On January 10, 2024, Nick Saban announced his retirement as Head Coach of the University of Alabama football team, after 17 seasons in that position.  Over his first 12 years at Alabama, Saban wore a “swag watch” that he must have received at a bowl game and two Fossil chronographs, so I decided that I was happy to watch his teams, but lost interest in tracking his watches. With Saban announcing his retirement, it seemed timely to have another look at the watches that he wore in the last five years of his career, the 2019 through 2023 seasons).  These last three watches turned out to be more interesting than the first three. 

In this posting, we will track the six watches that Nick Saban wore during his 17 years at the University of Alabama. These watches are:

  • a promotional “swag watch” that he likely received for participating in a bowl game
  • a Fossil quartz chronograph, with a stainless steel case (Reference CH 2497)
  • a Fossil quartz chronograph, with a black case (Reference FS 4487)
  • a special “CFP National Championship” Diesel watch (Reference DZ-1807), which Saban and members of the Alabama football team received for winning the 2018 National Championship game.
  • a Salvatore Ferragamo watch in a bi-metallic case
  • a TAG Heuer Formula 1 watch (Reference WAZ1110)

The following are some of the accomplishments of Nick Saban, during his 17 seasons as Head Coach of the University of Alabama football team, 2007 through 2023:

  • Six National Championships
  • 11 Southeastern Conference Championships
  • 201 Wins, 29 Losses
  • 124 NFL draft picks
  • Twice Associated Press Coach of the Year
  • Five times SEC Coach of the Year

Is Nick Saban a “Watch Guy”?

If we define “watch guys” as individuals who always wear their watch and have a variety of watches over the years, then Nick Saban is definitely a watch guy. Moreover, the progression of his watches over the years also suggests that he likes watches. He arrived at Alabama wearing a watch that he received for participating in a bowl game, purchased two Fossil chronographs (priced at $95 and $150), switched to a Diesel watch that he received for winning a National Championship, moved to a Swiss made “fashion watches” with the Farragamo brand, and has ended his career at Alabama wearing a TAG Heuer Formula 1 sports watch.

Known as a creature of habit, Saban seems to have never switched watches during the coarse of a season and he seems to have never worn a particular watch again, after the watch was retired.

2007 and 2008 — Promotional Swag Watch from Bowl Game

One of the sacred traditions of the college football bowl games is that the bowl presents the participating players and coaches with an assortment of gifts. Under NCAA rules, the value of the gifts is limited and most bowls disclose what is included in their gift packages. Watches are a traditional bowl gift, with the name of the bowl, the date and some other graphic element often printed on the dial.

It appears that when Nick Saban arrived at Alabama for the 2007 season, he wore a “promotional” watch that he had received at a bowl game. It’s difficult to identify the watch with specificity, but it appears to be similar to this one by LSU coach Les Miles, which was from the Rose Bowl. This is a relatively common style for a bowl game watch, and I have not been able to identify the watch worn by Nick Saban.

It appears that Nick Saban wore the watch that he received as a bowl game participant from the time of his arrival in Tuscaloosa (January 2007), through the end of the 2008 football season.

2009 through 2014 — Fossil Chronograph, Stainless Steel Case (Reference CH 2497)

For the 2009 through 2014 college football seasons, Nick Saban wore a Fossil chronograph, on a black rubber strap. Fossil offered this chronograph on either a rubber strap or a stainless steel bracelet, although there may be slight differences between the two models (for example, the dial being either flat or textured). In the gallery below, we show both versions of this chronograph.

The Fossil Brand. Founded in Richardson, Texas in 1984, Fossil is a large producer of “fashion” watches (sometimes called “mall watches”). In addition to “Fossil”, brands included within the corporate group include Diesel, Michele Watch, Skagen Denmark, Misfit, WSI, and Zodiac Watches. Browse the watch department of a large department store, and the three main areas will the Swiss brands, the Japanese brands (Seiko and Citizen) and the fashion brands. The Fossil brands will have a large presence in the display of fashion brands.

Three Register Steel Chronograph. The Fossil Reference CH 2497 is a three-register chronograph, with registers for “running seconds” at 6 o’clock, chronograph minutes at 12 o’clock, and chronograph hours at 9 o’clock. The inner bezel, between the surface of the dial and the crystal, is marked for minutes. Applied steel markers show the hours, with the “military” 13 to 24 hours printed just inside these markers. The chronograph is operated by two pushers, above and below the crown. The pusher above the crown starts and stops the chronograph; the pusher below the crown resets the chronograph to zero.

The case of the Fossil CH 2497 is stainless steel, with a knurled, fixed (non-rotating) bezel. The case measures measures 42 millimeters across the dial, 11.3 mm from the back of the case to the top of the crystal and 49.2 mm from top of the top lug to the bottom of the bottom lug. This chronograph is fitted with a rubber strap, with the ends of the strap curved to fit snugly against the edge of the case; a similar model is available on a stainless steel bracelet.

The movement in the Fossil CH 2497 chronograph is Miyota OS10, which has no jewels. Miyota is part of the Citizen group, with the movement being made in Japan. Information about this movement can be found HERE. The chronograph itself is made in China.

As a new watch, the Fossil CH 2497 was priced at $95.00. The watch is no longer available as a new watch in retail channels, but pre-owned samples of the watch are available from time to time on eBay. Reference CH 2473 seems to be a similar model.

2015 through 2018 — Fossil Chronograph, Black-Coated Case (FS 4487)

It appears that Nick Saban switched from his Stainless Steel Fossil chronograph to a larger Black-Coated Fossil Chronograph for the 2015 football season, and he continued to wear this watch through the 2018 season. This second chronograph is relatively easy to spot on his wrist, with the larger size of the black case and the bright “Daytona ring” at the bottom of the dial (6 o’clock position) being the telltales.

Three-Register Black Chronograph. The Fossil Reference FS 4487 is also a three-register chronograph. The register at 6 o’clock is for chronograph seconds, the register a 9 o’clock is for chronograph minutes, and the register at 3 o’clock is a 24-hour indication (showing the current hours in “military” time). The “running seconds” hand is mounted on the center pinion, an unusual approach in the world of chronographs.

The dial is matte black, with polished markers for the hours and a polished “Daytona ring” at the bottom of the dial, surrounding the minute recorder. The chronograph is operated by two pushers, above and below the crown. The pusher above the crown starts and stops the chronograph; the pusher below the crown resets the chronograph to zero.

The case of the Fossil FS 4487 is stainless steel, coated in black. The top bezel is knurled, with a matte finish, and the sides of the case and the lugs are polished. The case measures measures 45 millimeters across the dial, 13 mm from the back of the case to the top of the crystal and 53.8 mm from top of the top lug to the bottom of the bottom lug. This chronograph is fitted with a rubber strap, which is 24 mm wide, although Saban seems to have switched to a leather strap at some point.

The movement in this chronograph is the Japanese Hattori S11 VD53B, which has no jewels. Hattori is part of the Seiko group. Accuracy is stated to be within 20 to 30 seconds per month. Information about this movement can be found HERE. The watch itself is made in China.

The watch remains available in retail channels, with a list price of $125 and Amazon selling it for $76.05.

2019 — National Championship, Diesel “Rasp” Watch (Reference DZ-1807)

On January 8, 2018, the University of Alabama won the college football National Championship by defeating the University of Georgia, 26-23 in an overtime game played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in Atlanta, Georgia. In connection with this game, Nick Saban and members of the Alabama team received a special edition of the Diesel “Rasp” watch, with the dial printed with the College Football Playoff logo and the words, “National Championship”. Saban wore this “National Championship” watch during the 2019 football season.

The Diesel Brand. Fossil is one of the leading brands in the “fashion” watch market, offering a broad variety of watches, and its Diesel subsidiary brand focuses on bold, strongly-styled watches. Watch Station, an online retailer, states that Diesel watches are “big, brilliant and unapologetically different”.

Consistent with the Diesel brand position, the “Rasp” watch offers a bold look. The dial is matte black, and is dominated by a huge numeral “9” at the left of the dial. This numeral “9” rests on an area of the dial with a deeply-textured diamond finish; the remainder of the dial is relatively restrained. There are polished black markers for the hours; with “Diesel” and “5 Bar” printed at the 3 o’clock position.

The case of the Diesel Rasp is stainless steel, with a waterproof rating of 50 meters (5 bar). It measures 47 millimeters across the dial, and 54 mm from the top of the top lug to the bottom of the bottom lug; thickness of the case is 11.3 mm. The case has a smooth top bezel, with a soft brushed finish; the sides of the case finished with a textured diamond finish, matching the area around the numeral “9” on the dial. The case-back is marked with the slogan, “Diesel — Only the Brave.” The black silicon strap (24 mm width) continues the “textured diamond” theme found on the dial and case.

The Diesel “Rasp” Watch is currently available through several retailers, including Macy’s, with the retail price in the $170 range. Here is a listing on Amazon, at $190.

National Championship Edition. The Diesel Rasp worn by Nick Saban during the 2019 season is a promotional / swag watch, which he and members of the University of Alabama football team and staff received for winning the 2018 National Championship Game, played in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 8, 2018. The dial has the CFP logo and “National Championship” printed toward the center of the dial.

2020 and 2021 — Salvatore Ferragamo, Bi-Metallic (Steel / Gold) Case

For the 2020 and 2021 football seasons, Nick Saban wore a bi-metallic watch (stainless steel and gold) made by Salvatore Ferragamo. This was the first of his six watches worn at Alabama to be on a metal bracelet, and also his first to be made in Switzerland.

The Ferragamo Brand. Born in 1898 near Naples, Italy, Salvatore Ferragamo was one of the most influential names in the 20th century fashion industry, as he focused on women’s shoes. His move to Los Angeles early in his career positioned him as one of the leading suppliers of shoes to the Hollywood stars. For more than 30 years, Ferragamo created shoes for the stars, including the ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939) and those worn by Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch (1955). Greta Garbo is said to have purchased 70 pairs of shoes in a visit to the Salvatore Ferragamo shop in Florence.

Currently headquartered in Italy, the Salvatore Ferragamo Group is one of the leaders in the luxury industry, offering shoes, leather goods, apparel and other accessories, including eyewear, perfume and watches. The Ferragamo Group is present in over 90 countries around the world, and for 2021 the company had revenue of 1.136 billion euro.

Ferragamo — Two-Tone Watch. I am confident that the watch Nick Saban wore during the 2020 and 2021 football seasons was made by Salvatore Ferragamo. Salvatore Ferragamo has a line of two-tone (stainless steel and gold) watches, sold on two-tone bracelets, that appears to match the watch worn by Saban. A close examination of the watch worn by Saban reveals a signature across the top of the dial that appears to be “Ferragamo” and we also see the distinctive “Salvatore Ferragamo” signature on the bezel, between 1 o’clock and 3 o’clock.

The watch appears to be a model in the brand’s “1898” collection; possible reference numbers are FF 3010013, FF 3070014 and FF 3170014.

These are Swiss made watches sold by retailers such as Nordstrom, with prices in the $600 to $1,000 range. Here is one listed on Amazon for $820.00.

2022 and 2023 — TAG Heuer Formula 1 Watch (Reference WAZ111)

For the 2022 and 2023 football seasons, Coach Saban “upgraded” his watch game, moving from relatively inexpensive Fossil or other “fashion” watches to a TAG Heuer Formula 1 watch (Reference WAZ111).

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Collection. Heuer was founded in Switzerland in 1860 and throughout its history was a world leader in sports timing. Heuer produced a full line of chronographs, stopwatches and other timers for team sports, motor sports, track and field and yacht racing, as well as for scientific and industrial uses. Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG) acquired Heuer in 1985, and TAG Heuer introduced the Formula 1 collection the following year, as a bright, colorful alternative to the more traditional watches and chronographs that had dominated the Swiss watch industry. The first Swatch watches had come in 1983, and the Formula 1 collection was a response to the success of this entirely new style of watch.

The current TAG Heuer catalog has six collections, including the Carrera, Monaco and Aquaracer models, with the Formula 1 line historically positioned as the brand’s “entry level” collection. The Formula 1 collection includes chronographs and simpler “three-hand” watches, with a variety of automatic (mechanical) and quartz (battery-powered) movements. The Formula 1 collection continues to feature colorful, sporty models, consistent with its original position in the TAG Heuer catalog.

The Formula 1 Reference WAZ1110. The Reference WAZ1110 is a three-hand watch, powered by a quartz movement, with a date display at 3 o’clock. The case is stainless steel, waterproof to 200 meters, with a defining feature being a rotating bezel, marked in minute increments. This is sometimes called a “diver’s bezel”, as it can be used to time the duration of a dive. The bezel rotates only one direction (counterclockwise) to ensure that the diver does not accidentally “add time” to the time set for the end of their dive.

The Formula 1 Reference WAZ1110 watch measures 41 millimeters across the dial and comes on a rubber strap (which also a feature identified with diving). This Formula 1 retails for $1,450.

You Can Be Like Nick

Of the six watches covered in this posting, four of them are currently available in retail channels. The watch that Saban wore in his first years at Alabama was part of some bowl game promotional “swag” and the older Fossil chronograph (stainless steel) is no longer in production. Current choices for the Nick Saban enthusiast include the following:

  • a TAG Heuer Formula 1 watch (Reference WAZ1110) — available worldwide at TAG Heuer Boutiques and retailers, or online
  • the Fossil quartz chronograph, with a black case (Reference 4522) — readily available online or in stores
  • a Diesel “Rasp” watch (Reference DZ-1807) — readily available online or in stores, but you won’t be able to get the version with “National Championship” printed on the dial
  • a Salvatore Ferragamo watch in a bi-metallic case — similar watches seem to remain in the Ferragamo catalog; look for them at department stores that sell “fine watches” or online

Next up, we’ll hope to spot whatever watches Kalen DeBoer may be wearing on the Alabama sideline!!

Jeff Stein
January 14, 2024