When Watches Team Up with Paddle Boards, Skis and Motorcycles
Makers of fine timepieces have joined forces with makers of adventure gear in a bid to benefit both.
By Roberta Naas
For decades, top watch brands have aligned themselves with the automotive, dive or aviation worlds, equipping explorers and competitors with watches that push the limits. Now, some watchmakers are taking their partnerships to adventurous new levels — collaborating on the branding for luxury paddle boards, skis and motorcycles.
For watch brands like Ulysse Nardin, IWC Schaffhausen and Breitling, these alliances are seen as a way to reach new audiences.
"It's about making the connection with the right company that can tell your story in a new way and that is willing to co-brand so that we reach each other's customers as well," François-Xavier Hotier, president of Ulysse Nardin Americas, said during a video interview from Miami. "If done properly, it is a win-win."
Ulysse Nardin, a Swiss company whose history is rooted in creating chronometers and marine-inspired watches, recently announced a new water-related connection: the joint branding with the Canadian company Beau Lake of a limited edition of 100 inflatable stand-up paddle boards and matching watches.
Each $11,900 set consists of a new Ulysse Nardin mechanical diver watch, a board, a fin, a carrying bag with shoulder straps and wheels, a pump to inflate the board, a collapsible carbon-fiber paddle, a leash and a board repair kit. The set is sold in stores in the United States, South America and Canada.
"We see this relationship as part of the Ulysse Nardin universe," Mr. Hotier said. "We both have a love of the water and the desire to do something fun and meaningful for our customers, to give them something they can enjoy. It's about being part of the water community, and since we are making these in small numbers, it is exclusive, like a little Ulysse Nardin Beau Lake adventure club."
The paddle board's color scheme uses the signature Ulysse Nardin sea blue shade with accents inspired by the diver watch, incorporating the watchmaker's anchor logo. The watch — the Diver Chronometer Beau Lake 44 millimeter — features a blue dial, a case made of blue PVD (physical vapor deposition) titanium, and the Beau Lake logo on a titanium plate set into its blue rubber strap. The watch is water-resistant to 300 meters.
Paul Lavoie, the founder and chief executive of Beau Lake, said by phone that his company had done other collaborations but had never included another brand's logo.
"Our mantra is ‘the water is calling.’ It is a reference to water issues around the world as well as to our love of water," he said. "The Ulysse Nardin logo is an anchor, and it fits our message beautifully. These collaborations are all about raising our visibility, creating awareness and tapping into a new customer for both brands involved."
This was not the first Ulysse Nardin collaboration with Beau Lake. According to Mr. Hotier, the two had co-produced 10 vintage-inspired wooden paddle boards in 2021 that sold out in a day.
"But the challenge with that was that the board was so big and heavy that delivering them was a nightmare," he said. "We had a lot of customers who were upset that they missed out on the board, so for the next co-branding, we discussed how to make it easier to deliver."
Surprisingly, the Ulysse Nardin x Beau Lake board and watch set is being sold by retail jewelers in their stores.
"When we started the discussion with retailers about this product, they looked at me like I was crazy," Mr. Hotier said. "But once the boards were displayed, they loved it."
And the customers? "Our customers are people who love luxury, and when they see such a nice paddle board, they indulge in the fun," he said.
Fun on the slopes is what led the Swiss watch brand IWC Schaffhausen to collaborate recently with another Swiss brand, The Faction Collective, to design freestyle skis in a limited edition of 55 pairs.
This collaboration, IWC's first with a sports-equipment manufacturer, came about because of a common thread: Faction makes skis for the Olympic double-gold medalist Eileen Gu, who has been an IWC brand ambassador since 2021.
"When the opportunity came up to cooperate with Faction on a limited-edition freeride ski, we immediately jumped on it," Franziska Gsell Etterlin, chief marketing officer of IWC, said by email.
The idea, she explained, was to focus on the IWC Pilot's Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition "Lake Tahoe" watch in white ceramic. "Lake Tahoe is where Eileen Gu stood on skis for the first time," Ms. Etterlin said. "To bring our sports watches into the winter sport context makes a lot of sense."
The Faction Studio 1 IWC Collab Ltd. skis mark the first time Faction has created a luminescent design, recalling the luminescent hands on the IWC watch. The skis are white with a black base, inspired by the white ceramic watch and its black dial. The words IWC and Lake Tahoe on the top of the skis glow green in the dark, like the watch's hands and markers.
(The $749 skis sold out on the Faction website. The $10,700 watch is still being sold separately by IWC.)
Taking the sporty theme to two wheels, the watchmaker Breitling worked with Triumph Motorcycles to create a $18,300 Speed Twin motorcycle based on a watch. Buyers of one of the 270 bikes could also get one of 270 chronograph Top Time Triumph Speed Twin Owners’ Limited Edition watches for $5,500. Each of the 270 bikes was numbered and each watch had a corresponding number engraved on the case back.
The motorcycle and watch color scheme was ice blue (inspired by the color of the Triumph motorcycle in the 1953 movie "The Wild One," starring Marlon Brando), and accents on the bike included the Breitling logo and custom instrument faces. The watches also featured leather straps with hand stitching and both Breitling and Triumph logos on the dial. The case backs were engraved with a sketch of the Triumph's twin engine, too.
(The bikes and watches have sold out, but a second Top Time Triumph watch in the same ice-blue dial color with a different, brushed finish is still available for $5,500.)
"As a brand we stand for a casual, relaxed, cool luxury lifestyle," Tim Sayler, the Breitling chief marketing officer, said by video.
"Motorcycling represents concepts of freedom and adventure. It's a perfect codesign," he said.
Twenty of the motorcycles, along with the corresponding owners’ watches, are currently on display in various Breitling boutiques.
"Our boutique managers and salespeople tell us that the bike in the window is really a traffic stopper, and we have people who probably did not know Breitling before but see the bike and come in and ask about it," Mr. Sayler said. "This is how somebody more attracted by the bike enters the Breitling world and vice versa."
"That's the best scenario," he said, "where both partners can bring the brand onto their own product and market it to their different audiences."