Qatar 2022 holds the record for the lengthiest World Cup ever. And official timekeeper Hublot was in the thick of the action
There is still time; there is no more time. It doesn’t matter which side you support in a tightly contested football match. As the clock winds down to the end of a game, the emotional divide is always extreme and the anxiety, insufferable.
And in the sapping heat of World Cup 2022 in Qatar, fans had plenty of time to chew down their fingernails. The average active time that the ball was in play at this World Cup was between 55 to 67 minutes. In comparison, the active playing time for some games at previous World Cups was as little as 52 minutes.
“Think of a match with three goals scored. A celebration normally takes one, one and a half minutes. So, with three goals scored, you lose five or six minutes. What we want to do is accurately calculate the added time at the end of each half,” explained Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee.
World Cup 2022 certainly felt more entertaining—and fair. Stoppages during the matches due to time-wasting, referee’s deliberating over video replay checks, treatments for injuries and, of course, wild celebrations, were all accounted for and added to the stipulated game time.
The mammoth task of ensuring no precious seconds were misappropriated thus laid on the shoulders the competition’s official timekeeper, Hublot, which had been doing so since 2006. Giant timing boards, bearing the likeness of the brand’s iconic Big Bang watch, had become a common sight; held aloof by off-pitch officials to signal the extra minutes to be played. (The same boards were also used to announce player substitutions.) At Qatar 2022, as at many football matches around the world, the gesture would elicit both cheers and groans from the entire stadium and global television audience.
Cup runneth over
Hublot, though, had plenty to cheer about. Having its branding beamed to over five billion people watching World Cup 2022, justifiably billed as the world’s most watched sporting event, the Swiss watchmaking house had hit the marketing mother lode. Despite its renown in niche luxury watch collecting circles, the brand desired global eminence. By aligning with the world’s most popular sport—and effectively timing its most historic matches—Hublot has found a way to entrench itself in the minds of a globally engaged audience.
The brand’s longstanding initiative, simply named Hublot Loves Football, has been a masterstroke. The bountiful harvest of new converts and worldwide recognition are quantified by the increased visitor traffic to Hublot’s website, reportedly up to five times or more whenever a World Cup takes place. The association is further amplified through the extended football family: the enlistment of the game’s past and present stars like Kylian Mbappé and Luis Figo as ambassadors; sponsorships of globally supported clubs like Juventus FC and Chelsea FC; and the enviable status as official timekeeper for the UEFA men’s football tournaments in Europe and the Premier League competition.
And there are the watches. The brand has issued commemorative editions for every World Cup that it has participated in, as well as created exclusive models for the national teams and clubs that it sponsors.
For this World Cup, Hublot launched the Big Bang e FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Encased in black ceramic and titanium, the watch was loaded with the competition’s news and team updates to help keep track of the tournament, and can be customised with strap designs that mirror the colours of each of the 32 participating countries. More significantly, the watch was issued to referees at the competition, who used it to time the matches. If you ever longed to experience a football match vicariously through a watch, the Big Bang e FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is as close as it gets.
Admittedly, as tackles flew, shots unleashed, and goals celebrated in ecstatic abandon, most would not have been preoccupied with the fact that a luxury watch brand is quietly timing the proceedings that will send entire nations into despair or euphoria. But because Hublot Loves Football, the world, through the brand’s strategic smarts, now knows—and perhaps, also loves—Hublot.