David Beckham. No other icon in modern consciousness is as known, respected or admired as the Manchester United right winger, turn universal superstar.
To the watch collecting community, though, he’s particularly known for his stellar taste in both vintage and modern timepieces. Over the past decade or so, of his post-football public life, if ever there is a handsome picture of the East End gent out there, he’s always seen to be impeccably dressed and always with a thoughtful watch on his wrist. Which suggests that his interest in watches was never banal. Rather that, for him, it’s passion that’s led him to ever more envy-worthy watches.
Then of course, just last year, on the 30th of May 2017, the announcement was made that he had become an international brand ambassador for one of the most revered names in watchmaking today, Tudor. Since then he’s had to speak very openly about his interest in collecting watches, which has allowed us a great window into his passion.
Thing is, regardless of the context, whenever David is speaking, somehow everything he has to say leads back to the most important aspect of his life: his family. This applies even when he’s talking about his passion for watches. And for an individual whose life revolves so closely around a family he loves deeply, it’s no wonder that time, wristwatches and the symbolic meaning which they hold, resonates so deeply within David.
Recently, while David was on a tour through Singapore, Revolution had the pleasure of sitting down with the icon himself, alongside Su Jia Xian (SJX) of watchesbysjx.com, to hear more from him about his passion for watches, his family and his partnership with Tudor. Best thing about meeting David, though, is that — you know all those great things people say about him? The reality of David Beckham amplifies every single one of those great things.
Sumit: You’ve been traveling a fair bit.
David: Yes, a lot actually. We were in Hong Kong last night, arrived late. We were in Chengdu and Sydney last week; Bangkok…
Sumit: Well just in case — you’re in Singapore now, welcome! It’s so good to have you here.
SJX: Let’s get straight to the watches. I’ve seen pictures of you in the media and you wear — obviously, as a collector — very interesting watches: modern watches, vintage. Can you tell us a bit about your interest in watches?
David: To be honest, I’ve always had an interest in watches. Even when I was ten, eleven years old, watches always interested me in a way that I wanted to be able to be a collector at some point.
Over the years, I’ve been able to collect, I feel that I’ve made the right choices, in the watches that I’ve collected. Some you look back on and — I don’t think you make mistakes in the watches you buy — I just think it’s a moment in time, where you can look back, and look at a watch, and think: okay that was when I first started my career with Manchester, or that was my first paycheck with Manchester United. Or that was my hundredth cap for England.
I think watches are like that, you know, a moment in time that you can look back on. It’s like music, when you hear certain songs, it takes you back to your childhood. Or it takes you back to Christmases that you spent with your family.
I’ve been able to collect watches that, hopefully, I’ll pass down to my children — to my boys, also to my little girl, because I think there’s a few watches in there, which she’s already got her eye on.
I think that watches are such a special, personal thing and I’m lucky to have — not a huge collection — but I’m lucky to have a good collection.
Sumit: I might take you back a little, and you mentioned this in brief as well, what would’ve been the first milestone that you celebrated with a watch? And what was that watch?
David: It wasn’t a milestone that I celebrated, but my first recollection of a special watch was my grandfather’s. He was a real, elegant East End man. Always wore a suit, always wore a three-piece suit — always elegant — wherever he was going; to watch Spurs play — because he was a season ticket holder — or whether he was going to work, or whether he was just going down to the corner shop to get the paper on a Sunday morning, he was always immaculate.
He had this amazing watch. The make of it, I cannot remember. But it was an amazing, elegant, thin, gold timepiece that was just — immaculate. That’s my first recollection of a watch that meant a lot to me. My granddad actually gave it to me, which was amazing.
Then I would say, further on in life, my wife bought me a vintage Rolex for my hundredth cap for England. Like I said, watches are — I’m not going to compare it to music again — but it takes you back in time, to a certain part of your life that meant something to you. That’s how I personally look at watches.
SJX: You know a lot about watches, you like watches — what led you to work with Tudor, as a watch brand?
David: Over the years I’ve worked with many brands and sponsors. I’ve been lucky to work with great partners, over the last twenty years. Throughout my career and, obviously, even more so since I finished my career. The thing I always look for in partners is a long-term relationship, because I think it shows a commitment from both sides.
I also like authenticity. I think it’s important, within two brands that come together. I think there has to be a story, I think there has to be an authenticity that runs through both brands. I think that with myself and with Tudor, it was more than just two brands coming together. It was like two individuals coming together and creating something special; it created a family.
That’s what it felt like from day one. The moment I first started talking to the guys at Tudor, it was like brothers talking, it was like family talking. That’s what I like to be part of. I think that when there’s a story to be told, when you can talk freely about something: a passion that you love, I think it makes for a good — not just a good business — but a good partnership. It makes for an honest partnership.
I think within business there has to be transparency. I think that’s an important part. I think that we’ve both been open with each other. We both spoke about our likes and dislikes of watches, what can work, what can’t work. I’m a watch collector and I love watches, but am I an expert? No. But these guys are. To spend time with the guys in the factory, the guys that are making these timepieces — the guys in Switzerland, ‘cos I went up to the factory — it’s made me more aware of what goes into these timepieces and the real excellence that goes in. For me, it’s a special partnership.
Sumit: Keeping to Tudor still, in the last campaign that you did with the brand, there’s a little mention that your first Tudor watch was a vintage piece. Do you remember what occasion you purchased it for and what was the watch?
David: It actually wasn’t a special occasion. It was just me walking around London. I never really do that much shopping, to be honest. I’m not a big shopper. I was walking around London — and I don’t think I specifically went out to buy a watch — but there’s an amazing street in London, where they sell all these vintage watches. Most of the time I never go in there, because I know sometimes, they’re either priced right, or overpriced.
But there I was walking down, you know, just browsing and I saw this watch and thought: “Oh my god, I’ve not seen that before. What is that? Is that a Rolex?”
As I looked closer and went in, obviously, I saw that it was a Tudor. It was just an amazing timepiece and it was one of those things that I couldn’t get out of my head. It was one of those things.
I tried it on; loved it straight away. I went home, spoke to my wife, “I’ve seen this watch.” She was like, “yea but it’s just another watch. They all do the same thing.” And I said, “no, actually, they don’t. This, it’s special.” She knows more than that, but she went on, “do you need another one?”
I then went back to the store and got it straight away. It’s an amazing, amazing piece. And one that I always get complimented on. One that I can wear with a suit or with a tracksuit, or when I’m riding my bike. It’s an amazing piece.
Sumit: Can I press you for what watch that was?
David: It was a “snowflake” Submariner, on a vintage brown leather strap with a blue dial. That’s special.
SJX: I also notice that some of your family members, your wife, even your children wear cool watches. Does the watch interest extend to the rest of the family?
David: I would say that I’ve kinda tried to educate my wife on watches. Because, like I said, there are certain things that matter to people. Victoria loves nice jewelry, nice watches but it’s not one of her passions. Her passion is what she wears, our family, our children — hopefully, me. Definitely me.
I would say that for her, watches have become more important over time. She does like nice pieces. She loves what we’re doing, she loves this partnership.
With the kids, even more so. Two Christmases ago, I got all the boys a Tudor each. Got their names [engraved] on the back. I took two of the boys to the Tudor offices in London and they sat with the watchmakers there and went through the straps — one of my sons, Romeo, he’s obsessed with it. One of the guys at the London office gave him a complete kit: the white gloves, the thing that you take the straps off with. Every single day, he’s constantly changing straps and I’m like, “you know you’re going to school. You can’t change straps every time, ‘cos it makes it look like you’ve got a different watch for everyday!”
He’s like, “no, everyone understands that — that I’ve got different straps and I like it.” It’s a real kind of passion for the boys, which is a great thing. Because it’s making them aware of something that’s special.
Sumit: Let’s round it off with three values that are important to you, which you see reflected in Tudor and why are these important to you?
David: I think elegance. I try to be elegant. For an East End boy, I try to be as elegant as possible. I think we do that very well in London.
I think that history — history is a huge part of, obviously what we do with Tudor — and, obviously, where I’m from. I think England has a huge history that we’re very proud of.
And I would say, heritage. Because heritage is something that not many brands have — not many brands have, not many countries have — and we’re very proud of our history and our heritage.
It’s what we have with Tudor as well. The amount of time that we go back to, the ideas that we have moving forward. I think we are very creative in ways that other people can’t compete with. We’re very proud of that.