We had the opportunity to watch the World Series at the 40-40 Club with left-handed pitching legend, Randy Johnson, nicknamed the “Big Unit”, when he came to New York City to unveil the watch he co-created with Ulysse Nardin. In case you missed the game, the San Francisco Giants took the pennant again.]
The 6’ 10” Johnson towers over most mortals, so his sobriquet of the “Big Unit” is quite appropriate. Credit outfielder Tim Raines for giving Johnson the nickname that stuck. While at batting practice in 1988 when both were on the Montreal Expos, Johnson and Raines ran into each other headfirst. Practically dazed by the collision, Raines said to Johnson, “You’re a big unit!”
It’s notable that Johnson is the first U.S. ambassador for Ulysse Nardin and he’s a good choice. Though he left the game in 2009, Johnson is a memorable guy and it’s not just because of his height. He was a wicked threat on the mound, known for his slider, called “Mr. Snappy” by Johnson, which often faked out batters. The man could also throw a mean fastball, often exceeding 100mph. Over his 22-year career, Johnson achieved an astounding record, including winning the Cy Young award 5 times, nabbing a Triple Crown and defeating each team at least once. He’s practically a shoe-in for Hall of Fame status in 2015 when he becomes eligible.
Johnson isn’t new to the watch collecting game. A knowledgeable collector, he’s been buying pieces over the years and views them as hard assets. As he says in our video interview, if you buy correctly, watches can end up being good “investments”. One of the brands Johnson was attracted to is, you guessed, it Ulysse Nardin. The groundbreaking Freak caught his eye and he put in an order for one. As an independent company, Ulysse Nardin can take special interest in their customers and they do. The late owner Rolf Schneider and now CEO Patrik Hoffmann got in contact, which resulted in a beautiful friendship that grew gradually in a natural fashion until the relationship was solidified. Rather than being called a sponsor, Johnson is referred to as a “friend of the brand”.
To mark the partnership, Ulysse Nardin, with input from Johnson, produced a watch in honor of Johnson and his illustrious career. What else could they call it but the “Big Unit”? In the Marine Chronometer line of watches, the “Big Unit” chronograph makes its mark in a subtle fashion. No grandiose branding overwhelms the watch. Accents of blue and red enrich the black dial, while Johnson’s nickname circles the hour counter at 6 o’clock and a baseball on the chrono hand marks Johnson’s affiliation with the game. In addition to the chrono functions, a date window resides at 4:30. Instead of the usual number 50 on the bezel, John’s jersey number 51 stands out in red–a nice touch.
As you might imagine, the watch is substantial since it has to fit the big guy’s wrist. In a 45.8mm case crafted from stainless steel and coated with rubber, the watch is held in place by a pliable comfy rubber strap. Inside ticks Ulysse Nardin’s own Caliber UN-35, which you can view through the sapphire crystal caseback. Ulysse Nardin is only producing the “Big Unit” chronograph in a limited edition of 100 priced at $15,500.
Enjoy the video interview we had with Johnson where he discusses his love of watches and how he worked with Ulysse Nardin in creating his signature timepiece.