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Angus Davies talks watches with Bubba Watson
An interview with Bubba Watson, winner of the US Masters 2012.
The background to the interview
I was approached by Richard Mille, exemplar of neoteric haute horology and asked if I would like to interview Bubba Watson. I had previously researched Bubba for an article I had written on the Richard Mille RM 038 and his background sounded fascinating. He clearly was a welcome departure from the rehearsed ambassadors favoured by some brands.
I must confess an interest in golf has eluded me. I had golf lessons once and just as I thought I was mastering my swing, it vanished into the ether. My golf coach explained that this was all part of playing the game of golf. This did not sit with my own impatient personality.
If I try a sport or hobby and I can’t perceive rapid progress, I expediently discard it and move on.
Prior to interviewing Bubba, the prospect of asking him questions presented a challenge I could not ignore. How do you interview a top sports personality about a sport for which you have little knowledge? This would be fun and definitely a tale I could retell the grandchildren one day.
Bubba was participating at The Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes and I was granted an interview in a nearby house.
A brief overview of Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson was born on the 5th November 1978 in Bagdad, Florida.
A physical giant, standing at 6 foot 3 inches tall, he strikes the ball with incredible force resulting in him leading the US PGA tour in driving distance, averaging 313.1 yards.
Bubba is a refreshing change from the usual golfers on the PGA tour. He is self-taught and has eschewed the approach taken by many precocious children and pushy parents vicariously living their dreams through their offspring.
Many golfers have spent years being coached, holding their club a particular way, having their swing honed by video analysis, not so Bubba.
He was wearing his all white attire with pink detailing and uses a pink driver in support of charities. On his website Bubba states, “Helping these charities and more importantly, the families involved, can be more rewarding than winning a golf tournament.” I doubt this is a mantra espoused by many sport coaches.
Bubba has a down to earth persona, talking of humble origins from Bagdad, Florida. He openly showed his emotions, tears streamed down his face as he celebrated clinching victory at the Masters, hugging his mother in affectionate embrace.
During the Masters, in his play-off against Louis Oosterhuizen his ball landed in the woods. The undergrowth should have put paid to his ambitions and frustrated his aspirations. However, after striking the ball with such ferocity that golfing wisdom would have suggested impending failure Bubba said, “It was just a crazy shot I saw in my head”. This is not a man who follows convention.
It is, therefore, no surprise that he wears a very special wristwatch, a Richard Mille RM 038.
Interview with Bubba Watson
Angus Davies (AD): Bubba, thank you for granting me an interview. I must confess I know nothing about golf.
Bubba Watson (BW): That’s ok, I know nothing about you.
Image kindly provided by © Euan Davies 2012
AD: I have had a go at golf, it was disastrous and I have left it alone since.
Whilst I have been researching you, I have noted your quite a playful guy.
I have seen the You Tube coverage of you taking shots on “Bubba’s Bridge” and being towed by a speedboat, taking shots whilst standing on a bodyboard.
That is quite unusual, normally brand ambassadors are quite corporate, giving text book answers and saying the right things. I see you as a little different and understand how that fits with Richard Mille. Can you tell me how you became an Ambassador for Richard Mille?
BW: The brand was looking for an American and a golfer that produced a high swing speed to show that this watch (he points to his RM 038) still works. I have the fastest swing speed, I swing at 126 mph. To make it still work, to make it still function, I fit the mould (to test it to destruction). Does that make sense?
AD: Yes it does, you should never wear a watch whilst playing golf. Moreover, you are playing whilst wearing a tourbillon which is intrinsically more fragile, therefore, for your watch to take that abuse is mind blowing.
BW: What does Richard do? He challenges himself and challenges the watch and shows the world that it can be done.
AD: I believe his party trick is to pick up a half million pound watch, chuck it at the wall and show it still works afterwards. Someone told me he did this at SIHH a few years ago, (Amended) I don’t know whether this is true...
BW: Yeah, he just did that. A journalist I was chatting to earlier said the RM 038 was up for an award, in front of the judges, a guy threw it on the ground, picked it up and showed it still worked.
AD: Yes, that is scary stuff. That is potentially a big bill if it goes wrong. As you know that is a very expensive watch
BW: No, mine was affordable (laughs)
AD: Have you ever been to the manufacture?
BW: No, we were just talking about that. I want to go. I want to see how it is made. It is amazing. It’s craftsmanship. It’s artwork (describing his RM 038)
AD: Yes, it is craftsmanship. What is unusual about Richard Mille is that they are a young brand. Where many long established brands have history, they follow convention. Richard Mille has not tried to invent history. They have sought new ideas, taking inspiration from Formula One. It is like a Formula One car for your wrist. If you look at it there are many aspects which are quite fascinating.
You are wearing the RM038. The colour of your watch is quite interesting, due to its Titalyt II® treatment, but it fits with your charity and white attire.
BW: When I first met him (Richard Mille), I asked him, “Why me?” and just like you explained it, he seeks challenges. I like to goof around, have fun and I’m out of the box. He likes to think outside the box instead of following tradition. Once he decided he wanted a golfer and he saw me, he thought, “That’s the guy,” and that is how we started working together.
AD: Does your wife have one (Richard Mille)?
BW: Yes she has one, it’s flat and square with diamonds on it (Richard Mille RM 016 White Gold). She has changed the band from white to hot pink and back to white.
RM016 White Gold
AD: When I was at Richard Mille back in May. One of the factory managers had a watch on his wrist. He said this is a new watch we are developing for Felippe Massa, at which point all the journalists got their cameras out, trying to secure a scoop. Are we likely to see any new Bubba models this year? Any pink details featuring on a Bubba watch?
BW: I would love to but the boss (Richard Mille) makes the final decision. I told him my ideas when I first met him and he laughed.
I don’t know anything about any new models. The only one I knew about was the Baby Bubba (Richard Mille RM 055 Bubba Watson). I knew about model a while back but I couldn’t tell anybody. But, now everyone knows about it. So, I don’t know any secrets right now, but you would be first to know if I did (laughs).
RM 055 Bubba Watson
AD: Your watch is really “out there”
BW: Have you seen this one (Bubba shows me his RM 038)?
AD: I have, I have written about that one, I’ve even talked about you Bubba.
BW: You have
I wear it so much, I have even got this. (Bubba removes the watch to reveal the pale skin beneath the watch which has not been subject to the suns rays). It’s sunny where I live.
AD: You see my wife has gone for a fake tan today. That’s what we have to do when we live here (rainy England)
BW: My first one, the prototype that I had it was so dirty.
This one, I just wear it, don’t clean it, just look how dirty it is in there (he shows the reverse of the watch. It is soiled and has clearly been used).
AD: You have also you given Jens (Bubba’s manager) a serious piece (Richard Mille RM 011 Felipe Massa Flyback Chronograph).
RM 011 Felipe Massa Flyback Chronograph
BW: Yeah, that was my first one. Before this one came out (RM 038), I said, “You have gotta give me watch”, so they brought me that one (points to Jen’s watch). They have been really good to me (Richard Mille).
I gave him that watch. I have got a couple of other ones. The yellow one (RM 028, the St. Bart) and then I got the new diver’s watch (RM 032 Chronograph). It weighs like four pounds. It’s so heavy. I have a lake house, right on the water. I jump in the water all the time with it. I said, “Are you sure?” And they said, “Yeah it’s all right”.
I have another in a bronze colour with a red band, but in the same style (as the RM 038) (Richard Mille RM 011 Felipe Massa Flyback Chronograph) and my wife has just the one.
I’m looking at one at the moment. It’s the same shape but it has diamonds (Bubba gestures that he likes this watch).
AD: Have you seen the sapphire one as well? (Richard Mille RM 056 Felipe Massa Toubillon split second competition chronograph)
RM 056 Felipe Massa Tourbillon split second competition chronograph
BW: Yeah, I haven’t seen it close, but I have seen it in the magazines.
AD: That’s awesome.
BW: I was just in LA. LA has the Boutique, so I always go in there. I don’t call them I just show up.
I just go in. The shop worker was looking in the magazine with all the Richard Mille watches, talking to the customer and says, “Look at this one. This is the one, really expensive though” and it was my watch. “You know Bubba Watson, the pro golfer, he wears this watch.” I just came through the door as he said that. So I said to the customer, “Oh man, you should get that one”, (Bubba gestures how he pointed to the watch, whilst wearing his own RM 038), pointing at the watch on display.
“That one there,” I kept saying. The shop worker knew it was me but the customer had no idea. But, I kept on trying to show him my watch. He started laughing (the shop worker) and the guy just walked away (customer).
I go in there and try on all the watches. I go in there and say, “Ooh, let me try on that one. Let me try on this one.”
AD: Thank you very much for granting the interview.
Summary - Bubba Watson
Bubba clearly has a prodigious talent for golf. His unconventional and unique approach to mastering the game distinguishes him from other professional golfers. However, it is the many qualities Bubba possesses away from the golf course make him the ideal ambassador for a Richard Mille.
Bubba is clearly gifted and intelligent. During our conversation, you can see his eyes dart with energy. There is a lot going on in his head. He has a sharp wit and genuinely made me laugh, no sycophantic guffaws were required.
A unique brand ambassador for a unique brand of watch.
A more in depth interview
A more in depth interview of Bubba will be available for readers to enjoy in Great Golf Magazine from Quarter 1, 2013.
I chat to Bubba in detail about his charity work, his family life and his interests other than his obvious love of watches.
Some brands have a long illustrious history of making fine wristwatches dating back over 200 years. However, some brands create faux history resurrecting a brand from the past that has not produced timepieces for many years or acquire a company which has a tenuous link to watchmaking.
Richard Mille, French by birth, launched his brand in 2001 with his first high-end timepiece, RM001, costing €200,000. The inspiration was F1 racing, bringing together space-age materials with pleasingly dramatic results. He has always been honest, not hiding the youth of the company that bears his name.
The watches harness all the exquisite hand finishing of the finest traditional brands associated with haute horology. However, Richard Mille watches embrace new solutions to enhance robustness, accuracy and eschew weight. Moreover, the design of the watches has a modernity, borne of functionality first, with pleasing forms, the outcome of Mr Mille’s creativity.
Journalists and fans of horology immediately took to Richard Mille and the brand has continued to enjoy growing popularity and respect ever since.
I would never proffer investment advice, I leave that to the skilled investment managers who help to diminish my pension pot year on year. But, in my humble opinion, the current Richard Mille timepieces will become increasingly sought after in auction houses in decades to come.