December 6, 2019
by Ariel Adams
The Maurice de Mauriac Stan Smith Signature watch is an ode to a pastime the Zurich-based brand enjoys (well, at least one of them). For as long as I’ve known Daniel Dreifuss (founder of Maurice de Mauriac), he has enjoyed tennis and sports shoes. In this timepiece, he gets to celebrate both, as well as an icon of fashion. It was not two days ago that I was at a meeting and noticed a gentleman wearing the iconic, mostly white with green trim, tennis shoes produced by Adidas with Stan Smith’s face on the tongue.
“Hey, I know those shoes,” is what I thought when seeing them, especially after learning about the Stan Smith watch project some time ago from Maurice de Mauriac. Later in this article, I have an exclusive interview with Stan Smith, himself, but first let’s talk about the timepiece itself since there are some fun features in it.
In brushed steel and 42mm-wide (about 9mm-thick) with 100 meters of water resistance, the case of the Stan Smith Signature watch has a smooth, rounded stepped bezel and comes with both a black and green rubber strap, as well as a color-fitting white and green NATO-style strap (which I believe most people will prefer to wear the watch with). Inside the watch is a Swiss Made ETA caliber 2824-2 automatic movement that offers the time and the date. Over the dial is a slightly domed sapphire crystal that is given an appropriate amount of anti-reflective coating.
Toward the last minute of the Stan Smith watch project, Maurice de Mauriac actually decided to release two additional colorways of the watch — each is a limited edition of 100 pieces — which are white and blue and white and red, respectively. What all the watches have in common is the “tennis ball” seconds hand that casts the lume dot on the running seconds hand to look like a small tennis ball, easily one of the best details on the watch. This detail was actually borrowed from an inexpensive Adidas-branded watch collection (which came in a few forms) that was also dedicated to Stan Smith. Another great detail on the Maurice de Mauriac Stan Smith watch is the satirical replacement of “Swiss Made” on the dial with “Smith Made.”
The watch dial itself represents an interesting aesthetic that is not novel to the Stan Smith Signature watch collection, as Maurice de Mauriac has used it before — but not too often. I call the it the “reverse dial” because it juxtaposes the traditional position of the hour markers and the minute track. This has been done before on a lot of aviator watches but rarely on other types of watches. This particular dial design is entirely unique to Maurice de Mauriac, and I happen to like it a lot, visually. Over the 6 o’clock hour marker is the Stan Smith signature, and there is a printed graphic with Stan Smith’s face (just like on the shoes) on the rear of the case on the sapphire exhibition crystal over the movement.
The Stan Smith shoe story is interesting, as it is one of the earliest examples of associating a product with a celebrity — a practice that continues in a range of fields to this day. It began with a problem Adidas was having in the 1960s with a new tennis shoe it designed out of leather. The shoe was first named the “Haillet” after the French tennis player Robert Haillet — but he soon retired from professional tennis. Adidas then needed a more relevant name to help promote its new lines of tennis shoes (that were just starting to become popular with mainstream consumers). In 1971, the shoe was officially renamed the Adidas Stan Smith — at the time, Stan Smith was the top-ranked player in the worked. Decades later, Richard Mille did a similar thing in partnering with tennis player Rafael Nadal on a watch. The watch industry might not invent very much these days, but it does pay close attention to successful celebrity partnerships.
Tens of millions of the original Adidas Stan Smith shoes were produced and, more recently, Adidas has released newer “reissue” versions of the shoe. The popular white with green trim shoes are an ode to the tennis lifestyle, but ironically, Daniel Dreifuss (with his penchant for tennis), claims to have not become a fan of the shoes until seeing them featured in the Wes Anderson film, The Royal Tenenbaums. Maurice de Mauriac and Stan Smith eventually met up, which was the beginning of the relationship that led to the Maurice de Mauriac Stan Smith Signature watch.
For the most part, the Maurice de Mauriac Stan Smith Signature watch is an “inspired creation” that combines what the Zurich-based boutique watchmaker is good at with the world of both tennis and shoes. It requires a pretty deep understanding of these various areas to notice that the resulting product is well done. It is also thoroughly a watch that is a manifestation of the “collaboration effect,” which is extremely popular in fashion product design today. That the watch looks cool on Stan Smith’s own wrist is all the validation most people will need, however. Now, let’s hear from Stan Smith himself:Ariel Adams (AA): Today the practice of associating a popular athlete with an athletic product is so common it is almost expected. What was that industry like around the time when Adidas originally chose you as the face of their tennis shoes? What did that mean to you professionally at the time?
Stan Smith (SS): I was one of the first to have a name on a shoe. There were some before, such as Chuck Taylor and Jack Purcell. It seemed like others followed quickly, including Rod Laver and Ilie Năstase. I was very honored to be associated with the great Adidas brand and to be on the first leather tennis shoe with the original tennis player Robert Haillet, who, with Horst Dassler (the son of designer Adi Dassler) created the shoe. After about five years, Haillet’s name was removed from the shoe and only my name, face, and signature has been on the show since about 1978. At the time, Adidas really dominated the athletic shoe market, so it was very special for me to be the face of this product.
AA: Since an image of your face was on a lot of the shoes, you probably started to notice them on people’s feet. I’m sure a lot of those people didn’t play tennis. What was it like for you, emotionally, to start seeing your face being worn by people, and what did it mean to you that a lot of people wanted to look like tennis players even though they were not one?
SS: The original shoes with my face on them were actually used for tennis and those people knew I was a tennis player. Soon, however, the shoes started to be worn by the average person on the street, and they also, in fact, became a cult shoe for musicians, inner-city kids, preppy kids, models, and athletes. I noticed that the shoes were also popular for people of all ages across a range of colors. “Sneaker freaks” started collecting the shoe in its different color and material forms. When I was playing tennis, it was strange to look down at my shoes and see my name and photograph on them. I also remember losing to a player who was also wearing my shoes and I recall not feeling it was “right” for him to beat me while wearing them. Sometimes, when walking down the street, I would see someone wearing my shoes, and I might attempt to stop them to ask what they thought about the shoes, as I was curious to know.
AA: Zurich-based Maurice de Mauriac produced a wristwatch in honor of the timeless appeal of the Adidas Stan Smith shoes. What was your initial impression about this notion when it was first announced? Now that you have the final product how does it make you feel? Does it give you a newfound appreciation for commemorative timepieces? Do you find it as fashionable as the shoes it was inspired by?
SS: I was once again honored to be asked by Maurice de Mauriac to be connected with this watch (which I helped design). The Stan Smith Signature watch has a clean look — a lot like the shoes — and I hope it will be received by the market with great interest. The white and green touches on the watch directly relate to the shoes, and of course the signature on the watch is the same as the signature on the shoes.
I like the way the timepiece turned out and enjoy wearing it myself — and as a novice watch-lover, I do feel that it is a timepiece that can be handed down to the next generation. The watch concept is certainly unique and hopefully will have some special memories and feelings associated with it for those who enjoy wearing it like me.
AA: You no doubt have so many memories associated with Adidas, shoes, tennis, white and green as a color combination, and your own professional legacy. What do you want wearers of the Maurice de Mauriac Adidas Stan Smith watch to know or think about when they look at the timepiece on their wrist?
SS: Hopefully, the wearer of the Stan Smith Signature watches will be reminded about my legacy on the tennis court, as well as the shoes that bear my name. I should remind people that the watch is not associated with Adidas, but rather with my name, and that the watch is visually inspired by the Adidas Stan Smith shoes.
Wearers of the Stan Smith Signature watch might also think of the long association that Stan Smith shoes have had with sports, fashion, music, and pop culture. A great timepiece does the job of reminding the wearer about other things, and I truly believe that is a lot of our contemporary culture is built into this timepiece. Adidas Stan Smith shoes have been around for over 50 years and, hopefully, the watch will be around for that long, as well. I do hope it will be embraced as a special possession by those who own one. Thank you.
The limited edition of 100 pieces represents Stan Smith’s wins in 61 doubles tournaments and 39 singles tournaments. Once again, each of the three colorways of the Maurice de Mauriac Stan Smith Signature watch will be limited to 100 pieces with a price of 2,390 Swiss Francs. Learn more at the Maurice de Mauriac website here.