Rolex Testimonee Martin Kaymer may have been a reluctant recruit for the prestigious timepiece brand, but today the proud owner of 13 Rolexes has a very accommodating wrist, as Lyndsey Steven discovers.
With its commitment to supporting golf for more than 50 years, starting with its pioneering partnership with Arnold Palmer, golf has long been synonymous with Rolex. This year the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA made its debut as a Rolex Series event, with the showpiece tournament becoming the second in the UAE to be awarded Rolex Series status, joining the DP World Championship, the final of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
Whether it’s hitting a hole in one, acing a serve or crossing the finishing line first, athletic prowess is all about timing. So, it’s no wonder makers of exacting timepieces are keen to enlist the world’s sporting crème de la creme as brand ambassadors. But it is not a role that sat comfortably with a then somewhat befuddled 23-year-old Martin Kaymer when first approached by Rolex in 2008. Admitting to not feeling worthy enough to enter these hallowed halls. “I had never even worn a watch before, and then as a Rolex Testimonee I was immediately associated with the best in the world and it really made me think about whether I belonged,” he recalls, before hurriedly adding: “But Rolex has always been a brand that I wanted to be associated with.”
It’s not a task he took on lightly: “The relationship definitely comes with a lot of responsibility as you have to act and behave in a certain way, but I think as a brand they are a class act and I’d like to think that they saw similarities in our future and what we would both like to achieve.” Being tasked with wearing what his peers regarded as the dernier cri of luxury was at first a double-edged sword:
“Imagine you are 23 years old and you meet up with the guys you went to school with and you’re wearing a Rolex…I was embarrassed in the beginning because they could never afford one. My parents – none of my family members – wore Rolex watches.”
But as his career progressed he became more comfortable espousing the cause. “After a while I got used to it and understood that that’s just the way it is sometimes. I began to have some success and thought that I might be getting closer to belonging. To be part of the same family as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player tells you a lot about yourself, because as a brand, Rolex would also like to be associated with you as a person. I like wearing them obviously, but I had to get used to it. Now I’m 34 and it’s fine.”The ones he enjoys wearing most, incidentally, are the Daytona and the Explorer.
“The Daytona is a watch that you can never go wrong with, but I also love the simplicity of the Explorer – it’s a classic look that you can wear with anything.”
Yet, despite Rolex’s faith in the talented golfer – he is a former world number one and the three-time Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship winner – to this day Martin still doesn’t feel it befits him to wear one the Swiss-made chronographs unless he’s truly earned it. “In 2008 I was a special guest of Team Europe captained by Nick Faldo and I received the Rolex GMT Master II with The Ryder Cup logo on the back even though I wasn’t playing. Although I really liked the watch, I didn’t feel I deserved to wear it because I wasn’t on the team and had only been a Rolex Testimonee for about seven or eight months. After the tournament I bought the watch myself because I liked it so much, so now I have two of them, but at least I felt like I deserved the second one and could wear it!”
For now he couldn’t be happier surrendering most of himself to the sport that has brought him joy, success, notoriety, wealth and commercial viability – not to mention a few Rolexes. “I think of my future in terms of the next 24 months, especially because 2020 is a very big year. We have the four Majors, the Olympics and The Ryder Cup, so for the next couple of years I would like to put everything I have into being successful. I don’t have children, I don’t have a wife or any other responsibilities, so I can really focus on myself. It’s great to have that freedom to do whatever I need to do, and I will put everything I have into those next events. I have eight Majors and two other big events that I would like to participate in over the 24 months, so although it’s a long process to win one of the two Majors that I haven’t yet won, it can happen in the next two years.”
This is an abridged version of the exclusive interview with Martin Kaymer. The full version appears in Revolution Middle East, out March 15.