Cigars & Watches: Economics 101

Cigars and watches have been sold side-by-side since the 1930s. In this three-part series, we explore the connection and interplay between two manly pursuits: collecting watches and lighting up cigars. To read Parts I and II, go here and here.

The final installment of this three-part series could very well be entitled A Tale of Two Cohibas.

In 2010, Frédérique Constant partnered with General Cigar Co., maker of Macanudo and the U.S. versions of Partagas, La Gloria Cubana and the “Red Dot” Cohiba — so nicknamed to distinguish this Dominican version, made exclusively for the U.S. market, from the original Cuban.

The Frédérique Constant for Cohiba Limited Edition timepiece came in two versions, each just 188 examples: an all-steel model and one in rose gold plated. Both arrived in a humidor with a glass lid, but unlike most others of its ilk, this humidor-cum-watch box was fully stocked with handmade Cohiba Crystal cigars. To celebrate the debut of the collaboration, the partners hosted a private cocktail reception at Club Macanudo, the famed Manhattan cigar bar.

All of which brings us to the most recent such collaboration: that of Zenith and Habanos S.A., the marketing, promotions and export-distribution arm of Cubatabaco, Cuba’s state-owned tobacco monopoly. Their first effort, released earlier this year, was the now sold-out limited-edition 42-millimeter Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Cohiba Edition (50 examples in 18-karat rose gold and 500 in stainless steel), with a glossy tobacco-colored dial featuring the timeless Cohiba logo (a silhouette of an indigenous Taino Indian) at 2 o’clock above the subdials.

The partnership could be a veritable (rose) gold mine for Zenith: Never has Habanos S.A., which boasts 27 cigar brands in its current portfolio (and there are scores of pre-Revolution brands as well) entered this sort of agreement. Given the voracious and well-heeled Havana-cigar set, many of whom flock to the annual Habanos Festival, the tie-up could yield big dividends for Zenith and LVMH watches for years to come. (The 2016 Habanos Festival, the eighteenth, attracted 2,000 attendees from 60 countries.)

Meanwhile, despite the fact that the U.S. and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations last January for the first time since 1961, vestiges of the Cold War remain in the form of the trademark and copyright complexities of various Cuban brands, particularly pre-Revolution cigar, rum and beer trademarks. As such, the Frédérique Constant Cohiba cannot be sold outside the U.S. or its territories, and the Zenith Cohiba cannot be sold in the U.S. Getting ahold of the latter is not a problem, however, nor is bringing back up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars from your international travels.

Javier Terrés, vice president of development at Habanos S.A., is bullish. “We’re very pleased and excited about this collaboration,” he says. “These are two legendary brands with a similar history based on exclusivity and innovation, sharing the same vision: to deliver excellence to clients. The result is a series of exceptional watches, and a real tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of Cohiba.”

Zenith CEO Aldo Magada concurs. “We’re proud and happy to be partnering with Cohiba, which is not only the best Habanos brand but also represents the same relentless quest for excellence we’ve been pursuing for more than 150 years,” he says. “We’re convinced that the [numbered edition] Zenith is offering will please connoisseurs of both worlds.”

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