hour (50hz) and its tourbillon rotates once every 5 seconds!
This makes this exceptional mechanical chronograph able to record the 1/100th of a second. The Mikrograph is actually a re-edition: TAG (which was just Heuer in that time) pulled this stunt in 1916, with the first Mikrograph, a stopwatch capable of such a feat — a product which made Heuer the natural choice as the official supplier of timing instruments for the 1920 Olympic Games.
The cooperation of Ronaldo with the watchmaking watchmaker went over the mere exhibition of its timepieces. Ronaldo has also co-authored something more affordable, the CR7 edition of the Grand Carrera chronograph, with a skeletonized movement showing its sporty and muscular nature in its grey matte finish. This watch has a price to the public that hovers around the $2,500 mark, but for sure looks far more upscale.
And for the ultimate football fan, the company has launched also a Formula 1 Cristiano Ronaldo CR7 chronograph, a green and black edition personalized to remind the world of football, from the green that should evoke the grass to the checkered background of the dial typical of the shirts worn by the football players, and is equipped with a NATO strap of the same colors. The Formula 1 is the entry-level collection of TAG, featuring a quartz Ronda movement, so this watch is possibly one of the most affordable memorabilia timepieces with a Ronaldo vibe on it, at $1,500.
Returning back to the watches Ronaldo has been spotted wearing during his long career in sports, we must acknowledge that the surprise shots are far more revealing that the carefully staged social events like the press conferences and the gala dinners. For example, during the UEFA Champions League draw 2019, a YouTube clip shows the poor guy desperately trying to get a watch into the scene — a timepiece which some sources reported as a Hublot Masterpiece MP-09 Tourbillon Bi-axis.
The life of an ambassador, while extremely lucrative, is not that simple or easy.
So, to comment on other watches that have graced in the past the wrist of Mr. Ronaldo, we can cite the ever-present brand of the Crown, Rolex, with several references of note.
One of the first is a distinguished Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona in yellow gold with a black dial — the reference 116528 with dial 116598, a model that the football ace seems to favor, which has accompanied him in several moments of his stellar career.
Another one is the Rolex Sky-Dweller Everose (with a price of around $50,000) one of the most complicated modern Rolex watches, featuring an annual calendar with many complications including date, month and dual time zone.
Of watches, he seems to appreciate the tourbillon feature more than others. In this photo, Cristiano shows his appreciation for Italian design, as he is wearing a luxurious Bulgari timepiece belonging to the Octo line. This is the Bulgari Octo Tourbillon Diamond, featuring a super slim case and fully embellished with white diamonds, and mounting a complex tourbillon mechanism. The price of this horological marvel lies around $700,000.
Apart from the awesome gem-studded Franck Muller timepiece that we have presented at the start of this article, Ronaldo has a watch which has been dedicated to him by none other than the man Franck Muller himself, the exclusive Perpetual Calendar Bi-Retro Chrono CR7 Limited Edition, which the watchmaker has personally gifted to the football star, and features an exclusive retrograde timekeeping both for the date part and the chronographic part.
Ronaldo described in an interview his meeting with the iconic watchmaker. “I already had four or five Franck Muller watches, and the fact that Franck Muller himself flew over and gave me the first timepiece of a limited run made it even more special. It’s an honor to have such a special edition dedicated to me, especially from a prestigious brand like Franck Muller. The symbolism of a perpetual calendar makes it even more important because my career goal is to go as far as possible to perpetuate my feats. Plus, this particular timepiece represents what we both are, Franck Muller and I. Besides loving the brand, the man and I have a lot more in common. We both have faith in our own capabilities, in our own potential”.
CR7 is not alien to wearing Richard Mille timepieces as well, even if it seems that they are not his faves. Here our hero is shown wearing an RM11 NTPT Carbon Rose Gold Romain Grosjean Lotus F1 Flyback Chronograph — a $350,000 watch, in this case.
But we even found something a bit more unexpected at the wrist of the football ace. In 2011, some photos depicted him wearing a watch from Meccaniche Veloci, an Italian company founded in 2006, and precisely, the Quattro Valvole Nite Lite — a model in pink gold and diamonds featuring four separate automatic ETA 2671 movements and a wristband made with Louisiana alligator hide worth around $35,000.
JACOB & CO.
And if four were not enough, we close this article with the last — but not least — example of horological excellence coupled with jewelry virtuosity: this Jacob & Co. timepiece, the Grand Baguette Diamond watch, which simultaneously shows the time of five different cities, and is adorned with 761 diamonds dotting the case and the dials. This timepiece comes from a strictly limited edition of only 6 pieces worldwide and is worth over $1,000,000.
With this dazzling array of brands, there is a notable exception: where is Audemars Piguet?
The fact that his notorious rival, Leo Messi, is an ambassador for the Young Prince maybe should tell us something about the reason why.