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TAG Heuer - Interview with Frank Rutten of Gulf Oil

TAG Heuer Interview with Frank Rutten of Gulf Oil

At the Geneva International Motor Show, our editor-in-chief talked to Gulf Oil’s Vice-President International about the renewal of the partnership with TAG Heuer.

How did the renewal of this historic partnership between Gulf Oil and TAG Heuer come about?
The partnership was always a very good one. We let it slip for a while and, to be honest, that was a mistake. So as soon as the opportunity arose to renew it we did. I have no doubt that the partnership and the history that TAG Heuer and Gulf Oil share is very important. There are some iconic moments like having Steve McQueen in the film Le Mans with a TAG Heuer watch and Gulf Oil livery that no other partnership has.

Interview with Frank Rutten of Gulf Oil

© WorldTempus/Paul O'Neil

In the lubricants industry, everything is about trust. When you put a lubricant in your car, you can’t try it out. You have to trust it. So when you can do natural brand associations that work well together, it automatically transfers some element of trust for your customers. We will do a lot of joint events and marketing together, which is great, but the essence is to have an association between two brands that people know they can trust.

You have a legacy that stretches back over a century. Does this still resonate with the customer or do you need this kind of partnership to keep that alive?
In the oil industry customers basically want two things: a supplier that is global and has been around for a while. The fact that we have been around for 116 years and that we do business in 100 countries around the world gives people confidence. Oil is not a low-interest product, it is a no-interest product. People don’t go to the pub at night and tell their friends that they filled up with petrol at Gulf. So on the one hand we have brand awareness and on the other there is the brand’s autonomy. By putting both together you have the chance to shape the brand in the way that you want. We can’t make oil sexy, but we can partner with other brands that convey this kind of image, this is why we are also a partner with Manchester United, like TAG Heuer. I can’t get people excited about going to a Gulf party in Indonesia, but if I have Manchester United there then everybody wants to come. That’s when you see how things come together so well.

Do you have any other partnerships apart from TAG Heuer and Manchester United?
Yes, we have a number of other partnerships in motorsport with Aprilia, BMW and Porsche and some more local partnerships. As an oil company you cannot escape the world of motorsport. We use it as a laboratory and to a great extent it works fantastically as a laboratory. If you take Le Mans as an example, you cannot change the oil during the race, so it needs to be perfect for at least the duration of the race. You may say that it’s only 24 hours but all engines are completely rebuilt after each race, even after the six-hour endurance races. Our oil could easily be used again in the next race, even though the teams don’t do that. And by analysing the oil after the race we can improve it even further. The tyre industry invests heavily in motorsport for the same reason and ultimately all the research that results from this allows you and I to drive safely from A to B.

What about your personal relationship with motorsport and watches?
I actually have a strong relationship with Switzerland because I commute back to my house in Switzerland every weekend and I go skiing every weekend in the winter season. I have followed the Swiss watch industry and seen it emerge from the quartz crisis and the rise of the Swatch Group for example. It’s great to see that people are now buying watches to treat themselves and as a man it’s one of the few means of expressing yourself. I have about 64 white shirts and no other colours, so the watch I wear is a way for me to express how I’m feeling. I could buy pink shirts instead, but I’d rather buy a watch!


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