Watches generally hold two positions in movies
: they’re either part of the story, or part of the character. In either case, given the right circumstances, movie watches can reach icon status for watch enthusiasts and movie buffs
alike. It can be downright astonishing what screen time can do for a watch’s popularity and value, especially on the wrist of the right actor.
But things have changed since the mid-1990s; whereas the choice to use a watch in a movie was once a pure wardrobe decision, it’s now often the product of contractual marketing agreements. Generally, collectors are most interested in watches from before the era of product placement; it’s no surprise that the pieces picked for ad money just aren’t as cool. Below, we bring you our eight favorite silver screen timepieces that have made a huge impact on both cinema and the watch world.
Sly singlehandedly revived Panerai
from its struggles in the early ’90s. After their contract to supply the Italian Navy with wristwatches ended in ’93, Panerai looked to the civilian market, with little success. Sometime in ’95, Stallone happened to be in Rome (apparently in the market for a watch) when he spotted a Luminor in a shop window. He bought it on the spot to wear during his movie, Daylight
, and proceeded to order a bunch with his signature engraved on the case back. From there, the rest is basically history: Sly continued to dominate the action movie
scene, and Panerai has become one of the most recognizable luxury watch brands. Stallone can be seen wearing Panerai watches in numerous movies, including his latest, The Expendables 3
Sean Connery’s Bond Submariner
If there were a Holy Grail
of movie watches, the Rolex Submariner reference 6538 worn by Sean Connery in the first few Bond films
is a likely contender. With a tight budget and no help from Rolex during production on Dr. No
, producer Cubby Broccoli supposedly gave Connery the watch off of his own wrist — and it ended up becoming a legendary timepiece. Today, the average 6538, which is not very easy to find, can fetch six figures in the right condition. But the real deal, purportedly owned by the Broccoli family, is likely priceless. The Bond name
carries so much weight that it essentially launched watch marketing in movies with Pierce Brosnan’s Bond debut in Goldeneye; thanks to Jean-Claude Biver, OMEGA’s marketing genius, the laser-equipped OMEGA Seamaster set a precedent in promotional agreements that today is commonplace.
Steve McQueen’s Le Mans Monaco
The “King of Cool” basically has a Midas touch when it comes to watches. In fact, he was never seen wearing the Rolex Explorer II reference 1655 — it’s known as the “McQueen” Explorer II because of an auction house marketing ploy. As for the Heuer Monaco
, there was no mistaking its presence on his wrist in the movie Le Mans
. McQueen originally turned down an offer from Omega, thinking they were using him for promotional reasons, and then opted for the Monaco. Although the Monaco received all the screen time, a number of on set photos reveal McQueen’s true personal preference as his Submariner reference 5512. However, his mark had already been made, and the Monaco owes its provenance to him.
Alec Baldwin’s Gold Rolex
Rolex has become an achievement watch for many people. To earn one, according to Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross
, one must “always be closing”. In probably the most epic de-motivational speech of all time, Baldwin flaunts his yellow gold Rolex Day-Date in Ed Harris’ face, telling him it’s worth more than his car. If you’re fortunate enough to own a gold Rolex, we hope it’s not because you emulated Baldwin’s character to get there.
Martin Sheen’s Apocalypse Now Seiko 6105
When it comes to iconic watches on a budget, look no further than the Seiko 6105
. Not only does it ooze vintage cool, but Martin Sheen rocked one as Captain Ben Willard, the Army Spec Ops officer serving during the Vietnam War in the classic Apocalypse Now
. A 6105 in good condition can be found in the $700-$900 range, which is rare for a quality vintage diver with such an interesting history.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Seiko H558
The Seiko H558 quartz diver is arguably pretty cool on its own, but, let’s face it, there’s no way it’d be as sought after today if it weren’t for Arnold. It’s crazy that an otherwise average Seiko sells for roughly double its original retail price on today’s secondhand market. The Governator wore the H558 (or possibly its brother, the H601) in a number of ’80s action blockbusters, such as Predator
, The Running Man
, and Commando
. Given how many movies he’s been in, it may have the widest range of movie appearances out of any single watch.
Christopher Walken’s “Hidden” Gold Watch in Pulp Fiction
The “Gold Watch” scene
from Pulp Fiction
— truly one of the great movie moments
of the ’90s. Among a collage of punched-up scenes, it stands out for its surprising dark humor and Christopher Walken’s utterly captivating monologue. The gold WWI Lancet trench watch is almost as memorable as its hiding spot…and serves as the perfect catalyst for a dangerous trip back to Bruce Willis’s old apartment.
The Apollo 13 Speedmasters
And perhaps the most obvious choice: Apollo 13
and the OMEGA Speedmaster. For a movie looking to capture accurate details of such an historic event as the incredible return of the Apollo 13 crew, getting the correct Velcro-strapped Speedy was a must. Although OMEGA may have had a promotional agreement in place, it would have been a major misstep to ignore the only mechanical watch certified for spaceflight
by NASA. After proving its capabilities numerous times, there’s no doubt the Speedmaster is a legend, and being prominently featured in an Academy Award-winning film only adds to its legacy.