Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Who Is Winning The Wimbledon Whites?

“I think it’s very strict. My personal opinion: I think it’s too strict,” Swiss tennis great Roger Federer once said of the notorious Wimbledon dress code.

You don’t need Wikipedia to know that The Championships, Wimbledon is the only major tournament hosted by an actual tennis club, located in a low-key residential suburb of London, just like a century ago. Certain things are endearingly old school. There is no signage on the courts and no all-singing all-dancing entertainments during changeovers. It is also the only Grand Slam venue that has a Royal Box reserved for the royals and luminaries.

The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, is a patron of The All-England Club, who attends the tournament every year.

With such eminence, there is little wonder the tournament has attracted a multitude of high-profile sponsorships from equally eminent watch brands. Independent giant, Rolex, has been an official timekeeper for four decades since 1978. They count two of the current top 5 tennis players, Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem, among their ambassadors. While two other top 5, Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev, are snapped up by another independent rock star, Richard Mille, defending world champion Novak Djokovic has enjoyed a firm tie-up with Seiko.

What is rather amusing though is, of all the major tournaments, Wimbledon is still demanding the strictest dress code that dates back to Victorian times. When tennis was played in the old days at social gatherings, the sight of sweat patches through coloured clothing was considered unseemly, and “tennis whites” became an institution. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, who has played host to the world’s oldest tennis tournament since 1877, take this tradition very seriously.

The players must wear white. All white. It’s the rule.

Rafael Nadal in his all-white ensemble with the RM27-03 tourbillon on the wrist, Wimbledon Tennis Tournament Day 7, 8th July 2019, The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London.

Moving with the times to make a fashion statement doesn’t jive with the club. The dress code went from “predominately in white” in 1963, to “almost entirely in white” in 1995. Wimbledon has insisted on the on-court attire stipulation, even after the US Open relaxed to allow coloured clothing in 1972.

But of course, we never cease to find the rebels who challenge the boundaries over the years, even the greatest players such as Federer and Agassi. This only prompted the All-England Club to further tighten the rules by including accessories in 2014. The rule update also helpfully specifies, “White does not include off-white or cream”, although “a single trim of colour no wider than one centimetre” is accepted. The rules extend to shorts, skirts and tracksuit bottoms, headwear, shoes and undergarments. Players cannot compete unless they comply.

Nadal’s $725,000 Richard Mille tourbillon watch worn with a white strap at Wimbledon 2019.

So strictly speaking, Nadal may just be pushing it with his RM27-03 tourbillon in a red and yellow case albeit in a narrow frame. For a watch with a price tag of 710,000 Swiss Francs that needs to be staged for prominence and eyeballs, he is well aware of not tempting fate with the Wimbledon powers by swapping for a white strap. Should that fail to pull off the Wimbledon-whites, we reckon these options would pass with flying colours, but without colours.

Hautlence Vortex Gamma TRON

When it comes to mixing material innovation, badass creativity, and watchmaking traditions, Hautlence is up there with Richard Mille. This all-white Vortex Gamma Tron is one unforgettable time machine. It is powered by the vertically built HL2.0 calibre with retrograde minutes and jumping hours on a chain of 12 articulated links. Its angular case architecture allows the mind-blowing inner workings to show through the multiple facets and six 3D sapphire crystals. The fine blue lines contouring the case would just fall within the super strict Wimbledon code.

The 52mm Vortex Gamma case is made from a unique composite material, HLLightColor, which has been used in the automotive and aerospace industries, through the application of charged ceramic nanotube particles. Not only does the composite reduce the weight of the watches, since it is several times lighter than titanium, the material technology also offers endless colour choices (from the entire 1500+ Pantone spectrum) as well as glow-in-the-dark effects. With such possibilities, Hautlence customers can create uniquely personalised timepieces in any colour combinations they wish, at a mere 170,000 Swiss Francs.

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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak White Ceramic

Off the top of our head, the Royal Oak Offshore in white ceramic with a white rubber strap would easily fit the Wimbledon bill. Audemars Piguet introduced this fresh and handsome diver in white ceramic five years ago. It was also the first time an all-white watch left a strong impression on us. It’s not easy for a white watch to look classy and tasteful on a man. The 42mm Royal Oak Offshore Diver White Ceramic (ref. 15707CB.OO.A010CA.01) retains the iconic masculine feel while presenting a white ensemble that looks the money.

Another knight in shining white armour from AP is a new release that is dead timely, so we must mention it. The Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar White Ceramic (ref. 26579CB.OO.1225CB.01) is a new brother to the highly touted 41mm all-black ceramic version unveiled in 2017. This watch features the same specs, with an in-house movement calibre 5134 that carries a perpetual calendar and moon phase complication. The case and bracelet are made of the same lightweight, scratch- and thermal-resistant material that AP has been perfecting through the decade. The white ceramic model is available exclusively via AP’s own boutiques and priced at 94,300 Swiss Francs.

Claude Meylan Tortue White

At a much more accessible price level, yet equally rare in existence, there is the all-white skeleton by the master of skeletons Claude Meylan. This Swiss watchmaker hails from Vallée de Joux, with its quaint little atelier situated on the lake and down the road from Audemars Piguet. They modify well-known and highly reliable new or NOS vintage movements, to create their skeleton calibres that spawn distinctive and stylish designs.

This Tortue White is not only sporty and elegant at the same time, but it was also nominated for the GPHG (the “Oscars” of high watchmaking) in 2016. With a sticker price of 5,950 Swiss Francs, it could suit the budget better for those in the market for Djokovic’s wrist choice. However, given Claude Meylan’s extremely low artisan production, you might have to be a lucky winner to get your hands on one…or get one on your wrist to be precise!

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Original article appears in our Founder’s column for Fratello Magazine, the most frequented online magazine for watch collectors | July 2019