Film characters have always had a big influence on popular culture, whether heroes, villains or memorable supporting roles. And, as they say, with great influence comes great… product placements? Yes. Especially luxury watch product placements. There are a number of examples of watches gaining huge and enduring fan-bases due to being featured on the wrist of an action star or lead character. Some of these famous movie watches are now among the best-known watches worldwide.
So grab some popcorn, put your phone on silent and move to the edge of your seat. These are the stories behind the most famous movie watches.
#1: The Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538 in Dr. No (1962)
“Bond. James Bond.” The way the charismatic secret agent played by Sean Connery first introduced himself to Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson), is one of the most iconic phrases ever spoken in the history of cinema. The success of the very first James Bond film launched a franchise with over 25 films and counting, with several actors having played the role, along with the many watches that have accompanied them.
It’s not difficult to understand why Bond is so legendary: he wears stylish suits while he fights evil and kills bad guys, often in the most beautiful places on Earth, usually with gorgeous women who are smitten with him before the closing credits. He is a master spy, and uses cutting-edge, secret technology provided to him by Her Majesty’s Secret Service R&D department, headed by the resourceful “Q”.
His watches often feature some sort of useful spy gadget. While there have been several different timepieces worn throughout the series, the first famous movie watch from Dr. No is the Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538.
Bond wore the Ref. 6538, one of the first Submariners produced, and a classic Rolex, in several editions of the film series, including From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, and Thunderball.
James Bond made the Submariner an icon of horology, effectively granting it worldwide cult status. It is still in high demand today, as a Ref. 6538 sold in 2018 at a public auction for over a million dollars. This exorbitant amount was paid even though the timepiece was just a regular one, without the technological modifications used for espionage from the movies.
More on Rolex:
The Most Popular Rolex Watches
Rolex Quartz Watches: The Complete Guide
How Much Can I Get for My Used Rolex Submariner?
#2: The Tag Heuer Monaco 1133 in Le Mans (1971)
Le Mans is still one of the most iconic racing movies ever made despite being over 50 years old. It is about the endurance sports car race of the same name, and stars Steve McQueen as race car driver Michael Delaney. The popularity of the movie catapulted TAG Heuer (back then just ‘Heuer’) into the public eye, by way of Mr. McQueen’s right wrist.
Steve McQueen, who in his private life was actually a Rolex wearer, personally chose the Monaco 1133 from a selection of watches. Furthermore, Jack Heuer, who designed the model, delivered it to the set himself.
The original TAG Heuer Monaco model, the 1133, has character in its unconventional setup. The dials for the minute and hour counters are at 9 and 3 o’clock respectively (on a square casing, push-buttons are usually at the 2 and 4 o’clock positions while the crown is located at 9 o’clock). This famous movie watch has chambered square and oblong hour markers and a hand-applied date window at 6 o’clock. The shape was revolutionary at the time for a chronograph watch. It was also one of the first watches with water resistance.
A Tag Heuer Monaco also appears on the wrist of another famous leading character, as Walter White’s Watch in Breaking Bad. Although White is a modern television character, it’s worth mentioning here. The show was extremely popular and lauded as one of the best of all time. Furthermore, it led to another award winning spin-off series Better Call Saul, keep the Tag Heuer Monaco relevant in popular culture today.
#3: The Rolex Daytona Chronograph Ref. 6239 in Winning (1969)
The most expensive Rolex of all time, a Daytona Chronograph Ref. 6239, recently auctioned for over $17 million. It belonged to famous actor Paul Newman who received it as a gift from his wife, actress Joanne Woodward, who paid about $300 for it in 1968 (just over $2500 in 2023 dollars). It has a cream dial and black contrasting counters with only one accent, the red Daytona writing above the hour dial.
One reason the Paul Newman Daytona is so special is because Joanne had it engraved to read “Drive Carefully Me.” This was in honor of her and Paul appearing together in the 1969 movie Winning. The odd wording leaves the exact meaning unclear, and open to interpretation. Also, Rolex was the sponsor of the Daytona 24 Hours. This made Joanne feel like this model was the perfect choice for him, and his character as well.
Additionally, Newman was an avid race-car driver himself. That he played one in the movie only adds to the significance. He wore this famous movie watch for about fifteen years, then gave it to James Cox, who was soon to wed Newman’s daughter Nell. In 2016, it sold for $17 million, with the majority going to the charitable Nell Newman Foundation.
More on the Rolex Daytona:
Which is the Best Rolex Daytona to Buy?
The Rolex Daytona La Montoya – Watch Modification at Its Finest
#4: The Seiko 7a28-7000 in Aliens (1986)
The dark, suspenseful thriller Aliens, directed by James Cameron, was the second film in the groundbreaking “Alien” movie franchise. Sigourney Weaver captivated audiences with her award-winning portrayal of Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley in the suspenseful thriller set in space in the far future.
The Seiko 7a28-7000 that she wore became known as the “Ripley” after the huge success of the movie. It was a fitting watch with its futuristic looks, designed by the famous industrial designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, a technological prodigy. Moreover, it was the first quartz chronograph ever, a marvel of technology at the time.
Back to basics: What is a Chronograph Watch?
Both the case and movement are steel and each indicating function has a separate motor. The button at 10 o’clock temporarily stopped the chronograph hands’ motion as actual timing continued. This allows the wearer to check the time with ease, providing a sort of a “split-second” function. Additionally, while the main hands moved at the typical quartz pace, the one within the sub-dial at 3 o’clock moved at 20 steps per second.
In short, the Seiko 7a28-7000 is a unique timepiece, treasured by Alien fans and horology enthusiasts alike. Seiko re-released the famous movie watch in 2015, featuring a different movement. The aesthetic is very similar to the original, so today it is fairly easy to find a Ripley at an affordable price.
#5: The Seiko 6105 in Apocalypse Now (1979)
The oppressive Southeast Asian jungle is the setting for the dark, intense Vietnam War movie Apocalypse Now. Martin Sheen played Captain Willard, on a mission to travel by riverboat and assassinate Marlon Brando’s character Colonel Kurtz. It was a seminal film for the time, and is still heralded as one of the best war movies ever made. The tone is set by a hypnotic soundtrack, much of which is performed by the Doors.
This classic and historic timepiece was produced between 1968 and 1977. Seiko has since re-released it, so they’re abundant and easy to find today. The vintage charm of the original, with its cushion case and recessed crown at four o’clock, is still one of its strongest appeals. Furthermore, it is not difficult to find some original ones in good condition in the $1,000 range.
#6: The Omega Speedmaster Professional in Apollo 13 (1995)
Apollo 13 is a docudrama of the arduous and heroic true story of the seventh crewed mission in the Apollo space program that was supposed to land on the moon. It stars Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton star as the three astronauts. The film was a huge hit and instant classic, and won several awards.
Omega was an official supplier to NASA, and, as such, the crew wore the Omega Speedmaster Professional. The famous movie watch was technologically advanced for its time, and it passed the space agency’s rigorous tests for precision and reliability. Additionally, it functioned as a backup device to the ship’s on-board computer. It was essential to the mission as it was used to time the 14-seconds engine burst that was the difference between success and disaster in their safe return to Earth.
The Speedmaster featured in the movie was the original Moonwatch, which mounted the Omega Cal. 321 movement. Later editions replaced it with the 861, designed by Albert Piguet.
In 2019, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Omega released a limited edition Moonwatch series in platinum, with the original 321 caliber movement. While the price tag of over $50,000 might discourage some, this watch is classic and beautiful.
More on Omega Watches:
How Much Does an Omega Speedmaster Cost?
How to Sell an Omega Watch
#7: The Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller in Argo (2012)
Usually watches in movies are historically accurate, but sometimes people make mistakes. The more popular and successful a movie, the likelier it is for inconsistencies to be spotted. This is the case with Argo, the 2012 Oscar-winning movie.
Ben Affleck directed, produced, and starred in this film about the extraction mission of six American hostages held in the US Tehran Embassy in 1979. Tony Mendez, the mastermind of the extraction and played by Affleck, was wearing a Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller. The iconic timepiece was first unveiled at the Baselworld Watch and Jewellery Show in 2008, almost thirty years after the events depicted in the movie. Maybe he had such early access due to his decorated status as a CIA operative?
Jokes aside, it is not the only example of movie characters wearing watches before they existed. One of the most blatant instances is from the movie Ben Hur, where, set in the year 26 A.D. a Roman chariot driver is wearing a watch. Argo’s inaccuracy pales in comparison.
Despite the error in timing (pardon the pun), Argo still was well received and won awards, and the watch is still a classic. The Deepsea is one of Rolex’s improvements to the original Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller, with one of the deepest water-resistance of all mechanical watches in serial production today at 4875 meters. In 2022, Rolex dwarfed that depth-rating when it released the Deepsea Challenge – it’s first ever titanium watch
#8: The Porsche Design Orfina 7176s in Top Gun (1986)
The 1986 smash hit action-drama Top Gun was a roller coaster ride of a movie, and a huge box office hit. It had story, suspense, and thrilling action sequences to captivated audiences as the top grossing film of the year. Its popularity and influence maintained through the decades, so much so that it was re-released in Imax in 2013, and the 2022 sequel Top Gun: Maverick, some 36 years later, was another massive success.
The main character, Tom Cruise’s hot-blooded, fighter pilot Maverick was an instantly imitable character. His brash, pave-your-own path antics, and, as such, had great influence on popular culture at the time.
As a U.S. Navy fighter pilot, Maverick needed a top quality timepiece, able to withstand the rigors of the job. While everyone thought that the trusted wingman on his wrist was an IWC, it actually happened to be a Porsche Design Orfina. This should not come as a huge surprise, as the Porsche Design watches were very much in fashion during the Eighties.
The peculiar reference from the film was the 7176s, an avant-garde chronograph featuring a Lemania 5100 caliber movement mounted inside a PVD-coated stainless steel case. It featured a day/date indicator, chronograph registers at 12 o’clock, six o’clock, and nine o’clock, and a tachymeter scale.
If you could not find an original in good shape in the 2000s, it was likely due to the PVD coating. However, the company released a reissue in 2010.
#9: The IWC Pilot’s Mark XVIII in Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to 1986’s Top Gun, came out 36 years after the original, and was another massive success. Critics lauded the movie as two hours of non-stop, stress free fun and nostalgia. It came as a much needed reprieve from the doldrums of the pandemic. Tom Cruise reprised his role as Maverick, and so did his Porsche Design Orfina 7176s. Both seemed to have aged the same amount – that is, not much.
A new watch, however, was also featured in the sequel. In Top Gun Maverick, the pilot recruits wear the Pilot’s Mark XVII Top Gun SFTI Watch IW324712 from IWC. This watch is the civilian version of a special military edition IWC first released in 2018, which is only available to pilots who graduated from the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School.
Only 750 of these civilian collector’s edition IWC Pilot’s Mark XVIII Top Gun SFTI were produced. The watch features the Top Gun logo displayed at 9 o’clock, and engraved on the titanium caseback as well. The extremely hardy, scratch-resistant black zirconium oxide ceramic case measures 41mm in diameter. The dial is black and textured, with contrasting white markers for increased legibility, and the date display in red at 3 o’clock. The strap is olive green and textile. The movement is a self-winding caliber 35111 with 25 jewels and 50 hours of power reserve.
More famous watches from film:
Tony Stark’s Watches: What Robert Downey Jr. wears in the Iron Man Films
Patrick Bateman’s Watch in American Psycho: A Classic Rolex Datejust
Ryan Gosling’s Drive Watch: a Vintage Patek Philippe
The Watches of Fast Five (2011 film)
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso x Batman: Bruce Wayne’s Watch of Choice
I just signed up and am enjoying the content. May be looking for one of those Seiko 6105’s soon.