PARTY IN IBIZA. Joezer Mandagi heads to Ibiza with TAG Heuer to celebrate the brand’s legacy and its reach into the future through music
You know you’re on a flight to Ibiza when more than half of the passengers look ready to party the moment the plane lands. And why wouldn’t they? Ibiza is the town of a thousand clubs, the cradle of EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and basically the party capital of the world. So, it was on a sunny late August afternoon that I found myself on the world’s number-one nightlife spot, to party with TAG Heuer. The storied Swiss watch brand certainly did have a lot to celebrate.
Prologue to the Party
“By the end of July, the watch business, the Swiss watch business, is down by 30.5 percent,” says Jean-Claude Biver, TAG Heuer’s energetic CEO during a press conference on the island. “For TAG Heuer, it was plus 20 percent. We have had the best seven months of our history.”
August also marked the launch of a new timepiece, the Aquaracer 300 M ceramic. This new addition to TAG Heuer’s Aquaracer collection, which debuted way back in 2003, features an extremely durable case constructed from Grade-2 (i.e., not an alloy) titanium with black titanium carbide coating, a blue nylon strap with a rubber inner lining and the brand’s highly dependable Calibre 5 automatic mechanical movement ticking inside it. A more notable highlight, however, would probably be the watch’s ceramic bezel coated with blue lacquer. As befitting of an Aquaracer watch, the new 300 M model is fully water-resistant up to a depth of 300 meters. While these specifications were designed with more rigorous outings such as yachting in mind, you can probably say that this is also the most ideal timepiece for some rigorous partying in the clubs and beaches of Ibiza.
That is not the only reason why we are on Ibiza, however. our trip to the famed island is, in fact, arranged to celebrate TAG Heuer’s collaboration with the world of contemporary music. This, in turn, is part of the brand’s unique approach of communicating its image to as wide an audience as possible through four distinct fields—“universes” in the brand’s parlance—including sport, lifestyle, heritage and music. “It’s the best language; it’s still the language everyone understands,” Biver enthuses of the fourth one. “With music, you can travel all around the world and everybody understands; everybody has the same emotions, pleasure, hope and joy.”
While it might come as a surprise to some, especially considering TAG Heuer’s long history, the brand’s focus on EDM is perhaps only natural as it boldly reaches out to a new generation with new tastes who also live in an increasingly connected world. Quite appropriately, this event brings together two legends from two different generations who are also two of TAG Heuer’s most celebrated brand ambassadors: Veteran DJ/producer David Guetta and rising EDM star Martin Garrix. The former happens to be in Ibiza for the popular F**k Me I’m Famous parties, while the latter brought his Multiply concert to the island. and for the cherry on top, a touch of the sport universe is thrown in the mix.
Dinner and a Show
The first day of festivities kicks off with a late dinner at Cipriani in downtown Ibiza, as guests, journalists and TAG Heuer representatives mingle in anticipation of the main event, viewing David Guetta perform a set in Pacha Ibiza, the best known club in a town full of clubs. As it happens, Pacha is only a five-minute walk away from Cipriani, and a brief stroll from the more relaxed premises of Cipriani to the dazzling surroundings of Pacha certainly gets you pumped for what’s about to come.
There’s a lot to take in once you step into a club like Pacha, from the press of the crowd and the detached-yet-ever-alert looks on the ever-present bouncers to the mind-boggling light display and the thumping beats. The party atmosphere is already in full swing as the TAG Heuer entourage files in and heads toward the VIP section—all the better to take in the performance and the crowd.
Now, in full-blown EDM concert, there’s a short break, a lull in the action, as the stage is set for the next performance. Guetta, however, moves in and takes over the stage almost seamlessly with many on the dance floor only realizing the switch when the music changes and multiple displays lit up with the DJ’s name in bold neon letters on black. As the granddaddy of EDM finally addresses the audience in his usual nonchalant drawl, the crowd’s roar reaches a fever pitch. And, of course, dozens of touchscreens lit up as people start recording; but that’s just how a 2016 nightclub crowd rolls, apparently.
While it comes as no surprise, it’s still a delight to see how a DJ of Guetta’s caliber plays the crowd. Opening with “This One’s for You” (the official song for the 2016 UEFA European Championship) Guetta quickly demonstrates just how recognizable his singles are by cutting out the music and letting the crowd pick up the lyrics mere seconds into the song, just when the first refrain hits. Sure, this happens all the time in live performances of all sorts, but you can’t help but feel a certain amount of extra confidence behind Guetta’s frequent use of the gimmick. The crowd certainly loves it and responds in kind, chanting “we’re in this together” with gusto.
Unsurprisingly, their enthusiasm only grows as Guetta works through his set and “titanium” comes on, followed by fellow crowd-favorites “Play Hard,” “When Love Takes Over” and many more. By now, it is already 4 a.m. and the set is only half underway. It would seem that, in Ibiza, the night’s still young even when it’s no longer technically night anymore.
Lunch and More Shows
The second day’s events begin while the sun is still high in the Mediterranean sky, as the entire TAG Heuer entourage makes their way to casa Puig Redo, one of Ibiza’s most prominent luxury estates, with a history spanning over 300 years.
If anything, the classically-constructed but contemporarily-equipped villa is the most fitting venue to host TAG Heuer’s celebrations. Lunch is served poolside as guests and journalists rub shoulders with VIPs and a handful of high-profile legendary players from La Liga, Spain’s top professional football division. Their presence, along with a down-scaled football field set away but clearly visible from the main villa, hints at what the afternoon still has in store for us. The relaxed atmosphere quickly turns excited when Martin Garrix appears on the premises, ducking in and out of the private areas of the villa. Soon thereafter, Jean-Claude Biver arrives, joined by Garrix and also Guetta.
It is a subtly profound moment, as these three figures—each representing a different generation—greet each other with genuine affection. At risk of sounding overly wistful, I would describe the scene that unfolds that day as a young-ish boy (Garrix) welcoming his jolly grandfather (Biver) with his laidback uncle (Guetta) joining in. Greetings turned into a brief discussion about Garrix’ Connected watch interrupted by the throng of photographers (aka anyone with a phone) swarming for a good photo op before an MC finally shows up and opens the press conference.
The conference with TAG Heuer’s CEO and two brand ambassadors is lively but brief, focusing mostly on their passions (as Guetta puts it, they come from “three different generations, and we are so blessed that we can live out of our passions”), what each knows about the others (including Garrix’ eloquent intro on his senior which is basically along the lines of: “Well … he’s David f******g Guetta!) and their “don’t crack under pressure” moments. This last one, of course, refers to the brand’s famous tagline, usually stylized as the hashtag #DontCrackUnderPressure. A company executive with a resume like Biver’s would, of course, know a thing or two about handling pressure, as does the pioneering DJ who brought EDM into mainstream hit charts and one of the youngest international EDM stars. But, more on that later, as it’s time to head down to the football field below.
On the field are assembled eight players; eight living legends from La Liga, including Albert Luque, Michel Salgado, Aitor Ocio, Fernando Morientes, Gaizka Mendieta, Marcos Senna, Fernando Sanz and finally Joan Capdevila, the only non-retired member of the group. To make things even more interesting, both Guetta and Garrix are drafted as goalkeepers, while Biver is given the referee’s whistle.
Now, you would probably think that eight veteran footballers playing barefooted on a downsized field along with two guest VIPs and a VVIP referee would take it easy. And you’d be wrong. While they don’t show the aggressiveness they reserve for real matches, these eight legends are certainly competitive. Oh sure, they hold back a bit when facing the two goalkeepers and the ref doesn’t have to keep anybody in line, but they make damn sure that the audience knows they are watching top-tier pro footballers.
Whether unwittingly or intentional (which is all kinds of impressive considering the setup), the short match ends in a draw. While some among the audience starts voicing their hope for a penalty kick contest, the organizers apparently have already thought of another way to settle the stalemate. So, behind the field, there is a huge, three-meter-high watch dial of the TAG Heuer Carrera–Heuer 01 with the sub-dials cut out and assigned points. Each team takes turns shooting free kicks at the giant watch dial to score as many points as possible within a couple of minutes. In the end, David Guetta’s gray-uniformed team gets the upper hand and keeps it for a decisive victory.
With the match officially over, the crowd disperses to enjoy the rest of the day. Garrix takes over DJing duties, much to the delight of the now party-minded guests. Those same guests are still in a snap-happy mood, and at one point the 20-old Dutch musician reminds the crowd that when a DJ starts spinning, the audience’s supposed to be dancing instead of posing for selfies with said DJ in the background. Another part of the crowd, nonetheless, prepares for a chance to chat with the men of the hour.
A CEO and two DJs Walk Into a Bar
As the events of the day at the villa come to a close, I have the opportunity to slip in a couple of questions for Biver and Guetta. These compressed interviews along with the press conference earlier in the day paint a pretty clear picture of how TAG Heuer has advanced so rapidly these past years and how it plans to move ahead.
Take, for instance, the appointment of two electronic dance music DJ/producers to represent a brand with a history spanning more than one and a half centuries. While the stated goal is quite logical and clear-cut—that is, to reach a new generation of possible watch enthusiasts—the implementation has been brilliant, culminating in a brand message embodied by the three gentlemen meeting in Ibiza. There’s the accomplished watchmaker with more than four decades of experience in the business; on the other end, we have a young, rising star who embraces contemporary media; and finally, in the middle, we have the pioneer who already accomplished the whole “reaching an entirely new generation-slash-potential-market” business in his own field.
“I took a music that used to be underground and brought it to the mainstream,” Guetta quips. At the same time, he appreciates the finer things in life that comes with a legacy and history of their own. “I’m a little bit old school when it comes to watches,” the DJ waxes lyrical on horology. “I like that kind of timeless watches, like, you know, the Monaco.” Then, lifting his arm to show his TAG Heuer Carrera – Heuer 01, he adds, “and this one, I think it’s really amazing.”
Garrix, on the other hand, is wearing a TAG Heuer Connected and seems to easily, well, connect to its appeal. I ask Biver why his brand decides to embrace a trend that many others avoid, and he simply points at the huge TAG logo on a poster behind us. “What does TAG mean? It means Techniques d’Avant Garde,” he practically booms. “If your brand is named Techniques d’Avant Garde Heuer, and you don’t go into Connected watches, why do you write Techniques d’Avant Garde?” When I ask about the future of TAG Heuer’s Connected watches, he passionately says, “It will maybe be the biggest line of TAG Heuer one day. Maybe one day, we will sell 70-percent Connected watches.”
In an age when many luxury brand makers try to distance themselves from the rise of smart and connected timepieces, seeing TAG Heuer turn what many label a threat to the industry into possibly one of their biggest lines is thought-provoking indeed. If anything, they really live and breathe #DontCrackUnderPressure.
With a Bang
It seems only fitting that our last night in Ibiza is bound to another high-profile EDM venue. This time around it is at Ushuaïa, the largest open-air club in the area, and where Martin Garrix would be playing the final set of the night. As we make our way into the viewing area, another DJ, Marshmello, is on stage wrapping up his set, and the air is charged with anticipation. Heck, even Marshmello quips about looking forward to seeing Garrix perform.
Still, throughout the show I simply couldn’t help but notice how young he looks. And acts. Especially the part where he would use the f-word at every opportunity, as if compensating for his youthful image in this rather “mature” party. Don’t get me wrong, Garrix is simply amazing, and the fact that he’s only 20 years old makes it all the more impressive. But even Guetta notes earlier in that Garrix’s young age brought with it an interesting set of problems. “So, he had the biggest record in the world,” Guetta reminisces about the time Garrix came out with his first big hit, “and in America it was so huge, but they wouldn’t let him play in clubs because he was still a kid!”
But, hey, if he doesn’t crack under pressure like that, he deserves all the success that comes his way. And he makes for an excellent representative of a brand like TAG Heuer.