WORDS: PETER HOWARTH
PHOTOGRAPHY: TOMAS FALMER
STYLING: DAVID NOLAN
SET DESIGN: GEORGE LEWIN
There is no other way to put it: Malcolm Borwick simply looks like a 1960s matinee idol. It’s hard to put your finger on it – although the smart suit and the Piaget Polo S watch help. Is it the neat hair, the regular features or the rugged handsomeness that bring to mind a young Sean Connery as Bond or Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair? This last detail is particularly fitting as, in that film, McQueen, cast as a millionaire playboy thief, memorably plays polo, and Borwick himself is a professional player.With a six-goal handicap, he’s one of the best we have, which is why he’s on the national team. Borwick’s route into the game was through riding school, where, aged 11, he was invited to try polo. At 14, he received a scholarship from the sport’s governing body, the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA), and, a few years later, was playing professionally. After university, he had what he calls ‘one of those Sliding Doors moments’. ‘I was heading down the road of becoming a banker. I’d played professional polo since I was 18 to fund my education, but I was always being told I had to get a proper job. So, after three years of travelling the world with polo, I knuckled down, put on a suit and tie and went and interviewed for some private banks.’ He was offered a position in Singapore and had just returned home, when – with the contract literally in his hand, about to accept it – the phone rang. ‘It was the HPA. They said, “We’ve promoted you up a handicap – congratulations! And we’d like you to become part of the England team.”’
It was a personal game-changing moment. Now, at 39, as well as still playing polo, Borwick is dedicating his time to changing the game itself by bringing it into the modern era.When he came into the sport in the mid-1990s, it was very much a ‘playboy, amateur lifestyle’, he says. But he has spent his career looking at polo in the same way Dave Brailsford has approached cycling: to see how it can be improved. Now things are different: ‘We’re up at 6.30 to 7am, we train hard, just like any other professional sportsmen, and we dedicate time to everything from nutrition to psychology.’ Borwick has played with Princes William and Harry for 15 years – in fact he says they’re very good. Through polo, he’s helped raise millions of pounds for their charities. It’s because of all this that Borwick has been chosen by Piaget to be one of its Game Changers.
In a project to promote the idea of men who make a difference to their fields through a combination of talent and passion, the Swiss watch house has recruited eight ambassadors, including actor and director Michael B Jordan, French master chef Jean-François Piège and Chinese singer Hu Ge. Borwick’s involvement is particularly appropriate as the timepiece Piaget has asked these men to wear is the new Polo S – a modern version of the Piaget Polo, which was launched in 1979. He is thrilled at the association – not least because it fulfils an ambition he has had for a while. ‘I used to walk through airports and look at the watches, and the one I always said I was going to buy myself one day was the Piaget Polo FortyFive. I love it. It’s the titanium casing and black dial – it looks masculine and tough.’
Now, with the Polo S, there’s a Piaget to rival it. ‘I love this one, too. It’s different – unlike the Polo FortyFive, I wouldn’t wear it when I was riding; it’s just too beautiful. I’ve had so many comments about it.The blue face works so well aesthetically.’ And Borwick is absolutely aware of how important matters of style are in polo. ‘Polo’s a hugely aesthetic sport, both on and off the field. On the field, it’s ballet on horseback, at 45mph.’ And off? ‘Our clothing has that kind of smart, Thomas Crown Affair spirit.When we’re going to events, we have to reflect what the sport is: an encapsulation of a type of luxury in people’s minds. I’d be loath to get rid of that – I think it’s a great asset to the game.’ However, this is not about remaining stuck in the past – as his efforts have shown, Borwick is a moderniser. ‘Polo’s a modern sport with a lot of historical ties. And this watch represents exactly that,’ he adds, looking at his Polo S. It sounds as if our matinee idol may finally have found his dream timepiece. piaget.com