Invicta on pole position with a marketing masterclass in Formula 2

Invicta on pole position with a marketing masterclass in Formula 2

Time+Tide

Editor’s note: As soon as Invicta is mentioned in the presence of watch enthusiasts, jests and jeers are inevitable. The brand has long strayed from its centuries-old heritage and has since evolved into a mall and QVC/TV-peddled watch brand largely known for affordable homage-driven designs. But Kieran, a recent addition to the Time+Tide team, has done something most watch lovers, or perhaps more accurately watch snobs, would never do: give Invicta props. In Kieran’s eyes, Invicta has made a strong and strategic marketing move – entering into a partnership with a Formula 2 team.

Invicta have recently announced a new title partnership with Formula 2 team Virtuosi. The partnership was announced on February 25, with the two groups uniting to become Invicta Virtuosi Racing. A statement released by the team announced: “The partnership will see Invicta become the first consumer brand to put its name to an FIA Formula 2 team, illustrating the recent growth of the series and the team itself”.

Invicta was founded in 1837 in Chiasso, Switzerland, and through changes of ownership, now have a goal of building affordable and ultimately accessible timepieces. Being no stranger to sports, they already produce watches with the NFL and MLB. Fans can show support for their team by buying a timepiece that features their team colours and badge.

Invicta has now made its move into motorsports, by becoming the title sponsor of Formula 2 team Virtuosi Racing. Formula 2 is the last stop for drivers hoping to reach Formula 1 and it showcases the stars of tomorrow in close wheel-to-wheel action. The chassis and power units are produced by one manufacturer, so seeing dominance from one driver or team is rare. Formula 2 is fast, aggressive and always exciting. Names such as Charles Leclerc, George Russell, Alexander Albon and Lando Norris make up some of the high-profile names that have graduated from this support series to Formula 1.

The team, now known as Invicta Virtuosi Racing, consists of Amaury Cordeel and Alpine F1 reserve driver, Australian Jack Doohan (son of motorcycle legend, Mick Doohan). With an impressive rookie campaign in Formula 2 in 2022, Doohan was rewarded with outings in Alpine’s F1 car. Despite the team not being part of the big four – those being Prema Racing, ART Grand Prix, Carlin, and Dams – they are a well-respected team with Guanyu Zhou being their first driver to graduate to Formula 1, now competing with Alfa-Romeo Sauber.

For those that didn’t watch it, spoilers ahead for the first round of the Formula 2 2023 season. Round 1 took place under the scorching Bahrain sun and, to be quite direct, Invicta Virtuosi Racing had a shocker. Across both the Sprint and Feature race, neither Doohan nor Cordeel scored a single point. Neither featured over the weekend and consequently, Invicta didn’t get the coverage they were hoping for. The weekend standout was title favourite and highly rated Theo Pourchaire, driving for ART Grand Prix and part of the Richard Mille Young Talent Academy. Richard Mille does feature on the Formula 2 grid due to personal driver sponsorships and team sponsorship, but Invicta are the first consumer brand to become a team title sponsor. I would make the case that they are now the most recognisable watch brand on the Formula 2 grid.

This is a marketing win from Invicta. Motorsports and watches go hand in hand, and Formula 1 is saturated with high-cost watch brands such as Bremont, TAG Heuer, and Richard Mille to name a few. However, there has been no representation from watch brands that cover the entry-level watch enthusiast since Casio’s departure from Alpha Tauri’s livery. If you combine that fact with the surge in popularity of Formula 2 and the lack of brand competition within the series, Invicta stand alone and unchallenged. They have become the proverbial big fish in the small pond.

 

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I was thrilled to see that Invicta were not just lending their name to sponsorship. In the press release, there was mention of “spectacular limited-edition collection of watches to celebrate the partnership”. Maybe a watch made from the materials of the Formula 2 car, or perhaps design inspired by the aggressive styling of the car? We can only speculate at this stage what that collection will entail, but as a watch fan and motorsports fanatic, this is a collection I will be keeping a close eye on.

This is not Invicta’s only partnership on the F2 grid. Invicta are also a personal sponsor of Van Amersfoort Racing’s Juan-Manuel Correa. Correa, rather unfortunately, is best known for being involved in the tragic accident at Spa-Francorchamps in 2019, that took the life of Anthoine Hubert. Having recovered from his injuries and making a return to the junior Formulas, Correa is the embodiment of Invicta’s very name – Latin for invincible. The pair have a collaboration upcoming and viewable on the brand’s website, simply named JM Correa. The aesthetic reminds me of the Richard Milles we commonly see on the wrists of Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris at Ferrari and McLaren, respectively, certainly a departure from Invicta’s usual design language.

This is where I respect Invicta for knowing their audience and staying true to their brand values. If we take the JM Correa collection for example, that aesthetic does make me think of Richard Mille. Now, I really enjoy some of the pieces produced by Richard Mille, especially those that link to Formula 1. However, it will come as no surprise when I disclose to you that I do not have Richard Mille money. I suspect this will be the case for many others. Invicta has created, if you are inclined that way, an affordable way to get that very specific RM look, without having to sell your kidney on the dark web.

Everyone has their own opinion on Invicta, not all of them good, but Invicta models have featured in many starter watch collections. Their Pro Diver has been particularly successful at ‘borrowing’ a design and making it readily available.

Invicta Virtuosi Racing will be a multi-year partnership beyond 2023. While the results from round 1 were not what they wanted, a talent like Jack Doohan will undoubtably take Invicta to the top step of the podium at some point in 2023, just like he did in 2022. When Invicta Virtuosi Racing start achieving the results on-track, Invicta will undoubtably see them off-track. When that happens, I can see brands such as Casio and Tissot following Invicta on this path. Well played Invicta, well played.