Like any sport, rugby is all about the timing of its swift 80 or so minutes.
So Breitling announced in January a three-year partnership with Six Nations Rugby, becoming the official timing partner of the event itself, which France won last month. The partnership also includes the Autumn Nations Series (when the six teams — England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales — play others, such as New Zealand and South Africa) and the 2023 Rugby World Cup warm-up matches.
And, in a mark of parity, the agreement also includes a role as the first official time partner of the Women’s Six Nations tournament, which began March 26 and is to end April 30.
“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while, so we’re playing catch-up a little bit,” said Gavin Murphy, managing director of Breitling UK. “From the day we started talking, it was going to be both the men’s and women’s teams. We wanted to wrap the brand around the whole game.” (The brand also is official timekeeper for other events, like the motorcycle championship Deus Swank Rally and the Ironman competition.)
Previously, each rugby team had its own timing partner, but Six Nations decided to use just one for the total of approximately 48 matches played each year. Changes in scheduling also prompted the decision: For decades the men’s and women’s tournaments coincided in late winter, but last year the women’s tournament was rescheduled a few weeks later in the year.
“The previous timing didn’t give women’s rugby enough space to breathe and grow,” said Craig Maxwell, chief commercial officer for Six Nations. “But now it’s much more visible and is a game changer in providing the women a platform to reach a greater audience.”
For Mr. Murphy, there was a kind of symmetry involved in the partnership: Breitling was founded in St.-Imier, Switzerland, in 1884, and Six Nations traces its roots to 1883.
Also, the brand’s history was tied to stopwatches as much as with pocket watches and, eventually, wristwatches: “We created one of the first wrist-worn chronographs with an independent pusher at 2 o’clock, in 1915, and we patented the second independent chronograph pusher at 4 o’clock in 1934.
“From the early 1900s,” he said, “Breitling had various timers with a large variety of dials with scales to measure time in sports, efficiency in production or to calculate average speed.”