Nearly every action hero comes equipped with a top-shelf timepiece, whether it’s Sean Connery battling the mysterious Dr. No as James Bond, Tom Cruise doing barrel rolls in a F-14A Tomcat in Top Gun or Sly Stallone taking down villains in The Expendables. You know the costume department has aced it when the timepiece matches the character’s persona. Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) opted for an elegant and refined Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso—a metaphor for the wrist that illustrated his dual existence. Meanwhile, Robert Downey Jr.’s Urwerk 110-RG sported a wild design and revolutionary mechanics, which reflected the mad genius of Tony Stark (aka Iron Man). In the case of Tom Hanks’s Omega Speedmaster in Apollo 13, no metaphor was necessary—the watch saved the lives of all on board the real-life failed lunar mission on which the film is based.
Some watches that achieve a big-screen debut in an action film, however, take on a larger-than-life role beyond the screen, firmly cementing their status both in Hollywood history and in watch-collecting circles for decades . . . and potentially for centuries to come. Connery’s ref. 6538 Rolex Submariner has become a holy grail for collectors, while Omega has cornered modern-day James Bond with its Seamaster.
Here are the watches that made it to the big screen on Hollywood’s toughest heroes.
Dr. No (1962): Sean Connery, Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538
Sean Connery introduced James Bond into the Hollywood film cannon when he appeared in the first instalment of the iconic series in 1962’s Dr. No. Connery wore a Rolex Submariner ref. 6538 on the big screen while tracking down the mysterious Dr. No bent on destroying the U.S. space program. The ref. 6538, which was first produced sometime around 1953, would go on accompanying Connery as Bond on his missions in films such as From Russia with Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball.
The films ultimately solidified the Rolex Submariner ref. 6538 as an icon in its own right, especially in watch-collecting circles. An example of the particular model sold for $1,068,500 (around £821,000) at Christie’s on June 13, 2018; it is the most expensive Rolex Submariner ever sold to date.
Le Mans (1971): Steve McQueen, Tag Heuer Monaco
Every year, brands come out with new collections referencing Steve McQueen’s style, but many of those brands never existed during McQueen’s life. Tag Heuer, however, can lay claim to having laid its hands on McQueen’s wrist in what is arguably the most famous automotive racing film of all time. Not only did the actor wear the now instantly recognisable square-faced Tag Heuer Monaco on his wrist, but he also wore the Swiss watchmaker’s name and crest on his racing suit in the film. It has been said that McQueen chose the piece from a selection of timepieces flown to the set, which were accompanied by Jack Heuer himself.
A Rolex Submariner purchased by McQueen and engraved with a special message by the actor to his stuntman, Loren Janes, was set to be sold at Phillips on October 25. It was expected to be a blockbuster sale, but questions about the timepiece’s provenance forced the auction house to recently take it off the block.
Top Gun (1986): Tom Cruise, Porsche Design Orfina 7176s
Arguably one of the greatest flight films of all time, Top Gun firmly solidified Tom Cruise as one of the biggest film stars of his generation. Most people assume that Cruise wore an IWC to complete his training missions as the hotshot fighter-pilot-in-training, Maverick, because the Swiss watchmaker has issued several Top Gun–branded timepieces over the years, but it was actually a Porsche Design Orfina 7176s. Made by watch manufacturer Orfina for Porsche design in the ’80s, the timepiece featured a self-winding Lemania caliber 5100 and came in PVD-coated stainless steel with a day/date indicator, chronograph registers at 12 o’clock, six o’clock and nine o’clock, and a tachyometer scale. A rerelease of the timepiece was issued in late 2010.
Fun fact: A sequel titled Top Gun: Maverick is slated for release in 2020 with Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer reprising their roles as Maverick and Iceman, respectively. Maverick’s 2020 timepiece is currently still classified information, but Porsche Design would be wise to get in on the action again.
Apollo 13 (1995): Tom Hanks, Omega Speedmaster
Tom Hanks appropriately wore an Omega Speedmaster while re-creating astronaut Jim Lovell’s ill-fated journey aboard Apollo 13, when an oxygen-tank leak caused the crew to abort their lunar mission and return to Earth in a harrowing almost fatal experience. The Omega Speedmaster was the timepiece of choice by NASA for astronauts venturing into the new space frontier thanks to its ability to withstand intense sunlight, cold and g-force. While it is most famous for having adorned the wrists and space suits of astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins for Apollo 11’s first lunar landing on July 20, 1969, it proved lifesaving for Apollo 13.
It was astronaut Jack Swigert’s Omega Speedmaster that saved the lives of everyone aboard Apollo 13. Once the spaceship lost power, the astronauts were only able to burn the engine for 14 seconds at a time to make navigational trajectory adjustments to return safely to Earth before turning it off. Lovell and his fellow astronauts used Swigert’s Omega Speedmaster chronograph to measure the short intervals of time. Houston, problem solved.
In 1970, Omega was awarded NASA’s Silver Snoopy Award—one of the greatest honours the space program can bestow on employees and contractors for outstanding achievements related to human flight safety and mission success—for safely bringing the astronauts of Apollo 13 back to Earth. In 2015, Omega unveiled a Snoopy edition of the Omega Speedmaster, featuring a rendering of the famous Peanuts character on a dial counter and on the caseback, to commemorate its historic role for the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission.
Expect to see the Omega Speedmaster dominate the big screen again this year in Damien Chazelle’s First Man- a biopic, set to debut in late 2019, in which Ryan Gosling takes on the role of Neil Armstrong.
Blood Diamond (2006): Leonardo DiCaprio, Breitling Chrono Avenger
Starring as Danny Archer, a gunrunner-turned-diamond-smuggler during the Sierra Leone Civil War, Leonardo DiCaprio sported a 44 mm titanium Breitling Chrono Avenger with a brown leather strap and black dial. DiCaprio is typically associated with Tag Heuer, for which he was a longtime brand ambassador, but the heavy-duty Breitling looked at home amidst all of the action in Blood Diamond. The Chrono Avenger accompanied Archer as he braved the conflict zones of the Sierra Leone to fight warlords and his former boss Colonel Coetzee, who was on the hunt for an elusive pink diamond that Archer is ordered to deliver.
Casino Royale (2006): Daniel Craig Omega Seamaster Professional
Pierce Brosnan first wore an Omega Seamaster with a blue dial as James Bond in 1995’s GoldenEye, thanks to Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming. Modern-day James Bond Daniel Craig followed suit, but he wore not one but two Omega Seamasters—the Seamaster Diver 300M Co-Axial and a Planet Ocean 600M Co-Axial—in his 2006 debut as the big screen’s most famous spy in Casino Royale. In one scene, when Bond encounters Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), she sizes him up, taking careful note of his watch. “MI6 looks for maladjusted young men that give little thought to sacrificing others in order to protect Queen and country . . . you know, former SAS types with easy smiles and expensive watches. Rolex?” she asks him, eyeing his watch. “Omega,” replies Bond.
In 2008’s Quantum Solace, Craig wore a Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M Omega Co-Axial with a classic black dial and bezel, and in 2012’s Skyfall, 007 relied on a Planet Ocean 600M and an Aqua Terra, both powered by Omega co-axial calibers.
In Craig’s most recent turn as James Bond in 2015’s Spectre, he again wears a Seamaster as he takes on global crime boss Blofeld (Christopher Waltz). A limited-edition 300 Spectre watch (around £5750) with a rare lollipop seconds hand worn on a handsome black-and-gray NATO strap and the Omega Aqua Terra 150m with a blue dial accompanied Bond on his latest MI6 mission.
And based on the latest teasers for 2019’s Bond 25, it looks like Craig will be wearing an Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M Co-Axial Master Chronometer in steel (around £5000).
The Expendables I (2010): Sylvester Stalone, Panerai PAM 332
When Panerai launched the commercial production its watches for the public in 1993, just two years later Sylvester Stallone spotted a Luminor in Rome and purchased it to wear in his movie Daylight. A known Panerai collector ever since, Sly wore a PAM 332 in the first instalment of The Expendables, featuring an impressive lineup of tough-guy A-listers that effectively saw the revival of Stallone’s image as the ultimate action hero (incredibly, Sly was 63 at the time the film was released).
The Panerai Luminor 1950 Regatta Rattrapante that adorns Sly’s wrist is a 44 mm timepiece—an oversized watch to match his oversized, vein-popping, 16-inch biceps. Limited to 500 pieces, the split-second chronograph timepiece comes in a case with a DLC treatment and features the Panerai OP XVIII caliber. It also comes equipped with an Incabloc anti-shock device—which comes in handy when you’re a professional ass-kicker.
The Expendables 2 (2012): Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone PAM 382 Bronzo
Following in Sly’s steps, Jason Statham wears a 47 mm Panerai PAM 382 Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo in The Expendables 2. Supporting actors Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, and Terry Crews also don the PAM 382—although the watch is featured most prominently on both Stallone and Statham. While the PAM 382 Bronzo didn’t help the Expendables take down any henchmen, its rusty patina and 47 mm case certainly looked the part.
The special-edition dive watch, released in 2011, is known for its brushed-bronze case and is powered by Panerai’s p.9000 in-house caliber. The automatic movement features a 72-hour power reserve and has been used in both the Panerai Luminor 1950 and Radiomir models. Just 1,000 of the PAM 382 Bronzo were ever made, and they’ve since become collector’s items.
The Expendables III (2014): Sylvester Stallone, Richard Mille RM 032
In the third instalment of The Expendables, villain Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) is back to destroy the Expendables, and the only way for Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) to take down Stonebanks is with fresh recruits. Ross assembles a new crew of tech-savvy youngbloods—former U.S. Marine John Smilee (Kellan Lutz), nightclub bouncer Luna (Ronda Rousey), computer expert Thorn (Glen Powell) and weapons expert Mars (Victor Ortiz)—to battle the old-school Stonebanks.
For his latest turn as Barney Ross, Stallone chose to wear a Richard Mille—a watchmaker known for blending old-world watchmaking expertise with new-world technical innovation. Sly’s Mille of choice was the Richard Mille RM 032, a skeletonised dive watch complete with a flyback chronograph and annual calendar. You might think that a watch costing around £95,000 would be too precious to brave explosions, heavy-duty combat fire, runaway trains, parkour-style building jumps and pretty much every stunt you could ever dream up, but only a 50 mm titanium piece at 17.80 mm thick such as this could handle that kind of action on Sly’s pumped-up wrists.
Stallone announced he was leaving the franchise—which has grossed around £618 million at the box office—and not returning for a fourth instalment despite a lucrative pay deal, according to Deadline.
Ensuring that he and Richard Mille would still see some action together, Stallone and the watchmaker recently unveiled the ultimate survivalist timepiece, the RM 25-01, which comes with a tourbillon, a mountable compass, a level and a cache of water-purification tablets, retailing somewhere in the region of £750,000.
Argo (2012): Ben Affleck, Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller
Did you spot the time traveller in Argo? When Ben Affleck was directing his Oscar Award–winning film, he probably didn’t have a lot of time on his hands to dial in on what kind of timepiece he was going to wear and how it would fit into the film. Watch enthusiasts balked when the actor wore a modern-day Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller (the model was first introduced in 2008) on the big screen as Tony Mendez, the extractor called upon by the U.S. government to rescue 66 American hostages from the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979. “Pretty nifty for a spy in ’79 to ’80 to have a watch that won’t come out for 30 years,” said one commenter on Rolexforums. “Still better than a Daytona in ancient Rome!” read another. The latter is a reference to a famous blooper in the 1959 epic drama Ben Hur, in which a Roman chariot driver can be seen wearing a wristwatch . . . in AD 26.
But all jokes aside, Affleck’s Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller is still a handsome timepiece—albeit being a dive watch in a film that has nothing to do with the sea.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014): Bremont Kingsman Special Editions
Director Matthew Vaughn’s first instalment in the Kingsman franchise saw its special agents dapperly dressed in the best of the best of British attire—the original Kingsman is about a spy network whose front is a high-class London tailor’s shop. Scenes from the movie include shots at Huntsman on Savile Row. So it was only natural that Vaughn sought out British watchmaker Bremont for timepieces to be worn by his leading men. For the film, Bremont developed three new special-edition Kingsman watches—a world timer (worn by Kingsman agents Colin Firth and Michael Caine), a DLC model worn by apprentice agent Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and a steel world timer for Kingsman’s head of new recruits (Mark Strong). While the placement of the watches in the film were unpaid, the British watchmaker was so closely connected to the film that Vaughn even invited Bremont cofounder Nick English for a brief guest appearance in the film as a Kingsman agent.
Stay tuned for the next Bremont appearance in an action film this Autumn, when it appears on the wrist of Tom Hardy in Ruben Fleischer’s Venom. The nose of one of Nick English’s vintage planes has already been painted with a WWII-fighter-plane-inspired “Venom face” by a Marvel artist to celebrate the next big-screen Bremont debut.
Doctor Strange (2016): Benedict Cumberbatch, Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Perpetual
Before Benedict Cumberbatch’s character Dr. Stephen Strange morphs into a superhero in the secret realm of Kamar-Taj, he is a world-famous neurosurgeon who is robbed of his career when a car accident deprives him of the use of his hands. On that fateful night, the distinguished Dr. Strange is seen wearing his Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Perpetual, which he carries with him into the dimension of Kamar-Taj. The slim 9.2 mm stainless-steel perpetual calendar features the day of the week at nine o’clock, the calendar at three o’clock, and the month at six o’clock. The timepiece also features a moonphase at 12 o’clock.
But it’s the watch’s inscription that ultimately reminds Dr. Strange of his earthly origins. Inscribed on its caseback is a message from Dr. Strange’s love interest, Christine (played by Rachel McAdams). “Time will tell you how much I love you, Christine,” it reads.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017): Robert Downey Jr., Urwerk UR-110RG
Robert Downey Jr. is not only renowned for his epic film career, but also for being a true watch aficionado. His collection includes everything from a Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX3 Tourbillon GMT (worn in Iron Man 2) and an Omega Speedmaster Moon Professional to a Rolex GMT Master II “Ghost” customised by Bamford Watch Department and a Bell & Ross BR 01-94 Titanium Orange (gifted to him by Ben Stiller after wrapping Tropic Thunder), to name just a few. But his biggest blockbuster was his Urwerk UR-110RG, which he wore as Iron Man in the Marvel Comics film Spider-Man: Homecoming.
The watch, hand-selected by the actor, was chosen to accompany Iron Man on his mission to combat evil. The company initially turned down Downey Jr.’s inquiry about the watch, suspecting they had received a prank call. But the star ultimately used his real-life superpowers to procure the timepiece for his on-set wardrobe.
It was the perfect instrument for Tony Stark aka Iron Man, the billionaire business magnate and inventor-turned-superhero. Crafted from lightweight titanium with an asymmetrical 18-karat rose-gold bezel, the watch presented a radical new way of telling time when it was first introduced in 2011. A rotating cube and orbiting satellite tell the time instead of traditional hands and markers, while a “control” board indicates night and day and an “oil change” indicator signals when the watch needs to be serviced.
In a real-life superhero move, Downey Jr. sold the watch at auction in May at Phillips’ Geneva Watch Auction: Seven for 150,000 CHF ($155,905 at current exchange) to benefit Manusodany, a nonprofit that funds development projects in Haiti.
Atomic Blonde (2017): Charlize Theron and James McEvoy, Carl F. Bucherer
Spoiler alert: While most watch brands’ only role in films is to adorn the wrists of the leading characters, Carl F. Bucherer was the leading character of Atomic Blonde. When Charlize Theron, as MI5 agent Lorraine Broughton, goes undercover in Berlin to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents, it’s a Carl F. Bucherer Manero CentralChrono worn by Sam Hargrave as James Gascoigne that ultimately conceals the coveted list.
But the watchmaker doesn’t just see the spotlight at the big reveal at the conclusion of the film. Theron gets a Manero Mabu, which she purchases from a Carl F. Bucherer watchmaker (played by Til Schweiger) who takes apart the timepiece to insert a coordinates tracker. Meanwhile, Theron’s character wears a Manero AutoDate with diamonds while taking down villains as a bleach-blonde femme fatale.
Director and stuntman David Leitch, a fan and brand ambassador of Carl F. Bucherer, also worked with the Swiss watchmaker during the making of his films John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2.
Dunkirk (2017): Tom Hardy, Omega CK2129
An authentic vintage Omega CK2129 accompanied Tom Hardy in his role as a British Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which tells the story of the evacuation of 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers from a German advance on the beaches of Dunkirk in May of 1940. In real life, approximately more than 110,000 pilot, navigator and soldier watches were delivered by Omega during World War II to Great Britain’s Military of Defence to support its air force and navy pilots during service.
The CK2129 was a useful tool for the RAF thanks to its unique rotating bezel enabling the timing of specific intervals, particularly during bombing raids. The bezel also featured a lock through its second crown so it wouldn’t be affected during accidental knocks. The timepiece’s cream dial with Arabic numerals and poire dials were ideal at the time for visibility.
Roughly 2,000 CK2129 models were delivered to the British Military of Defence at the beginning of World War II.
Batman Franchise: Val Kilmer, Christian Bale, Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso; Ben Affleck, Breguet
Bruce Wayne aka Batman first wore a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso timepiece in 1995 when Joel Schumacher first directed Val Kilmer in the iconic role. While not nearly as futuristic as Batman’s other toys, the Reverso’s flip face mirrors Batman’s dual personality.
Christian Bale solidified the relationship between Jaeger-LeCoultre and Batman when he wore three different Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso timepieces throughout all of the Dark Knight trilogy films directed by Christopher Nolan. For The Dark Knight Rises, Jaeger-LeCoultre created a special-edition Grande Reverso Ultra-Thin Tribute to 1931, which featured the black Batman symbol on the steel caseback, which can be flipped over and worn as the face.
Ben Affleck, however, did an about-face in his turn as Bruce Wayne in 2016’s Batman vs. Superman by wearing a tony Breguet Tradition Fusee Tourbillon 7047PT in platinum (around £146,000). While it was certainly a departure from tradition, it was a fitting choice for an action hero masquerading as a billionaire philanthropist, complete with a butler named Alfred Pennyworth.