It’s an open secret that popular luxury watches have an uncanny ability to turn up in Hollywood movies, even in the strangest contexts. Take the infamous case of Italian actor Rudolph Valentino, who insisted on wearing his personal Cartier Tank in the silent film The Sheik. This wasn’t a matter of savvy product placement. Indeed, the movie takes place in a time before the wristwatch even existed; however, Valentino was so attached to his watch that he refused to take it off for filming. Another curious case involves a charioteer wearing a watch in the 1959 epic Ben-Hur, a movie set in ancient Rome!
More recently, the use of watches in movies has become something of an art, with costume and prop departments carrying out in-depth research beforehand. This was the case for the 2018 movie Crazy Rich Asians. In the film, one of the characters gifts her husband an extremely rare Paul Newman Rolex Daytona ref. 6263 – a very fitting choice for the movie. However, with a price tag of approximately $500,000, the producers opted to borrow the watch from the private collection of a Singapore-based collector. But what about on the small screen? There are entire forum threads dedicated to spotting and discussing watches that show up in popular TV and streaming series. Debates often rage about who’s wearing what, as well as whether the watch a deliberate choice or just happened to belong to the actor already.
Whatever the case, as far as watch fans are concerned, seeing a nice watch on your favorite TV show always makes for extra good viewing. Here’s a couple of our favorite examples.
Hawaiian shirt – check. Ferrari 308 GTS – check. Impeccably combed mustache – check. If you grew up in the 1980s, chances are you watched Magnum P.I. Heck, they still regularly air reruns of the show; it’s that good. American actor Tom Selleck played the lead role of Thomas Sullivan Magnum III, a laidback and loveable private detective who lives on the estate of a rich benefactor in Hawaii. Whether he’s solving crimes, causing headaches for Higgins, or charming the many beautiful women who appear in his life, Magnum always has on his father’s treasured Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675 Pepsi. In real life, the watch came from the costume department. In an interview with the FHH Journal a few years back, Selleck confirmed that he got to keep the watch and still wears it to this day – very cool!
Jerry Seinfeld, co-creator and star of the irreverent TV comedy Seinfeld, often wore Breitling watches on set, including a Breitling Navitimer and Breitling Chronomat. Known for his love of cars and watches, the consensus seems to be that these watches were from Seinfeld’s personal collection and in no way the result of some sort of product-placement arrangement with Breitling. Considering Seinfeld was starring in a fictionalized show about his own life, it would make sense. Whatever the case, there’s no denying that seeing those Breitlings on his wrist helped spark a few people’s interest and probably even led to a purchase or two.
Mad Men, an award-winning show that portrays the crazy lives of the advertisers of Madison Avenue in the 1960s, received regular praise for its stunning attention to detail. This includes the choice of watches worn by the cast, which are not only historically correct but also very authentic to the characters who wore them. The story centers around Don Draper – portrayed impeccably by Jon Hamm – a fast-talking, immaculately dressed ad man with some demons. Throughout the seven seasons, he can be seen wearing several different vintage models, including a “Tuxedo” version of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Memovox, a yellow gold Reverso Classique (also by JLC), a Rolex Explorer I, and an Omega Seamaster DeVille ref. 166.020. There’s no question here: The costume and prop departments chose these timepieces specifically rather than raiding the actor’s personal collection.
House of Cards
Next on our list is House of Cards (HOC), a political thriller set in Washington D.C. that follows Congressman Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey until he was booted from the show in 2017). HOC is all about power and influence in the world of politics, so it comes as no surprise that matching the right watch to the right character was seen as key to creating a certain image. Underwood, for example, always has an IWC on his wrist. More specifically, he wears a Portugieser Chronograph Automatic as his daily watch. Meanwhile, the show’s fictional president, Garrett Walker, dons a manual-winding rose gold Cartier Tank Louis XL at his inauguration. Then there’s Doug Stamper, Underwood’s Chief of Staff as president, who sports a Breitling Navitimer World Chrono GMT. Whether American politicians wear these types of watches in real life? Well, that is a topic for another day.
As one of the most powerful – and scary – men on TV, it’s only fitting that Tony Soprano, played by the late, great James Gandolfini, had a watch befitting his personality and stature. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the Mafia boss regularly wears a solid yellow gold Rolex Day-Date. The watch of choice for presidents, kings, and underworld crime bosses, the Day-Date (or Rolex “President,” as it’s sometimes known) has been a symbol of power since its introduction in the mid-1950s. In real life, however, James Gandolfini had a pretty close relationship with Kobold, an American brand known for making tool watches that are about as far from a Rolex President as it gets.