If you are the maker of a little-known collection of watches hoping to increase your brand profile, you would be lucky to know Rafael Nadal.
At the French Open on Tuesday, Mr. Nadal played his first match since making a deal with Richard Mille, a French designer of very expensive timepieces, to wear a new $525,000 watch during games. Judging by the reactions from tennis blogs and commentators on ESPN, this was a very big deal (Venus Williams panty-flashing big), since the weight could throw a player’s balance off slightly. Most who are paid to wear luxury watches do so only at press conferences and charity matches.
But it used to be common for players to wear watches, said Brad Gilbert, the former pro and coach who is covering the matches for ESPN. In 1986, he had a contract with Ebel, but it was probably worth peanuts compared with what players command today. “Something tells me he’s getting a heck of a lot more than a watch,” Mr. Gilbert said.