The Complete History of Cigar Wristwatches
And you, my friend, are part of a group that possesses a particularly keen polymath’s approach to connoisseurship, with an appreciation for the finer creature comforts—those that offer horological, mechanical and sartorial craftsmanship and heritage, as well as epicurean pleasure. These myriad intersecting interests, happily, prompt collaborations, and that’s especially so for partnerships between watches and cigars.
ZENITH X HABANOS (COHIBA, TRINIDAD, ROMEO Y JULIETA)
Of late, the Swiss watchworks Zenith (historically known for its El Primero chronograph calibres) has taken center stage thanks to its partnership with Habanos S.A., the Cuban cigar export-and-marketing entity. That’s all thanks to their annual limited-edition releases, which began in 2016 with the Zenith “El Primero Chronomaster 1969 Cohiba Edition.” It offered a 42mm chronograph in 50 18-karat rose-gold examples and 500 in stainless steel.
This debut release was followed the next year by the “El Primero Chronomaster 1966 Legend of Cohiba Edition.” Sequentially thereafter came the 45mm rose-gold-cased “Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Cohiba-Maduro 5 Edition,” with an extra-large crown (2018); the “Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Trinidad Edition, in rose, yellow and white gold (2019); and the “Romeo Y Julieta Elite Moonphase” (2020), a his/her duo (the 40.5mm Romeo in blue, the 36mm Julieta in red and diamonds).
That impressive line aside, the Zenith X Habanos limited-edition timepieces were far from the first fine Swiss mechanical watch collection to boast a cigar association. For the origins of cigar wristwatches, one must look much further back.
Cigars and wristwatches were sold side-by-side at Alfred Dunhill Tobacco Specialist, at 30 Duke Street in London’s posh St. James’s District, as far back as 1932. That was the year Alfred Dunhill Ltd. patented its first wristwatch. (Dunhill pocket watches had debuted decades earlier, in 1903; watches and clocks set into cigar and pipe lighters followed soon after.) Dunhill continued to sell timepieces into the 2000s, but lamentably, its horological heritage—which included impressive partnerships with Universal Genève in the 1940s and with Jaeger-LeCoultre in the 1960s, the latter featuring the coveted Dunhill-signed JLC Memovox alarm models—came to an inauspicious end in the autumn of 2012, when, with little pomp or circumstance, the London-based men’s luxury and fashion house quit offering watches altogether. (It began to phase out of cigars roughly around the same time.)
CUERVO Y SOBRINOS
What Cartier was to Paris, Bulgari to Rome and Tiffany to New York, Cuervo y Sobrinos was to pre-revolution Havana. As the city’s top purveyor of fine jewelry and timepieces—Churchill, Hemingway and Clark Gable were all said to be clients—CyS worked with a number of Swiss watchmakers (Rolex, Patek Philippe and Universal Genève among them) to produce both double-signature and private-label timepieces.
Located in Havana’s Old Town, CyS enjoyed close corporate-gift relations with the real fábrica de tabacos that commissioned countless custom-dial watches with logos such as the classic Partagas script to be given away as executive and retirement gifts. Vintage Cuervo y Sobrinos, mostly from the 1950s, pop up often on auction sites. Today, the modern incarnation of Cuervo y Sobrinos names its models after cigar vitolas, and many of its watches come in a humidor. Since 2009, CyS has operated a mono-brand boutique, El Reloj Cuervo y Sobrinos, on Calle Muralla in the heart, once more, of Habana Viejo.
DAVIDOFF X IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN X SMH
Another notable tobacconist, Davidoff of Geneva, which these days remains close to its roots as one of the world’s preeminent premium cigar makers, partnered with IWC Schaffhausen (attributed) and SMH ("Société de Microélectronique et d'Horlogerie, now the Swatch Group) in the 1980s to produce a small capsule collection of watches evocative of very early Hublots and Porsche Design timepieces of the period. It was a curious arrangement: IWC is said to have designed and manufactured the cases and straps, but the watches were powered by the hand-wound, ultrathin F. Piguet Cal. 21 (today Manufacture Blancpain) movement, with a custom bridge, and assembled by SMH.
Edward Sahakian, the founding proprietor of Davidoff London, recalls that the late Dr. Ernst Schneider—the former chairman and CEO of Oettinger-Davidoff who acquired both the Davidoff of Geneva boutique and the Davidoff cigar brand from Zino Davidoff in 1970—had one of those watches and used to wear it all the time. His was an [18-karat yellow] gold watch with a black leather strap. (It also came in two-tone and steel.) Finding an example of these early Davidoffs is a challenge, but they crop up at auction now and then, as well as on sites such as Chrono24.
Today, Zino Davidoff, a spinoff luxury watches-and-accessories brand originally created to skirt draconian European Union regulations governing tobacco promotion, carries on the tradition set forth by Davidoff of Geneva’s initial horological effort.
HUBLOT X ARTURO FUENTE & FUENTE FUENTE OPUSX
Since 2012, watchmaking and cigar rolling have been entwined via an ongoing partnership between Hublot and premium Dominican cigar maker Arturo Fuente, with timepieces that often celebrate the limited-production Fuente Fuente Opus X Dominican puro.
This alliance has yielded multiple limited-edition timepieces. Initially there was the 48mm Hublot King Power Arturo Fuente, crafted in honor of Fuente’s centenary and offered in both gold and ceramic, housed in a Macassar ebony humidor that Hublot commissioned specifically for this project. This outstanding debut watch was followed three years later by the limited-edition Classic Fusion Forbidden X—which, intriguingly and impressively, featured an actual cigar-tobacco leaf preserved in a proprietary epoxy on the dial and was even offered in a tourbillon version. After that came the Hublot Classic Fusion Fuente 20th Anniversary Special Edition in 2017. Like all its predecessors, it sold out.
ON AND ON IT GOES: There was a very limited edition (10 pieces) tobacco-brown Hermès Cape Cod 1928 that came in its own humidor and was created to commemorate the opening of the Hermès boutique on Broad Street in Manhattan’s Financial District; a 42mm limited-edition (150 examples) Blancpain Quantième Perpétuel GMT (Réf. 4277-3446-55B), in platinum, with a tobacco-hued “Havana brown” dial; and a Bell & Ross 126 XL Edición Limitada, both of which came house in humidors as well, Blancpain’s made of walnut. Even Swatch made a cigar watch with an image of a full-size cigar (a Swatch-banded Zino Mouton Cadet) running from one end of the strap through the dial to the other end.
Then, exclusively for the U.S. market, there was the first “Cohiba” wristwatch made by Frédérique Constant in conjunction with General Cigar Co., the maker of Macanudo and the U.S. editions of Partagas, La Gloria Cubana and the Cohiba Red Dot. (“Red Dot” to distinguish it from its Cuban counterpart.) This 2010 limited-production watch (376 numbered pieces, 188 in steel and 188 in rose gold–plated), launched at Club Macanudo in New York, came in a showcase humidor with a glass lid, stocked with 25 Dominican-made Cohiba (Red Dot) Crystal cigars.
What will be the next cigar-inspired watch? Only time will tell. In the meantime, light up a Montecristo “A” or vintage Sancho Panza Sanchos, relax . . . and wait.