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Watch, what happens next? // Is a ten year deal too long for timekeepers

Published by Christine

McLaren recently announced a brand new sponsorship tie-up with watchmakers Richard Mille, in a long term deal that spans 10 years. The partnership was revealed in the standard way, with Jenson Button and Ron Dennis shaking hands with Mille himself, both sporting one of the super-sized luxury watches that the brand prides itself on.

Sponsorship announcements are becoming a rare beast in modern Formula One, with the sport struggling to find relevance in a very difficult and turbulent world economy. For McLaren to have signed a relatively new but high profile brand just goes to show that it can still be done, particularly if you have Ron Dennis around to do the persuading.

The chance to partner with McLaren is particularly timely: we’ve been evaluating Formula 1 on a restricted basis for several years, but this opportunity has enabled us to engage in a deeper, more meaningful way, with proper focus and effort directed on a major team.

- Richard Mille

Mille will design specific watches to fit with the "tremendous heritage" of the McLaren brand, and of course there will be sponsorship stickers on the car. What struck me as most interesting, though, was the sheer length of the deal – a decade is a long time, particularly when it comes to items of technological and fashionable interest.

Traditional watchmakers are facing fresh competition from smart watches, which have continued to grow in popularity since taking off in 2013. The benefits are easy to see - check the time whilst also tracking your fitness and receiving convenient notifications - but watchmakers such as Richard Mille are hoping their style and attention to detail will keep up demand.

For him to commit Richard Mille to a 10-year partnership with McLaren underlines our shared belief in the value of long-term agreements, and the benefits that can be derived from growing and developing together.

- Ron Dennis

Figures analysed over the last three months of 2015 show that smart watches have overtaken Swiss watch sales for the first time. It was a narrow margin but for the first time the smartwatch pulled ahead as reportedly the two biggest markets for analogue watches (Hong Kong and the US) dropped off significantly.

With further technological change ahead and an industry that is beginning to dip into decline, committing to a decade-long deal means the company is either crazy or confident. Or both.

I’m sure there will always be a place for traditional watches. Timekeeping fits very nicely with Formula 1's image given the focus on microseconds by each and every person on the grid. But pay attention to the timepiece choices made by lower-ranking team members, for a more accurate indication of emerging trends as this deal plays out. A weighty wrist ornament that can only accomplish one thing might seem a tiny bit ludicrous ten years from now.

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