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Rolex and Golf: "A Partnership Built Over Time"

If you are a lifelong golfer and fan of the game who, of course, cares about watches, it is impossible to miss the Rolex connection that has been pushed on golfers and golf fans alike for decades. Just tune in to Golf Channel or NBC this coming weekend for their coverage of the 2020 US Open.

Beyond the large clock and sign next to the 1st tee, if you watch long enough to hit a commercial break (normally after 4 or 5 golf shots), a Rolex spot featuring words like “timeless” and “traditions” will be there to greet you.

All slight jabs aside, the partnership between the crown and golf is unsurprising and even natural. As much as the watch world dances around stating this in as many words, many consumers in the US and globally who golf or watch golf also buy expensive swiss watches like a Rolex— the same logic holds for tennis and F1.

In 2017, Rolex rolled out an extensive campaign to celebrate “50 years of golf” tracing back to Arnold Palmer, the first golfer to serve as an ambassador for the brand, or as Rolex terms it, a ‘testimonee’. Mr. Palmer did an excellent job doing so, even recruiting Jack Nicklaus to join him. Jack’s Day-Date, gifted to him as a thank you for attending a Palmer hosted Rolex cocktail party, is now the most famous watch in golf after selling for $1.2 million at Phillips last December.

Rolex openly sponsors many golf events around the world and partners with numerous governing bodies in the game. However, for a watch enthusiast, the players’ watch choices are what garners the most attention. These ambassadors make the partnership something to pay attention to. Putting a watch on after a round of professional golf has become a trend—every single player does it. This may have started with Jack who put it so nonchalantly in his Talking Watches interview with Hodinkee saying, “Soon as the round was over I would walk off the 18th green, put my wallet back in my pocket, and my watch back on my wrist.” Of course by doing so, Jack’s watch was present for the hoisting of many major championship trophies.

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As the story of Nicklaus and Rolex implies, being brought in by the brand as an ambassador almost certainly entails a lifelong deal. The crown actually created this now all-too-common system of celebrities endorsing products and brands when they backed Mercedes Gleitze’s 1927 attempt to swim across the English Channel. When Rolex brought in Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player in the late 60s, the golfers decided to do it their own way.

With this lifelong partnership, golfers are not expected to push any one product on their fans but instead they have their pick of the litter from the Rolex catalog. Jack picked his Day-Date at that cocktail party because Gary Player said “take that one its the best one.” This freedom of choice  is what makes it interesting to see what Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, etc. wear after a tournament win.

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Unless you are a Tiger Woods superfan like myself, you may not know that he is an avid diver and has long held an affinity for very intense military-like training, going so far as to train with the Navy SEALs. His choice of a ref. 126660 Deepsea Sea-Dweller reflects this obsession.

There were always rumors that Tiger’s Deepsea was a one-off special but Tiger recently shot that theory down in an interview with Erik Anders Lang of Random Golf Club, confirming “its a normal watch… just on the heavier side, its the heaviest one they make.” The quick answer is so telling. Tiger has long been known as a very calculated and particular guy. He was once handed 6 Nike prototype drivers to try on the range, after hitting them all his response was “I like the heavier one.” The club builders were confused as all were made to the same weight specs but went back to the scale and found one heavier by two grams, the weight of two dollar bills. His Rolex suits him.

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Tiger is not alone in his Rolex expression. Rickie Fowler most often throws on a ref. 116506 Daytona in platinum, a flashy choice for an undisputably flashy player in dress and personality (consistently a runner-up in play, but I digress).

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Everyone’s favorite up-and-down, rollercoaster of success, Jordan Speith has always been cut from a bit of a different cloth than your average tour pro. Speith’s unconventional swing and habit of looking at the hole rather than the ball while hitting short putts have been beaten to death by golf commentators but are certainly out of the ordinary. His Rolex of choice is an Explorer II with a white dial, which is also a bit off the beaten track for sport Rolex. Speith owns and regularly wears both the ref. 16570 and more modern ref. 216570.

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The last player and Rolex pair is too on-the-nose to ignore. Daniel Berger might not be a household name but he is extremely good at golf and also extremely good at what he calls ‘strait vibin’ aboard his boat . So yeah, after he won the Charles Schwabb Challenge, the tour’s first tournament in its ‘return to golf’ after a COVID-19 pandemic pause, he donned a ref. 116655 Yachtmaster. A little more strait vibin.

Hero Photo by Yassine Khalfalli on Unsplash

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