Phenom Tennis Champion Naomi Osaka Becomes New TAG Heuer Ambassador Ahead Of Australian Open 2021
The last 12 months haven’t been a good year for big sporting events. Scratch that: the last two years haven’t been good for big sporting events. However, tennis has managed to persevere, even if it’s not currently attracting the same sort of big headlines – and audiences – it usually does.
However, one phenomenal young tennis player is continuing to attract loads of attention on several fronts throughout 2020 and 2021: Naomi Osaka. Risk taker, ultra-talented player, and all-around nice person, Osaka has taken the opportunity her elevated platform affords her to stand up for human rights, be the conscientious, hardworking example for twenty-first century women, and shine a beacon of hopeful light inspiring athletic joy and re-inspiring tennis audiences.
Osaka, a three-time Grand Slam winner of half Japanese and half Haitian heritage, has to date endorsed several Japanese (and other) products, which have extended to her on-court wristwear. Since 2018, she has been a Citizen ambassador, favoring the small colorful Citizen Eco Drive Bluetooth models and wearing them during match play.
As of January 19, 2020, however, the Citizen partnership is over as TAG Heuer announced the 23-year-old Osaka as the latest in its bevy of sporting ambassadors.
Naomi Osaka and the third-generation TAG Heuer Connected
I understand that TAG Heuer is perhaps looking for young ambassadors to wear the Connected, which has been this Swiss brand’s most successful watch since its introduction in 2015, but I would have loved to see Osaka wearing a mechanical watch as her go-to, one proportionate for her slim wrist.
Osaka is wearing the third generation of the Connected, which was introduced in March 2020 and updated in November 2020 with a new Synopsis “face” and stylish nubuck and rubber strap choices.
The Synopsis watch dial allows the owner to create a multi-feature display customized to highlight a choice of most important data at a glance, with up to six essential complications reflecting the wearer’s preferences and daily needs.
Available in eight different colors, Synopsis joins the collection of mechanical-inspired (Heuer 01C, Heuer 02 Calibre Revisited, Classic, and Helios) and digital (Orbital, Carbon, and Timekeeping) conceptual faces that the third generation of this watch comes with.
This technology comes in a 45 mm case available in stainless steel or titanium with a graduated ceramic bezel (presumably for a digital chronograph function), which I find to be rather big for Osaka.
However, like with my objections to Lady Gaga’s Tudor choice back in 2017, I do realize that wish is a downhill battle. Disparate fashion choices reactive to both trends and marketing money will continue to rule. I get that.
However, as if she knew I was going to mention the gargantuan size of the Connected, in a short TAG Heuer promotional video Osaka explained, “I really like statement pieces.”
I do not know yet whether Osaka will wear the large TAG Heuer Connected on court in the upcoming Australian Open, which begins on February 10, a whole month later than usual. On that front, however, the Australian Open could also use some positive news as over the last week tournament organizers have been barraged with news stories about unpopular strict quarantine and testing conditions imposed on tennis stars in Melbourne as well as outbreaks among players.
“To me it is understandable that TAG Heuer has linked Naomi Osaka to its new Connected watch; Naomi personifies a tech-oriented young generation – plus, the sporty side of the timepiece will allow her to wear it in matches, just like she did while endorsing Citizen,” counters Miguel Seabra, noted tennis/timepiece expert and Eurosport commentator in Portugal.
Why Osaka is a great choice for visibility
Osaka has managed to transcend the pure realm of sports by standing up for the social issues she believes in. At the U.S. Open in the fall of 2020 Osaka chose to wear seven different masks – one for each round of the tournament – bearing the names of U.S. police brutality victims that became household names during the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020: Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, and George Floyd.
Osaka won the tournament, saying that she chose the masks to “make people start talking.” She told Time that the masks were her way of using her platform to protest this injustice and advocate BLM, obviously a subject dear to her heart as she also resides in the United States.
“Naomi’s aura has grown exponentially and far beyond the grace under pressure she showed in that infamous 2018 U.S. Open final versus an enraged Serena Williams,” adds Seabra. “During a hot summer in the United States, she showed her social sensibilities by joining peaceful Black Lives Matter protests and refusing to play her Cincinnati semifinal to take a stand – which was later joined by the tournament as a whole. The courage she showed made headlines all over the world and right after she won a second U.S. Open crown, stepping on court for each of her seven matches wearing a mask with the name of a victim of police brutality.”
Osaka’s masks garnered her a lot of media attention – as well as an unfair amount of continuous social media flak, which the tennis star gracefully ignored – solidifying her enthusiastic presence as a social activist.
“Conservatives in the U.S. criticized the way she tried to mix politics and sports and anticipated the loss of sponsor deals in the same way football player Colin Kaepernick did years before when he kneeled during the national anthem. But the tennis tour is not the NFL and things have changed in recent times, so Naomi’s actions were viewed more as social awareness than a political stand,” says Seabra.
Though TAG Heuer’s ambassadorship contract with Maria Sharapova was dropped five years ago now following a doping scandal, I’m sure that the Swiss brand known much more for its engagement in the arena of motor sports than tennis is pleased to be involved with such a wholesome (and far less scandalous) athlete.
Osaka is number 29 on Forbes’ list of highest paid athletes in 2020 – she is the highest paid female athlete in the world. The Forbes editors called Osaka a “dream endorser, collecting $34 million from brands including Nike, Nissan Motor, and Procter & Gamble. No female athlete from any other sport besides tennis has ever made this elite rank.” With 2021’s newest ambassador contracts from TAG Heuer and Louis Vuitton – is it a coincidence that these two brands belong to the same conglomerate? I think not – she could well climb higher in those rankings in the coming year.
“Even before Osaka won her third Grand Slam title in September 2020 at the U.S. Open, she was already the best paid female athlete in the world – which is understandable: young, with good multiethnic looks due to her Japanese/Haitian heritage, and projecting a strong yet calm image, she was already a corporate dream come true for companies looking for a global reach from the U.S. to Asia. Plus, when you are ‘big in Japan,’ you are certain to be well off,” adds Seabra.
During the 2020 end-of-year break, when tennis players usually rest and then train for January’s Australian Open, which is being staged later than usual in February 2021 due to the pandemic, Osaka was featured in fashion magazine shoots and even made the January cover of Vogue in a feature aptly entitled “Leading by Example.”
“The recent cover of Vogue only proved Naomi’s immense marketability; TAG Heuer’s decision to enroll her in its list of ambassadors confirmed it, but it was not an isolated move: young TAG Heuer CEO Frédéric Arnault is a huge tennis aficionado and was joined on the TAG Heuer board of directors by George Ciz, a former vice-president of business development for the ATP Tour,” Seabra explains. “It also explains why TAG Heuer is the official timekeeper of the Next Gen ATP Finals, a year-end championship played by the eight best players of the ATP Tour under 21.”
Osaka joins Petra Kvitovà (who usually chooses not to wear a watch on court) and ATP tennis players Alex de Minaur, Frances Tiafoe, Denis Shapovalov, and Felix Auger Aliassime as one of the brand’s tennis ambassadors, all of whom “express TAG Heuer’s motto ‘Don’t Crack Under Pressure’” and “the brand’s passion for action and high performance” according to the brand’s materials.
Osaka will also represent Japan at the (now) 2021 Olympic Games set to be held in Tokyo should they go forward this year.
Twenty twenty-one could just very well be Osaka’s biggest year ever – and TAG Heuer is along for the ride.
For more information, please visit www.tagheuer.com/de/en/smartwatches/collections/tag-heuer-connected.
Quick Facts TAG Heuer Connected third generation
Case: 45 mm, stainless steel or titanium with a graduated ceramic bezel
Movement: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor (Google), lithium-ion rechargeable battery
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds (digital); date, second time zone, times of sunrise/sunset power reserve; pulse sensor, compass, speed, NFC, microphone, calendar, weather forecast, various micro apps, Synopsis multi-feature display, TAG Heuer Sports app
Price: from €1,700