Fans of the Rolex Daytona know that Rolex has a long association with auto racing. What many may not know is that Rolex’s sister brand, Tudor, also has a close connection to motorsports, and strengthened those ties this year by becoming the “entitlement partner” of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA).
Tudor first announced the partnership at its U.S. launch event on September 12, where attendees got a first glimpse of a specially branded Audi R8, representing the inauguration of what will now be called the Tudor United SportsCar Championship, sanctioned by the IMSA. The car, emblazoned with an image of the Tudor Grantour Chrono Fly-Back watch, made another promotional appearance last week, parked in front of New York’s Wempe Jewelers boutique, which now sells the full collection of Tudor watches. (Click here to learn more about the Tudor watch families.)
The relationship between Tudor’s parent company, Rolex, and the IMSA dates back to 1959, when IMSA co-founder Bill France (known to many others also as the founder of NASCAR) first established ties with the Swiss watch company. According to Tudor, the larger Rolex brand will continue to serve as title sponsor of the race for which its famous sports watch is named, the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The 52nd running of the Daytona, on January 25-26, 2014, now becomes the first race in the 12-race schedule of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship series.
Tudor U.S. brand manager Russell Kelly clarifies: “Rolex has been the entitlement partner of the Rolex Sports Car Series since 2001. Rolex has been the event sponsor of the Rolex 24 at Daytona since 1992. Tudor will take over the series entitlement partnership from Rolex in 2014 and Rolex will remain as the event title partner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona moving forward.”
In its highly anticipated and much discussed return to the U.S. market after nearly a decade’s absence, Tudor appears to be doubling down on its connection with motorsports. The brand had already been the official timing partner of Porsche Motorsports from 2009 to 2011, and recently began a collaboration with the Italian motorcycle marque Ducati as its global timing partner. (Tudor’s new Fastrider Black Shield watch bears Ducati design influences.) This year also marks the inauguration of Tudor’s affiliation with the FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes this year’s American Le Mans race.
Tudor’s new five-year deal with the IMSA means that the Tudor United SportsCar Championship logo will be featured on every sports car, on the front and back of drivers’ uniforms, and on the tracks, tents and trucks at the end of the races. According to IMSA president Scott Atherton, a timing partnership is particularly ideal for this type of racing series, as sports car races are “the only form of motorsport in which the race length is determined by time, not distance.”
“For example, the Rolex 24 at Daytona is a 24-hour race determined by time, regardless of how many laps or miles the competitors compete,” Kelly elaborates. “Separately, the Daytona 500 (which is not part of the Tudor Championship) is a 500-mile race regardless of how long it takes to complete. Times events are unique to sports car racing. Both the Tudor United SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship fall into the category of ‘sports car racing.’ This would mean that Tudor is aligned with both of the world’s premier sports car racing organizations that measure their events in time and not distance.”