As reported by Cyclingnews on September 28, the luxury Swiss Tag Heuer watch brand will become an important sponsor of the BMC Racing team in 2017. The red and green Tag Heuer logo will fill the sleeve area of the red and black BMC jersey.
BMC team owner Andy Rihs, team manager Jim Ochowicz and Tag Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver confirmed the news at a special sunset announcement in Qatar on the eve of the UCI Road World Championships and the team time trial events. BMC has won the last two men’s Worlds team time trial titles and is favourite for Sunday’s race.
The arrival of Tag Heuer will help secure the long-term future of the team after doubts about the desire of Rhis to continue covering the estimated $20 million team budget. Olympic gold medal winner Greg van Avermaet has extended his contract with the team, and Nicolas Roche and Francisco Ventoso have been signed for 2017. However, Philippe Gilbert and Taylor Phinney will leave for Etixx-QuickStep and Cannondale-Drapac, respectively.
"This collaboration between BMC Racing Team and TAG Heuer is an important stage in the team's history and one that signals great things for our future," said BMC Racing General Manager Jim Ochowicz. "BMC Racing Team and TAG Heuer share many values which can most aptly be summarized by TAG Heuer's don't crack under pressure mindset, the very essence of cycling. Timing is at the heart of racing, whether it's a race against the clock at a time trial or a three-week Grand Tour, the goal is to be the fastest, so to have TAG Heuer join BMC Racing Team as our Official Timekeeper is an excellent fit."
According to reports in Swiss newspaper Blick, Biver, who is a keen cyclists and a legendary figure in the global watch market, had hoped to create a team with his brother and former Astana team manager Marc Biver. However, brand owner LVMH pushed back on the plan, hence the decision to join forces with BMC. Blick suggests, however, that Tag Heuer could eventually take over from Rihs as lead sponsor and possibly team owner. The team could become much more Swiss centred as a result.
"It is fantastic to welcome a luxury partner to BMC Racing Team's portfolio and to have two high-level Swiss brands in BMC and TAG Heuer join forces through international cycling is absolutely unique," Rihs said. "We are all excited to work with TAG Heuer, and I am particularly thrilled to announce this collaboration with my longtime friend, Jean-Claude Biver. BMC and TAG Heuer are both passionately Swiss and committed to excellence, so I am very much looking forward to the 2017 season and seeing our riders proudly display the TAG Heuer logo."
Tag Heuer is one of the top 10 biggest watch brands in the world, with a turnover in excess of $800 million per year. The company was first created in 1860 and was bought by luxury brand company LVMH in 1999.
Tag Heuer has sponsored several sports and leading athletes over the years, especially in motor sports, and is currently a key sponsor of the Red Bull Formula 1 racing team. However, it has always had links to cycling and these have strengthened in recent times. The Swiss brand also sponsored the 7-Eleven team more than 25 years ago, when Ochowicz was a young directeur sportif with the team. The Tag Heuer logo appeared on the green and red 7-Eleven jersey, and Andy Hampsten and other riders often raced wearing Tag Heuer watches.
Jean-Claude Biver became the CEO of Tag Heuer in 2014. He is legendary in the Swiss watch industry after successful spells at Hublot and Omega. As his instagram profile reveals, Biver is a keen cyclist and has been riding a BMC bike for a while. Marc Biver is a former rider agent and Tour de Suisse organiser who managed the Astana cycling team in 2007 when Alexander Vinokourov’s positive for blood doping virtually ended the team.
"Cycling is a universal, international, popular sport that transcends all age groups," Biver said. 'This is an exciting project that is very dear to my heart and one we see as a long-term investment with my good friend Andy Rihs whom I've known for 25 years. The team will be the standard bearer for our avant-garde spirit and Swiss-made quality throughout the world. It will also give us magnificent brand visibility with its roster of prestigious races."