A French Soccer Club’s Eiffel Motif Adorns a New Purnell Watch

Sports teams often partner with watchmakers to time matches or measure players’ athletic performances. But the partnership between the professional soccer club Paris St.-Germain and the Swiss watch brand Purnell has little to do with the sport, and everything to do with high fashion.

On Feb. 16, the Geneva-based brand announced it had signed with the club, often called P.S.G., to become its official timekeeper and an official sponsor for the next three years. According to its chief executive, Maurizio Mazzocchi, Purnell was chosen less for the accuracy of its high velocity tourbillons and more as another lifestyle partner to P.S.G., on a par with Nike, one of the team’s principle sponsors, and Dior, another official partner.

“P.S.G. reached out to us last October to propose an alliance,” Mr. Mazzocchi said during an interview in February in Miami, which he was visiting on business. “They wanted the central message of the partnership to be Paris as the world’s capital of fashion, to promote a contemporary, fashion-forward lifestyle.”

Marc Armstrong, chief revenue officer for P.S.G., wrote in an email that the collaboration was proposed because “Purnell is unique in the high-end watchmaking sector in its designs, movements, its positioning and contemporary lifestyle message.”

The first watch to seal the partnership was introduced March 23: The 11-piece Purnell x P.S.G. Escape Limited Edition is an all-black titanium model, with a 48-millimeter case and a single rotating Spherion under its sapphire glass. A Spherion is the name that its inventor, the master Swiss watchmaker Eric Coudray, gave a triple-axis tourbillon, which has three cages rotating at individual speeds of 8, 16 and 30 seconds. The watch is priced at 390,000 Swiss francs ($420,535).

P.S.G. — which has been wholly owned since 2012 by Qatar Sports Investments, an investment arm of the Qatari state — attracts global attention on the field for its lineup of international talent: Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé and Neymar all play for the Paris-based club. And in recent years it also has become known for its fashion-savvy image. Dior, which became a club sponsor in 2021, has been dressing P.S.G. players in everything from designer polo shirts to tailored suits.

And under a mega-sponsorship deal reported to be worth 75 million euros ($80.4 million) per season through 2032, Nike designs what are called “P.S.G. lifestyle” collections that club players have been known to strut on the fashion runway. Some P.S.G. players, like Neymar and Marco Verratti, are often seen in the front row at Paris fashion shows.

“P.S.G. is a reference in the lifestyle world, and today, watches are an essential object of style and fashion,” Fabien Allègre, the club’s chief brand officer, wrote in an email. “This is an exceptional opportunity for us to propose watches imagined and developed together with Purnell, with authentic, common values that combine references from our two universes.”

Purnell is the third watch brand to partner with the club, stepping in after Hublot and Richard Mille. From 2013 to 2016, Hublot produced two models, the 200-piece Big Bang King Power P.S.G. chronograph and the 100-piece Big Bang Unico Bi-Retrograde P.S.G.; in 2018, the watch brand enlisted Mr. Mbappé as a brand ambassador, a role he still plays today.

During its three-year partnership that started in 2016, Richard Mille produced two limited-edition series, the 10-piece RM52-03 P.S.G. Tourbillon Edition and the 100-piece RM030 Blue Ceramic P.S.G. Edition.

“P.S.G. has worked with other watchmaking brands before but we have never had such a strong partnership in terms of design and common vision,” Mr. Armstrong, the P.S.G. revenue officer, wrote. “We have high hopes for this partnership, both in terms of the watch collections and the innovations we will be working on together.”

In discussing the partnership’s first watch, Mr. Mazzocchi said, “Purnell is a tourbillon-only company.” He was referring to the revolving mechanism first patented in 1801 by Abraham-Louis Breguet and used in a watch to counter the effects of gravity on its accuracy.

He said Purnell “did not just want to slap a P.S.G. logo on a watch,” so it designed both the Spherion bridge and the outer rotating cage of the tourbillon in the shape of the club’s Eiffel Tower-inspired logo. The logo is engraved on the crown, while the club’s signature fleur-de-lis motif is featured on the dial and the movement.

Mr. Mazzocchi said he formally registered Purnell as a Swiss business in 2020, but the brand had been marketing its timepieces since 2019, working closely with Mr. Coudray. It employs 28 people and makes about 150 watches a year, which retail for an average price of 500,000 francs.

“We see our watches as a contemporary accessory that is easy to use and fun to own,” Mr. Mazzocchi said. “Purnell may not have a historical footing in watchmaking, but we have a real savoir-faire and a vision of the future of watchmaking.”

Mr. Mazzocchi, 55, comes from a family with ties to the industry. His mother worked as a watch movement technician and his father was a U.S.-based president of Heuer, and later of TAG Heuer.

Mr. Mazzocchi attended Rutgers University in New Jersey on a full soccer scholarship, then played soccer professionally after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business economics. “The sport gave me structure and taught me respect for discipline,” he said.

In 1994, Mr. Mazzocchi took his first job in watchmaking, joining the Swatch Group, where he worked first at Omega and then at Blancpain. “One day in a budget presentation at Blancpain, I mentioned a complicated watch that I had sold for 600,000 francs,” Mr. Mazzocchi said. “I was very proud of myself. But when the presentation was over, Nicolas Hayek Sr. [then the chairman of Swatch] turned to me and said: ‘Remember, it is better to sell 1 million watches at 1 franc than 1 watch at 1 million francs’.”

Later, at Roger Dubuis, Mr. Mazzocchi became more familiar with the universe of high-octane, high-priced timepieces. “I learned not to be intimidated by pricey watches,” he said. “It is more amusing to sell a single watch for 1 million francs.”

At Purnell, Mr. Mazzocchi has leveraged his passion for soccer and network of contacts in the sport. In 2021, he signed a three-year partnership with Ballon d’Or, the award given to the world’s best soccer player by the prestigious French soccer magazine France Football. That year, it was presented to Mr. Messi, along with a Purnell x Ballon d’Or watch. “When Eric Coudray said that he could put a tiny rotating gold ball inside the watch, I knew we could run with that partnership,” Mr. Mazzocchi said.

To date, Purnell has sold 19 Ballon d’Or models, each retailing for 350,000 francs.

In the next three years, the brand plans to produce 17 limited editions in collaboration with P.S.G. “Some models will be linked to P.S.G.’s most famous jerseys,” Mr. Mazzocchi said. “We will continue to surprise our clients with a totally fresh interpretation of watchmaking.”

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