The Story Behind Maurice de Mauriac’s Watch Honoring Stan Smith, The Tennis Champion Some People Think Is A Shoe
“Nice shoes you’ve got there!”
I was walking down Church Road with Maurice de Mauriac founder Daniel Dreifuss and his youngest son Leo when we heard someone behind us praise Daniel’s Stan Smith Adidas footwear.
We turned around to find it was Stan Smith himself, the American tennis champion from the 1970s after who the famous sneakers are named. And that’s how it all started.
And why Stan Smith’s signature is now on something other than a shoe: a dedicated watch.
The funniest thing about the impromptu exchange on Church Road during Wimbledon 2017 was that Stan Smith didn’t even know who we were and that all four of us were on our way to the same meeting at the house he had rented near the All England Lawn Tennis Club grounds.
The meeting was arranged by mutual friend Fred Mullane, a veteran tennis photographer and owner of a Maurice de Mauriac chronograph. Being close to Smith, it was Mullane who first thought of a signature timepiece that the champion’s corporate hospitality clients could acquire.
The Dreifusses, big tennis fans, on their annual visit to the Wimbledon championships, were excited to meet the legend behind the iconic sneakers they love so much.
I was able to take a break from tournament coverage that morning, so I came along. I had only briefly talked to Smith in the past and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to interview him.
As we sat around a small table, the idea of a Stan Smith watch really “kicked” off.
Maurice de Mauriac had a previous limited edition dedicated to Run DMC, the hip-hop band of “Walk This Way” fame, who also endorses Adidas; Daniel Dreifuss’ empathy for the triple-striped brand and its sneakers was fueled by his favorite movie “The Royal Tenenbaums.”
He was eager to establish a partnership that would lead to a dedicated timepiece. Still, it took more than two years to become a reality – and it wasn’t an easy process at all, considering all the sketches (more than 30 dial propositions), business discussions (the champion’s agent is none other than the legendary Donald Dell), and intercontinental distance.
Stan Smith: an American icon above all else
The creation of the Stan Smith Signature Watch was quite difficult because no one wants to mess with an icon, nor does an icon want to be messed around with.
And Stan Smith is an icon. A name for the ages. A champion beyond his namesake shoes who won two Grand Slam singles titles (US Open 1971 and Wimbledon 1972) but amassed five more in doubles and participated in seven successful Davis Cup campaigns for the United States.
His epic five-set win over nemesis Ilie Nastase in the Wimbledon final captured the imagination of aficionados for decades, however Smith’s grandest feat was perhaps leading the U.S. squad to an improbable away win in the 1972 final against Romania in Bucharest, on clay and in front of a partisan horde.
Favorites due to the slow surface and home factor, the mercurial Nastase and cunning Ion Tiriac (now on the Forbes Richest Men’s list!) used every gamesmanship ploy they could think of: orchestrating the hostile crowd, patriotic linesmen, and soldiers bearing shouldered machine guns courtside. It was the first Davis Cup final in Europe in 39 years, and not only because of Nicolae Ceausescu’s stranglehold regime was security heavy in the aftermath of the Olympic massacre in Munich.
Knowing any ball close to the lines could be ruled out, Smith aimed a foot (30 cm) inside the lines and managed to win the three rubber matches (two singles plus the doubles alongside Eric Van Dillen) needed to give the title to the Americans.
“I had to concentrate so hard I got a headache,” he said after the heroic ordeal.
Above all, Tennis Hall of Famer Smith was and still is a notable sportsman.
One of the best players of his generation and the year-ending world number one in 1972, the tall Californian’s autograph was on a Wilson racket and, more famously, the popular Adidas trainers – after agent Donald Dell suggested to Adidas that his client would be the ideal name to replace retired Robert Haillet as ambassador for the shoe created in 1965 as the first upper leather tennis footwear. It was initially named for the French tennis player.
Since the 1970s, the classic Stan Smith sneaker has had a tongue depicting his portrait (albeit with his famous mustache absent!) and signature, while the traditional heel tab features the original Adidas trefoil logo with “Stan Smith” written underneath.
The sneaker grew far beyond its debut as a technical tennis shoe and turned into a fashion brand, even mentioned by rappers in songs, becoming a mainstay in pop culture and adopted by a generation who doesn’t even know there is a tennis titan or an actual living person behind it.
Even Smith’s son Trevor, around the age of eight at the time, asked his father whether he was named after the shoe or if the shoe was named after him!
Now the titular Stan Smith also has his signature on a dedicated Maurice de Mauriac timepiece developed in close collaboration with founder Daniel Dreifuss and his sons Leo and Massimo.
A tennis-loving family who turned its admiration for a classy champion and the classic sneakers into a timepiece conceived to be as cool and straightforward as both the renowned serve and volleyer and the shoes bearing his autograph.
“A lot like the shoes, the Stan Smith Signature Watch has a clean look, and I hope it will be received with great interest,” says the American tennis icon. “I like the way the timepiece turned out and enjoy wearing it myself. It certainly is unique and hopefully will remind its owners about my legacy on the tennis court, as well as the shoes that bear my name.”
Stan Smith: a signature to watch
Following on from that inaugural 2017 meeting, there were crucial talks with Smith and Dell at Wimbledon in 2018.
Then the design studio working with Maurice de Mauriac began proposing sketches based on the 42 mm case of the Deepsky model from the brand’s regular catalog; the central idea was to not turn the tennis inspiration and sneaker connection into a gimmicky product, and several dial colors were tested – but white was the obvious choice.
The positioning of the portrait and the autograph on the dial and/or case back was also an issue. After many trials, a prototype with the proposed version was introduced to Smith at Roland Garros 2019; it was approved, but an agreement on the business model of the partnership held production up for yet a few more months.
The Maurice de Mauriac Stan Smith Signature Watch was finally introduced in early December 2019, featuring displays of hours, minutes, seconds, and date.
The steel case boasts a generous dial opening with Smith’s autograph and a discrete tennis ball on the second hand, whose color matches the signature at 6 o’clock.
The champion’s portrait (nearly the same one found on the shoes) is highlighted on the sapphire crystal case back allowing a partial view to an automatic ETA 2824 movement in top execution. This highly tested caliber produced since 1982 is a reliable tractor beating at 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz) with 21 jewels, Etachron regulator system, hacking seconds, and quite a long service life.
There are three different iterations combined with a white dial, each in a 100-piece limited edition (Stan Smith won exactly 100 tournaments over the course of his career): the iconic green, of course, but also red and blue, delivered in a matching box accompanied by a matching NATO strap and key ring, plus an extra black rubber strap with matching stitching and a tennis ball signed by the champion himself.
The price of the package is 2,390 Swiss francs.
Maurice de Mauriac and tennis
Maurice de Mauriac has had a longstanding relationship with tennis. From being the official watch at the Swiss Open ATP tournament in Gstaad in the 2000s to becoming the timekeeper of the Legends Cup Palma ATP Champions Tour event, supporting young players like Stan Wawrinka in his professional beginnings as well as experienced tour veterans such as Matt Ebden, the small family-owned Zurich-based brand has maintained a close tie with the sport.
The new collaboration with a figure as prominent as Stan Smith takes that passion even further, making owner Daniel Dreifuss extremely proud. “I am very, very pleased to be so closely associated to a tennis legend whose name is famous around the world. For our brand, the association with Stan Smith is a big accomplishment,” Maurice de Mauriac founder comments.
“We are very happy to have started this partnership and hope to launch more successful iterations, including a chronograph version.”
“When the shoe came out with my photo on the tongue, I kept looking at it during my matches and it was distracting, humbling and exhilarating,” Stan Smith remembered.
Now that he’s retired, the two-time Grand Slam champion can keep looking at his Stan Smith Signature Watch with pride and without fear of losing concentration.
At the 6 o’clock position there’s even a cheeky “Smith Made” inscription instead of the usual “Swiss Made.”
And just maybe Stan Smith will have to adjust the title of his book Some People Think I’m a Tennis Shoe in the future . . .
For more information, please visit www.mauricedemauriac.ch/en/product/green-stan-smith.
Quick Facts Maurice de Mauriac Stan Smith Signature Watch
Case: 42 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber ETA 2824-2 , 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Limitation: 100 pieces in each of 3 colors (300 total)
Remark: comes with Nato and rubber straps, key ring in same color scheme, tennis ball personally signed by Stan Smith, and certificate of authenticity
Price: CHF 2,390
Miguel Seabra, editor-at-large of Portuguese watch magazine Espiral do Tempo, has also been a tennis journalist and Eurosport commentator for 30 years. Follow his exploits on Instagram at @miguelseabra.