Watchmaking, especially wristwatches, has always been closely connected to the world of sports. In many sports, the watch, serving the function of timekeeping, has always been an essential instrument for the conduct of competitions. However, nowadays mechanical watches have lost their importance in favor of more accurate instruments. Nevertheless, watchmaking has managed to reinvent itself and innovate, using the challenges posed by different sports to set new goals to achieve. 
The world of tennis represents one of the most difficult tests taken on by brands, especially due to the numerous demands that athletes face during matches, specifically, what stresses the watch mechanism is the acceleration forces it experiences when the ball is struck. In this article, we will analyze the wristwatches worn by the greatest tennis players and the challenges that brands face while designing them.

Richard Mille and Rafael Nadal

The brand that has had the most significant impact on the innovation of the watchmaking world in recent decades is undoubtedly Richard Mille, and the brand’s relationship with Rafael Nadal has been one of their cornerstones, allowing many people to embrace the brand’s philosophy. The models we are used to seeing on his wrist while performing at the highest level are all from the RM27 collection.

Rafael Nadal and the RM 027 on his wrist
Rafael Nadal wearing his RM 027 – photo courtesy of Richard Mille

In 2010 Richard Mille launched the RM 027, the first watch born between the collaboration of the brand and the Spanish tennis player, by managing to fulfill all his needs. The result is something unique, a tourbillon watch that weighs less than 20 grams, strap included, and that is able to absorb several hundreds G’s.

Rafael Nadal and the RM 27-04 on his wrist
Rafael Nadal wearing his RM27-04 – photo courtesy of Richard Mille

The latest collaboration between Nadal and Richard Mille is the RM 27-04, which weighs just 30 grams and can withstand impacts of up to 12,000 G (a new record for the brand). It accompanied him during his latest victory at a Grand Slam tournament, the Roland Garros 2022. 

Rafael Nadal and the RM 27-03 on his wrist
Rafael Nadal wearing his RM 27-03 – photo courtesy of Richard Mille

It’s undeniable that Richard Mille represents the benchmark for sports watchmaking, with all other brands aspiring to enter the field. The collaborations with Nadal stand out as their pinnacle expressions.

Bulgari and Andrey Rublev

Bulgari has been establishing itself in recent years as one of the most capable brands when it comes to innovation. A testament to this is the Octo Finissimo collection, which, starting from the concept of ultra-thin watches, has achieved multiple technical records. The brand’s commitment to innovation is evident in the Aluminium line as well, especially in the use of materials. On the world’s most prestigious tennis courts, Russian player Andrey Rublev wears a watch from this line specifically designed to be used during matches.

Andrey Rublev wearing his Bulgari Aluminium Match Point
Andrey Rublev wearing his Bulgari Aluminium Match Point – photo courtesy of Bulgari

The aluminum case makes the watch perfect to be worn during sports activities, particularly the Aluminium Match Point Edition, first seen on the wrist of the tennis player at Wimbledon 2023, stands out from the more classic versions due to two fundamental features:

  • The crown is positioned on the left, ensuring maximum comfort for the athlete despite the different movements of the wrist during the match.
  • The rubber strap, a classic feature of the line, is adjustable with a Velcro closure.
Bulgari Aluminium Match Point - front view
Bulgari Aluminium Match Point – photo courtesy of Monochrome

A special feature of the watch, produced in a limited edition of 800 units and sold at 3600€, is the packaging, which resembles a real tennis ball.

FP Journe Elegante and Donna Vekić 

Although François-Paul Journe’s creations are often associated with traditional mechanical watchmaking, his quartz creation, initially designed to be worn by collectors’ wives, has achieved incredible success. The Elegante maintains the standards aesthetic of the French watchmaker, but its quartz movement, titanium case, and various colorful rubber straps make it a more sporty timepiece. Given these premises, it still surprises us to see Croatian tennis player Donna Vékic wearing an Elegante during her matches.

Donna Vekic wearing her FP Journe Elegante on the left wrist
Donna Vekic wearing her FP Journe Elegante

In particular, the model she wears features diamonds on the bezel, and she often switches between a black rubber strap and a more colorful pink option.

De Bethune and Tommy Paul

Last year at Wimbledon, many watch enthusiasts and tennis fans were surprised by the watch worn by the American player Tommy Paul: a De Bethune DB28 LTC. Since its inception in 2002, De Bethune, which holds a dozen patents for its cutting-edge technology, has consistently aimed to combine tradition and innovation. This approach results in creating exclusive models that are both elegant and comfortable on the wrist. The model worn by the tennis player perfectly embodies the brand’s philosophy. It’s ideal for the glamorous London courts, yet maintains a sporty essence thanks to its lightweight titanium case and wrist-hugging movable lugs typical of the brand.

Tommy Paul and the De Bethune DB28 LTC on his wrist
Tommy Paul and the De Bethune DB28 LTC on his wrist – Photo courtesy of De Bethune

The most eye-catching feature is undoubtedly the dial, uniquely crafted for the tennis player, featuring a green guilloché finish and a golden tennis ball at 12 o’clock.

Tommy Paul wearing his De Bethune DB28
Tommy Paul wearing his De Bethune DB28 – photo courtesy of De Bethune
Audemars Piguet and Serena Williams

The long lasting relationship between Audemars Piguet and the former world’s number one, Serena Williams, has often showcased incredible watches during historically important matches. Some of those watches are very unusual to see on a tennis court, especially on the wrist of such an athlete. The model that Serena has worn the most since 2014, when she started to be an ambassador of AP, is the lady Royal Oak Off-Shore with the quartz movement. During the years she wore multiple configurations, in different materials and sometimes even with diamonds on the bezel.

erena Williams wearing a gem set Audemars Piguet Royal Oak OffShore
Serena Williams wearing a gem set Audemars Piguet Royal Oak OffShore – photo courtesy of Robb Report

But the watch that caught the attention of enthusiasts the most was the one worn during the 2017 Australian Open, a stunning Millenary in Rose Gold, with diamonds along the case and a mother-of-pearl dial. Something truly unique to see on the wrist of an athlete, not only because the caliber wasn’t designed for such occasions but also because of the significant weight that a gold case carries. 

Serena Williams wearing her Audemars Piguet Millenary
Serena Williams wearing her Audemars Piguet Millenary – photo courtesy of Hodinkee
Gerald Charles and Hubert Hurkacz

Independent watchmaking has been the reference point of technical innovation for a significant portion of the industry over the past decade. Several brands on this list demonstrate this, as does Gerald Charles.The brand represents the latest chapter of the master Gerald Genta and achieves the maximum sportiness in the Sport line, featuring a lightweight but durable titanium case and a new caliber capable of withstanding impacts and stress forty times more effectively.

Hubert Hurkacz wearing his Gerald Charles Sport
Hubert Hurkacz wearing his Gerald Charles Sport

The line has four different models, one skeletonized and the remaining three with dial and strap colors that respectively evoke clay, concrete, and grass courts. Similarly to the previously mentioned Bulgari, Gerald Charles models also have the crown positioned on the left to avoid discomfort for the tennis player during their movements. In particular, we have often seen these models on the wrist of the Polish player Hubert Hurkacz, currently ranked number 9 in the ATP rankings, who tried to match the court surface with the corresponding model.

Roger Federer, Jannik Sinner and Andre Agassi

In this article we have focused on the current players who wear watches during their matches. However, it’s important to mention two other players with a strong relationship with the watchmaking world. The first one is of course Roger Federer, who’s today arguably Rolex’s most important  Ambassador. Although he has never worn a watch from the crowned house on the tennis courts, he has been recognized for several years as the face of the brand.  Over the years, Roger has been photographed with sensational watches, often out of catalog, always worn with his distinctive class and elegance.

Roger Federer wearing his Rolex Daytona SACO
Roger Federer wearing his Rolex Daytona SACO – photo courtesy of GQ

It’s the case, for example, of the 116588 SACO, the off-catalog Daytona with orange sapphire on the bazel and as hour markers. This watch is currently trading over 300.000€. The connection between Rolex and the world of tennis doesn’t stop at the bond with the former world number one, but today can boast being on the wrist of the current world number 2, Jannik Sinner, who often wears a Submariner ref. 116610LN. The Swiss brand is also the official timekeeper of the ATP tour, as they do for F1, since 2013.

Going back to the 1990s, we find another champion who used to wear watches during his matches, we are talking about Andre Agassi. In particular, the American tennis player had a sponsorship relationship with Ebel, a brand at the peak of its success during those years, and therefore used to wear a watch during matches. We could therefore define him as a pioneer of something that, thirty years later, no longer surprises us.

Andre Agassi wearing an Ebel Automatic
Andre Agassi wearing an Ebel Automatic – photo courtesy of USA today

Written by Tiziano Patti

Born in 2002, I’m a young watch collector and enthusiast always looking to add new pieces to my collection.