We as consumers are perhaps not always aware; of the many past and present associations that exist between watch manufacturers and companies and their events. As watch enthusiasts, however, many of us can recall the common links to motor vehicle manufacturers and their co-branded references, for example, IWC and Mercedes-Benz AMG styled Ingenieurs, Jaeger Le-Coultre and Aston Martin with the Tribute Memovox and Breitling and their now long-running affair with Bentley etcetera. Not many of these partnerships have lasted the test of time, but for the ones that do they reap the mutually beneficially rewards of each other’s positive brand association. This is the very thing companies are keen to cement within the psyche of their consumers or desired target market.
With this in mind, it’s interesting to look specifically at the America’s Cup which is taking place for the 35th time currently in Bermuda during the month of June. Now the prestigious, premier, sailing competition often referred to as the F1 of sailing embodies the extremely competitive nature of man. This is a quest to have the success, notoriety and sense of achievement that comes with the Auld Trophy. For a competition that occurs when organised as opposed to within a regular schedule set out by a governing body; investment from monied up sponsors is necessary, but not so much as an understanding from companies about the history and nuance that is part of the event they’re affixing their name to.
Putting the manufacture name out there; getting the brand exposure by sponsoring events that will be attended, or seen, by many different people is always a no brainer provided the investment isn’t outrageous. Over the past years, there have been a few watch manufacturers that have jumped on board so to speak with the America’s Cup: Girard-Perregaux had an association with the Cup some years back. Ulysee Nardin currently sponsors the Swedish challenger Team Artemis. TAG-Heuer and Omega have flirted with some of the teams before, and Omega continues their support of previous winners New Zealand, there has only been three others ever. The USA, Australia and Switzerland.
The relatively new brand Bremont has seen their foray into the cup come and go, and I must say I felt somewhat sorry for the brand hailing from England when I saw some in-store advertising of their pieces with America’s Cup logos on them in Hamilton (Bermuda’s main town) it was a bit like having some pictures of an ex-wife alongside ones with your new sexy, smart, and sassy Italian fiancé (Think Laura Barriales, she’s Spanish but you’ll get the picture).
I felt almost a tad guilty making that uncomfortable but accurate analogy in my head as I glanced at one of the new Panerai America’s Cup pieces sitting in the window of Bermudan watch retailer Astwood & Dickinson. Some of the criticism of Panerai in the past has been that the company releases too many special editions. The fallout from this being a kind of Fatigué Specialè or sick of special editions syndrome. Although upon chatting to the owner of Astwood & Dickinson he was being upfront when he mentioned the America’s Cup Edition Panerai were generating big interest amongst not only those living on and visiting the island but also from stores in the US and Great Britain.
This formed part of my conviction about how companies can truly produce desirable co-branded references, in limited numbers that will truly become collectable not only to the fanboy, watch idiot savant fraternity – but the greater consumer market in general. ~ As a quick side point, I’m a big James Bond fan. Always have been since under the age of 10 to the point where I can conservatively estimate to have seen each film at least ten times. Bearing that in mind, though I lusted after luxury high end watches as a youngster and do now wear what most would consider as a high-end mechanical Swiss sports watch, I’ve never once desired any of the OO7 Omega Seamasters. As they just didn’t convince me that they really were the legitimate, or rightful brand to be worn by good ‘ole JB. Sure Omega sold plenty of their Bond edition Seamasters over the years, but many other enthusiasts would be casting back their eyes with me in awkward unison to those pieces at their now dated & somewhat naff execution.
So, watch company product and brand development executive need to be bang on with these associations. They can’t be contrived; there needs to be history, legitimacy and connection. OFFICINE PANERAI CEO Angelo Bonati had this to say about the company’s involvement when we spoke with him in April ~ “…I think, frankly speaking, it is due for Panerai to do this because America’s Cup represents the future. The risk is to go back, America’s Cup is technological, but in any case, it brings with it the sea. We are in the present and must provide the connection to the future…why not, why not?”
The inextricable connection historically between Panerai & maritime endeavours means the America’s Cup collaboration can be easily accustomed within the model line-up of Panerai without bastardising the DNA of the brand. Yes, they were used in military applications dating back to 1938 by the Italian Navy, specifically the Uomini Rana or “Frog-Men”, where the watch was specified to the requirements entailing underwater missions of attack, espionage and explosive applications. But more recently rather than just reproduction memories of days gone by, the PCYC, or Panerai Classic Yachts’ Challenge takes place around the world and after the intensity of the high-tech racing in Bermuda – will be capping off in Cannes for Les Régates Royales later this year.
All the models below I believe are reasonable offerings in their own right, however, from a purely purpose driven requirement, it is hard to go past the 47mm Titanio Luminor 1950 Regatta PAM00726.
If I wanted something devoid of co-sponsor branding on my piece, I’d be thinking the regular Luminor Marina 1950 America’s Cup PAM00727 is a nice little reference to this burgeoning partnership and has all the desired utilitarian traits & instantly recognisable Panerai hallmarks, and one has an entirely legitimate and concurrent conversation starter along with it.