Roland Garros – also known as the French Open – is the biggest clay court tennis tournament in the world and one of the four Grand Slam events that have been the pillars of the sport for more than a century. This weekend will determine who will be this year’s champions, with the women’s singles final (Maria Sharapova vs Simona Halep) today and the men’s (Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic) tomorrow; how long those finals will last no-one knows, but they will be timed by Longines – the Swatch Group brand that has been the official timekeeper of the tournament since 2007.

 

French Open: Longines clocks on-court to keep the hour and time the duration of the matches at Roland-Garros. © FFT


But does time really matter in tennis, since the scoring system theoretically allows a match to go on forever? Momentum is actually more important, yet there has been a timing controversy in the past few days: the only time limits in tennis are the ones in changeovers (1min.30) and between points (20s); Rafael Nadal, notorious for his elaborate routines before serving, received time violations for surpassing the allowed 20 seconds in his matches versus Dominic Thiem and Leonardo Mayer - voicing his frustration, even though he is one of the players that actually wear a watch on court (the Richard Mille RM27-01 Tourbillon Watch).

 

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Longines also set up a service radar booth at Roland garros to allow the fans to measure the speed of their serves. © © Miguel Seabra/Espiral do Tempo

 

“Why not put a countdown clock on the court?”

“The best thing would be to have countdown clock on the court”, the Spanish champion grumbled. “That would allow us to know how many seconds we have left before serving!”.  Rafael Nadal feels that he is being targeted by the ‘anti slow-play brigade’ that has reduced the allowed time from 25 seconds to 20 seconds and strictly enforces the rule in his matches.  There have been debates among officials whether adding a countdown clock would be a good idea. That would be a third clock on court, along with the existing two.


Official Timekeeper and a new watch
As official timekeeper of Roland-Garros, Longines has clocks keeping the time of day and the duration of each match that are not only visible in the corners of the main stadiums (Court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen) but also throughout the premises. The silhouette of the analogue clock on display is recognizable, from the Master collection. Yet the star is the Conquest Classic, the range exclusively comprised of models fitted with mechanical calibres that the Saint-Imier brand has been promoting in the context of the tournament. Actually, the Conquest Classic collection was launched last year precisely at Roland Garros.

 

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Longines is using Roland-Garros to promote its new Conquest Classic line to clients and the media. © Longines


Beyond the mere sponsorship and the eulogy of the Conquest Classic, Longines’ dedication to tennis also includes an interesting programme promoting young players under 13 years old, the final stage of which is played in Paris during Roland Garros: the Longines Future Tennis Aces. Just like in the previous years, sixteen youngsters were brought from all over the world to have the opportunity not only to play on the French clay but also on a venue spectacularly set in the heart of Paris. Last year, it was right in front of the City Hall; this year, a court was built in the Champ de Mars, with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop.

 

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The young participants in the Longines Future Tennis Aces shaped up their game at the Longines Academy before their tournament held at Champ de Mars. © Longines


The field was selected with the help of the tennis federations of their respective countries (Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong-Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, U.K. and USA) and both the winner, Italy’s Federica Rossi, and the runner-up, Russia’s Daria Frayman, received an annual bursary of 2,000 USD to pay for their sports equipment until their sixteenth birthday.

Longines’ association with tennis is also highlighted by the brand’s partnership with two of the greatest tennis champions ever, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, married to each other and both engaged in philanthropic missions supported by Longines – the Andre Agassi Foundation (to assist the youth of Las Vegas and provide them educational opportunities, including a public school for at-risk children) and Children for Tomorrow (helping children and families that have suffered the trauma of war, exile and violence).

 

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© Longines

 

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