What wristwatch do you think of when you think of cricket?
If you’ve ever played the game (which can feel from certain positions on the field like a gentrified war) you know the answer to this one. The truth is, you don’t think of watches at all. In fact they’re the first thing to be carefully placed in the locker room when you don the whites – it can be brutal out there, with the “nut” (the ball) firing at you at speeds of up to 160km/h and fielding positions placing people spare few metres from the bat. And trust us here, the last thing you want is a Kookaburra cricket ball slamming into the face of your beloved timepiece. Cricket and watches are not quite a match made in heaven.
This is all set to change.
Because today, Australian cricket team captain Michael Clarke joins elite sportspeople like Kobe Bryant, Usain Bolt and Pelé as a Hublot brand ambassador. Clarke is the first ever Australian Hublot ambassador, a fact that today, at an event overlooking Darling Harbour, renders him speechless: “I honestly don’t know what to say. I look at the other Hublot sporting ambassadors around the world, like Usain and Kobe, they’re unbelievable athletes. It’s such an honour to be the first Aussie to represent Hublot. But aside from me personally, this is just so exciting for the game of cricket, for the sport to be supported by a brand like Hublot. I mean this brand sponsors Manchester United, come on!”
Clarke has been a “watch lover” for as long as he can remember but has been more of a spectator than a player, when it comes to his own wristgame. “I have some friends that are really, really into watches and they’ve spent some serious money. On the one hand I was envious but on the other hand I could borrow some beautiful watches over the years growing up.” Having said that, Clarke confesses to owning Cartier and Rolex watches in his wider collection. His watch today, the Big Bang Unico King Gold Ceramic is his first Hublot – he will wear it “for dressier events” and for more sporty settings it’s the Big Bang Black Magic, which goes well with a suit and is scratch resistant as a daily wear.
And while he’s clearly besotted with his new Hublot timepiece – Clarke catches himself stealing glances throughout the interview and shakes his head – no, he won’t be wearing it on the pitch, facing quicks at full pace or in the field: “I probably wouldn’t wear it, no. There’s a real risk it can get hit and also in the field, it’s like a ring, if you catch a ball with one on it’ll get stuck on my finger. The watch doesn’t need the damage and I probably don’t need the damage either, I’ve got enough injuries!”
While the choice of Clarke as a Hublot ambassador for cricket is an obvious choice – he has been Wisden’s Leading Cricketer two of the last five years, in 2010 and 2014 – there is an interesting discussion about time, more broadly speaking, that must be had. Because, without going too deeply into The Matrix, Clarke in his best moments seems to be just slightly ahead of it. He sees the ball’s trajectory before it has been hit and is in position for the catch. He has changed his batting stance to open the face before the bowler has released the ball from his hands. What is it with Michael Clarke and timing? Because whatever it is, only the most elite of athletes have it….
“When you’re playing well, everything is so much slower,” Clarke says. “The greatest example is the noise. When you’re batting well, you can be in front of 100 thousand people on the boxing day test and in that moment of the bowler running in, the bowler letting the ball go and you watching the ball to play a shot, I cannot hear a sound. It’s like – dead still. It’s so hard to describe. It’s amazing.
“Timing also relies on the clearness of your mind. My mind needs something to think about. When the bowler’s running in I’m usually singing a song – I can’t say to myself ‘think nothing think nothing think nothing’, I’m thinking a million things. So I give it one thing to think about, a song, and it allows me to nearly pause time when you’re playing well. To react to the bowler, the ball coming as a catch. Me, thinking he’s going to hit the ball somewhere so I react a little bit earlier. That clear mind thing is a little bit like getting just a bit ahead of time.”
The announcement comes as Hublot also announce their sponsorship of the International Cricket Council (ICC) – reflecting a major move from the brand to increase their exposure in emerging markets like India as well as Australia, where Hublot keeps a relatively low profile.
Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot said: “Hublot has once again proven itself the first, unique, and different, as the first luxury brand to enter cricket. This incredible sport will round off our worldwide marketing presence, and help drive our development in countries with high commercial potential. I am delighted with this great collaboration that awaits us, I am very proud that the ICC has chosen Hublot as its partner and I am thrilled to welcome Michael Clarke to the Hublot family.”
Two Limited Edition timepieces have been released to celebrate the partnership. The ‘Cricket Watch’ hasn’t been officially named but is a Classic Fusion Aero Chronograph in titanium and King Gold. The cricket nuances added to the design include stumps at 12’o’clock, cricket bat shaped hands on the subdials and leather that is reminiscent of a cricket ball, including textural details and stitching. There will be both red and white leather straps included, which references the Test and One Day International cricket balls.