Nadal improves his image
Madrid - Rafael Nadal's right wrist will be worth a fortune next week at the French Open when it sports a half-million-dollar watch.
World number two Nadal, the great favourite to win the title in Paris, signed a deal with the Richard Mille watches, which developed -exclusively for the Spaniard - the RM 027 Tourbillon, a timekeeper with aerospace technology.
Only 50 units are to be produced, at the price of $535 000 each.
A lefty, Nadal usually wears his watch on his right wrist, although he usually does not wear it on court.
But things will be different now he's under contract with Richard Mille, a prestigious Swiss brand that is young, expensive and exclusive.
The company, which was to give details of the deal Thursday upon Nadal's arrival in Paris, highlighted the fact that the player already tried the watch in training, and that Brazilian Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa wears a similar model in every Grand Prix.
Buying the watch will take "more than 10 times what the average Mallorcan worker will earn in a year," a Sports Illustrated blog said, with reference to Nadal's native island.
The watch in question is a technical wonder. It weighs 20 grammes, the case is made of carbon-based composite material. The tiny parts in its delicate mechanism are made of titanium, magnesium, zirconium and copper.
The question of whether such luxury is in line with Nadal's image was raised by Sports Illustrated, which notes how down-to-earth the 23-year-old Spaniard is.
"Nadal is what he is. An unpretentious meat-and-potatoes guy, they'd call him in the Midwest," the influential magazine says. "He plays a lot of video games. He likes sports. He likes to fish. He likes to sleep and eat. And, oh yeah, he's a magnificent tennis player."
But the half-million-dollar watch is just another step up the ladder in Nadal's "reinvention" of his image. Four seasons ago he shook the world of tennis in his sleeveless top, a muscular explosion of youth, but as he approaches his 24th birthday he is looking more like an adult.
Sleeveless tops are out, although Nadal continues to wear colourful shorts. Depending on the tournament, Nadal wears shirts with a collar or tight tops with a round neck, like the one he wore Sunday when he beat Roger Federer in the final of the Madrid Open.
The music video he made with Colombian star Shakira is another element in that reinvention: In the video for the song Gypsy, the player is shown in sexy proximity to the singer.
"It was Shakira's idea, she came up with it in December last year," Nadal's spokesman Benito Perez Barbadillo told the German Press Agency dpa. "A few weeks later we shot it in Barcelona."
And now, one step further: exclusive luxury on the right wrist of the king of clay.
With a new look featuring watches and videos, Nadal gradually is distancing himself from the child he once was.