For the past four years, I have religiously attended the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, widely considered the main event on the World Rugby Sevens Series calendar. Unfortunately, I had to miss out on this year’s event, so when I was invited to join Tudor at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco, with a loan watch to wear for the duration of the trip, how could I say no?
On my arrival, a Tudor representative handed me a watch which I immediately recognised from the matte red and blue “Pepsi” 24-hour graduated rotating bezel: the Tudor Black Bay GMT, arguably one of the hottest watches of the year out of Baselworld 2018.
First things first, I set my reference timezone to Hong Kong using the red GMT hand which features Tudor’s signature snowflake design. I then adjust the local time and date using the very useful local jumping hour function which allows the wearer to set the hour hand in one-hour increments forward and backward. With a 15-hour difference between San Francisco and Hong Kong, I could now, at a glance, make sure I wasn’t texting people at obscene hours of the night.
Then it was time to visit what would be our home for the next couple of days: the AT&T Park, the iconic baseball stadium of the San Francisco Giants along the San Francisco Bay. The stadium is notably famous for its “Splash-hit” home runs which occurs when a Giants player hits a home run that lands into the bay, where fans in kayaks can then recover the lost ball.
The Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 marked the first time an international rugby world cup competition had taken place on American soil. The United States is still a developing market for rugby as it is widely overshadowed by its transatlantic cousin, American football. For the weekend, words like “touchdown” and “yards” were replaced with “try” and “meters” in a game where a forward pass is forbidden (something American football relies heavily on). If the game was unfamiliar to the American audience, having the competition take place inside one of the most scenic baseball stadium must have eased the transition.
Last year, hot on the heels of their global Born To Dare campaign launch, Tudor announced a long-term partnership with the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team, and World Rugby, the world governing body for the sport. The collaboration will see the watch manufacturer become the official timekeeping partner of the Rugby World Cup, the Women’s Rugby World Cup, the annual World Rugby U20 Championship, and of course the Rugby World Cup Sevens, our spectacle for the weekend.
If you are unfamiliar with rugby, there are several variations of the sport, among them the 15-a-side, which is the main version and what people usually refer to when they talk about rugby, and the 7-a-side, also called the sevens. Considered the little brother to the 15-a-side rugby, the sevens is, in my opinion, the more exciting of the two. Both games are played on the same pitch size but with half the number of players on the field for the sevens, it means there is more open space for them to create a variety of plays and speed away with the ball to score a try. Matches are also shorter with each half lasting only seven minutes so the pace is much faster; in tournaments like the World Cup or the annual World Rugby Sevens Series, this means that spectators are sometimes able to watch more than 20 matches over the course of one day. That leaves very little space for boredom.
Associating themselves with rugby is not just a marketing ploy by Tudor. There are many reasons why the partnership with this sport makes sense to me, and why I believe pairing with the sevens is the stronger union. Much like the sevens being the younger brother in rugby, Tudor is the younger sibling to a larger world-renowned brand: Rolex. Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex and Tudor, had a vision for Tudor to create a product that his network of retailers could sell at a lower price – driven by more accessibly priced movements – while still retaining the dependability of a Rolex watch. Throughout its history, there’s no question that Tudor achieved Wilsdorf’s vision, not only providing robust and reliable watches for the public, but also for professionals including some of the greatest military navies in the world.
If at first the design between Rolex and Tudor watches seemed very close, over time, the lines have since been blurred and we see Tudor slowly rising from its sibling’s shadow to form its own identity. This is further proven by Tudor’s recent resurgence, and the success that it has had with its Heritage line of watches; most notably the Black Bay collection.
The Tudor Black Bay GMT I was wearing was my first proper hands-on experience with a member of the Black Bay family, the company’s hugely popular vintage-inspired dive watch. Immediately I could see how the history of Tudor impacted the overall design language of the timepiece. The robust, solid as a rock case that people have come to love about the Black Bay, is flawlessly manufactured, with chamfered lugs and a mix of polished and brushed surfaces. The aluminum 24-hour bezel means it will receive its own wear marks over the course of its lifetime, which is exactly what you want on a travel-ready watch ( just like rugby players receive marks on their body displaying the numerous hits they have taken playing the sport). The 200m depth rating also means I wasn’t afraid to brave San Francisco’s morning fog and get the watch wet, or to even go surfing in the bay should I have decided to.
Tudor’s manufacturing ethos comes as no surprise given its family connection and the quality of the brand’s watches can be felt all the way to its bracelets and high-quality fabric straps. No compromises are made during the manufacturing process and this pure spirit that the brand injects in its timepieces mirrors the uncompromising values of sportsmanship and noble tradition that make up the sport of rugby. It is one of the many reasons why the association between Tudor and rugby makes sense.
It is no accident then, that the Tudor Black Bay Dark is the watch adorning the wrists of All Blacks players, as well as the Black Ferns, the New Zealand national women’s rugby team. The blacked-out color scheme of the watch is, of course, a perfect match for the two teams’ outfits aesthetically, but the players also make perfect ambassadors to personify Tudor’s “Born To Dare” mantra, the spirit that has guided the most daring and courageous individuals on land, ice, air and underwater with purpose-built Tudor tool watches strapped on their wrists.
Rugby players display the highest level of courage and audacity in one of the most demanding contact sport that exists. Add to this the personal humility, heart, respect and passion for rugby that is at the core of the All Blacks’ culture and you understand why they are the most successful sports franchise in history. Don’t forget about the haka performed by the All Blacks before each of their test matches, which dares their opponents to challenge their reign, often, I might add, without great success. Indeed, the New Zealand teams gave me a chance for a perfect ending to my trip in San Francisco as both the All Blacks and the Black Ferns remain undefeated, holding onto their respective championship trophies at the end of the Rugby World Cup Sevens.
The competition was the first world cup event under the new partnership with Tudor and there was no better way for its kick-off than with the sevens. The fast pace and excitement of the sport was a fantastic first introduction and education to rugby for an audience who has had little exposure to the game. After watching the sevens, some might develop an interest in the sport that might slowly lead to 15-a-side rugby.
Looking at the Tudor Black Bay GMT I had on my wrist, with its robust, well-made Black Bay case, the gorgeous Pepsi dial, knowing it is powered by a COSC-certified in-house movement with a 70-hour power reserve, all these details demonstrate the fact that great design and functions can be accessible to all and send a clear message to the watch industry that better value propositions like Tudor watches need to be offered.