Great Watches - Darren Clarke and Audemars Piguet

Posted: Sat 21st September 2013
By: Angus Davies

Darren is a larger than life character with a talent for striking the ball with laser-like accuracy. He's also a man with a passion for the finer things in life, not least rare watches and in particular Audemars Piguet. 

It is seldom I meet someone who shares a similar physical stature to my own. However, Darren Clarke stands 6 feet 2 inches tall and is of muscular build, allowing him to drive the ball great distances. His successes on the golf course are well documented, but what about the man away from the game?That's what I wanted to find out when I had the opportunity to meet him on a golf day with one of his sponsors, Audemars Piguet, because beneath the gregarious persona on the golf course, there is a different Darren.

A passion for the game. The Ulsterman has been on The European Tour since 1991. His gift for the game has resulted in professional success and numerous wins including victory at the 140th Open Championship. This year he was selected as vice captain of Europe's Ryder Cup team.    There is clearly a burning ambition in Darren's heart to collect more accolades and silverware. But he clearly enjoys the pleasure of playing the game away from the spotlight. I asked about his favourite golf course. There was no hesitation in his voice, "I am lucky that I live near one of the best courses in the world.That is where I go and play with my mates."

Behind the scenes. It is not an easy life on the professional circuit. Like many players Darren has a strong desire to return home to Northern Ireland and spend time with his family "People look from outside and see us playing in the most glamorous places around the world, which we are very fortunate to do. But there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes that you actually don't see. There are hours and hours of practice. When things aren't going well, it doesn't always smell of roses. You have got to put your head down and work. It's a tough environment".    Whilst Darren is a long established stalwart of the game, he obviously seeks competitive advantage wherever possible. He has used the services of some of the best sports psychologists in the game. Fitness and diet have become increasingly important when competing at the highest level. "I go mad in the gym for nine months, leave it alone for six and then I start all over again".

Technology in the game. The game has clearly not been immune from the relentless march of technology. In the last 20 years the sport has evolved with new materials and innovation entering the game.    "It is like any sport, it has evolved. Technology has become a bigger part of it and I'm fortunate to work with Taylor  Made who is at the forefront of technology. In the same way as tennis, golf has become a power game. The guys are younger, fitter and stronger. Everything is now a lot more professional".    Darren does admit that whilst many players on the circuit have nutritionists, it is sometimes difficult to always remain virtuous when it comes to food. "I manage to stick to the regime for a while, then get fed up with it and eat what I like, but eventually I pull myself together again.

Discerning tastes. Darren has acquired a discerning palate when it comes to fruit of the vine. He buys wine to drink rather than as an investment vehicle. However, his collection would grace any high-end auction house.    Darren owns a few first-growths and admits to owning bottles of Château Margaux, Yquem and Petrus. These are hardly bottles commonly found at your local off-licence. I like Darren's unpretentious approach to drinking wine. He does not try to portray himself as a guru of viticulture, but clearly knows what he likes.

Cars and fishing. Apart from wine Darren has a huge passion for cars, of which he has had a lot. "I am a lot more sensible than I used to be. I'd have eight or nine of them sitting outside, Ferraris, Lambo's, Bentleys and all sorts, but at the moment I'm in Mercedes mode. I have got a SL 63, the brand new ML 63 with 570 brake horse power and the SLS".    Away from the hectic life of the professional golf circuit, Darren sometimes needs to find a bit of peace and quiet, and what better way than enjoying another of his great passions - fly fishing.    At his home in the Bahamas he also has a go at game fishing, but admits that fly fishing is his favourite. "Most people would probably not think that I would have the patience to stand in the water waiting for a fish to bite, but it's a perfect stress release and I really love it."

Haute horology. Darren may like wine and cars but I found his passion for haute horology especially fascinating, and I was impressed by his incredible knowledge of prestigious timepieces.    Having been an avid collector of watches for many years with quite a few Audemars Piguet timepieces to his name, he was the natural choice to become one of the company's Ambassadors, and with so many rare models his collection is simply breathtaking.    Quite a few of his Audemars Piguet were limited editions at the time, and are still eagerly sought by collectors today. He often wears an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore T3, the same model as worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film Terminator 3. Other rare timepieces include an Offshore Barrichello in rose gold bearing the number, "numero uno" and an Offshore Arnold All-stars. His one-off pieces are the most coveted watches for any self-respecting watch collector. "It is obviously a little easier for me now that I'm an Ambassador to get access to the limited editions."

Never on the golf course. A mechanical watch is a collection of tiny parts, some barely visible to the naked eye, working in harmony. Cogs, wheels, pinions and springs coalesce and communicate with pleasing outcomes. However, watches should never be subject to excessive forces and wearing a mechanical watch whilst playing golf is never to be recommended.    "Last year at The Open some of us were given prototypes that Audemars Piguet had made. These were very lightweight golf watches made of titanium with rubber straps. They wanted to see how they would perform on a golf course, and because I was the winner, I was lucky enough to be able to keep mine."    I think Darren's passion for watches is obvious to all who meet him. I only wish I could replicate his good fortune and own some of the remarkable pieces which form his impressive collection. Sadly for me, my golfing talents are best reserved for playing crazy golf, and fame and fortune from mastering a Links course will always elude me.

Good to know

Image of Camilla Kaas-Stock
By Angus Davies


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