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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ulysse Nardin and Randy Johnson to Create the ‘Big Unit’ Limited Timepiece

Patrik Hoffmann (left) and Randy Johnson making the announcement of the partnership Monday in the owner's box of Chase Field. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

PHOENIX — Swiss luxury watch brands often partner with professional athletes who have amassed achievements in sports where speed, stamina and accuracy are required, such as auto racing, boating regattas, and track and field. Ulysse Nardin took a bit of a different route when it signed pitching great Randy Johnson as a brand ambassador during an event in the owner’s box at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, where Johnson played for six years and enjoyed his greatest success.

Johnson and Ulysse Nardin, known for its luxury nautical timepieces, announced that the two will partner to create a timepiece known as the “Big Unit,” which is Johnson’s nickname, referring to his 6-foot, 10-inch size. The watch will be released sometime in late 2012 or early 2013. 

Johnson and Hoffman looking over the prototype of the timepiece box. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

“I don’t think we had to go too far out of the box for creating a name,” Johnson said during a private interview at the event.

Johnson was known for throwing 100-mile-an-hour fastballs with consistency and accuracy during a 22-year major-league career that included five Cy Young awards (the highest honor for a major league pitcher) and a 2001 World Series championship with the Diamondbacks, where he shared the Most Valuable Player honor. So he had all of the qualities of high-speed athletes in his left arm.

In addition to his baseball achievements, Johnson, an avid watch collector, was also a friend of the Ulysse Nardin brand, which made it even easier to approach the former pitcher about being an ambassador, said Patrik Hoffman, Ulysse Nardin, CEO.

“I think for us it’s important for us that we have someone who is really a true ambassador of the brand, which means I can say that Randy was already a friend of the brand for a long time,” Hoffman said.

A sneak peek of what the box will look like. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Hoffmann also said the partnership with Johnson is within the strategy of the brand to use athletes or celebrities as ambassadors in countries where the timepiece brand is popular. For example, the brand has partnered with world renowned cricketer, Yuvraj Singh, in India.

“For us, whoever we choose in countries like Russia or India or now the United States, we always choose someone we call a legend,” Hoffmann said. “That is important for us. I live in US for 13 years and I know baseball and like baseball and that has some influence as well.”

Below is an unedited interview from Jetset magazine with Johnson in the Arizona Diamondbacks owner’s box that includes a few interruptions by a singing group rehearsing the National Anthem prior to a game against the Colorado Rockies:

Johnson has been collaborating with the luxury watch brand in the design of the timepiece.

“I was just trying to incorporate a little baseball feel in the watch, whether it was something maybe on the bazel or the face or even the hands, or somewhere in the watch that would give you a baseball feel,” Johnson said. “I’m sure they will tastefully incorporate a baseball feel to a limited edition watch.”

Both Johnson and Hoffman are being secret about the details of the watch, which is still being created. It will be part of the Ulysse Nardin Marine Diver line collection. It will incorporate baseball themes, as already noted. And, it will also be unusually large. “If you call the watch the Big Unit it has to be a big watch,” Hoffmann said. As far as how many of these timepieces will be made, they refuse to say but just note that Johnson has 303 total wins in his long, successful career. 

Unedited video from a Jetset magazine interview with Patrik Hoffmann, CEO of Ulysse Nardin, in the owner's box at Chase Field where he discusses his relationship with pitching great Randy Johnson and how they came about to work together to create the "Big Unit" limited timepiece.

Johnson became attracted to luxury timepieces while traveling to different cities while still a ballplayer.

“In certain cities there are really good restaurants. Well, in certain cities there are really good watch stores. I enjoyed looking at them and you figure that over 22 years, I accumulated a nice collection,” he said. “To be with this watch company is really nice because I have several of their watches.”

He also freely admits that his knowledge of timepieces is growing.

“I learned a lot about watches and different timepieces and I’m constantly learning.” He said. “Obviously, when you’re buying expensive timepieces, it’s nice to know what you’re buying, what makes it tick…. I have a very small background when it comes into knowledge but I know what I like and know a lot of other people like watches and it’s something cool to collect. It’s not for everybody.”

He says he compares having a luxury timepiece named after him among his greatest honors, as far as public acceptance.

“I thought it was pretty cool when I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and the box of Wheaties. I thought I have arrived. But to have a watch, I mean I’m obviously honored.”