Ask anyone to name their favourite characters, scenes or movie moments. It will not take long before you have a list as long as your arm. But ask them about the most famous movie watches to grace the silver screen, and they may need a bit longer to think about it.
In this article, we do all the hard work for you and discuss 13 of the most famous movie watches to appear on film. From Dr No to Interstellar, we scoured more than 60 years of cinema history and picked our favourite designs.
We kick off our list of the most famous watches in cinema with a classic design from a truly iconic movie. Like many of the movies we have chosen, time plays a significant role in Back to the Future – which seems more than apt since our focus is timepieces. However, unlike most of the famous watches from movies we feature, Marty McFly’s Casio CA53W Twincept Databank will not put too big a dent in your bank balance.
Available for as little as £20 online, the Casio CA53W Twincept Databank features a calendar, alarm, stopwatch and calculator. It also boasts a stand-out ‘80s design. Both the movie and the watch have developed a cult following and are beloved by retro-enthusiasts with a nostalgic passion for the decade that fashion forgot.
In a film centred on a character fixated on status and material symbols of success and wealth, the choice of watch would always be a big deal. And we think American Psycho got it just right with the Rolex Datejust. An elegant and eye-catching design that perfectly captures the excess of ’80s New York, it looks fabulous wrapped around Patrick Bateman’s wrist.
However, the movie’s shocking violence meant Rolex almost refused to permit the watch’s inclusion. In the end, a compromise was reached. The watch would not appear while Bateman committed vile or violent acts. As a notoriously extreme movie, this certainly limited Datejust’s screen time. But not enough to prevent it from becoming one of cinema’s most famous movie watches.
Matt Damon is regularly photographed wearing TAG watches in real life and has a history of playing characters who prefer a TAG timepiece, too. Perhaps the best known of these is Jason Bourne, the American spy who suffers from amnesia but remembered to wear the same TAG Heuer Link Chronograph in all three of the Bourne movies.
To be fair to Mr Bourne, it is a cool and classy TAG design that is an excellent choice for any forgetful secret agent who finds themselves constantly getting into scrapes with the government, assassins and all kinds of deadly characters. Elegant but robust, it is a watch that refuses to compromise on style while offering total performance.
Apocalypse Now was lauded for the unflinching insight into the evils of war and the catastrophic harm caused by the Vietnam conflict. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the movie is packed full of authentic details that ensured it resonated with those who experienced the horrors firsthand. So it comes as no surprise that the Seiko 6105 was Captain Willard’s watch of choice.
Popular amongst the US soldiers serving in Vietnam because of its classic styling and renowned durability, the Seiko 6105 dive watch was also sold in stores on American military bases. This guaranteed that a high proportion of servicemen wore the watch when it came time to ship out.
Another movie in which time plays a significant role in the narrative. Dr Stephen Strange is a Marvel magician who demonstrates considerable control over time and space. What could a powerful time-bender want with a watch? we hear you ask. Have you seen the Jaeger-Lecoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual? It is beautiful. Even if we were an all-seeing, all-knowing time lord, we would still want that thing clasped around our wrist.
While one of the Jaeger-Lecoultre’s stand-out features is the moon phase reader in the face’s upper third, the real winner is the overall aesthetic. Crisp, clean and sharp, the design is a wonderful homage to traditional timepiece style and looks fantastic when paired with a black leather strap. Dr Strange, you made an excellent choice.
“I feel the need – the need for speed.” It is one of cinema’s all-time great lines. And it appears in a movie chock-full of them (“Hey, Goose, you big stud…” gets an honourable mention, for sure). Maverick’s pithy appeal to the allure of fast vehicles, on-the-edge action and life-or-death danger also ties in nicely with his choice of watch, the Orfina Porsche Design Chronograph 1.
Designed to be a “speedometer on the wrist,” the Orfina Porsche Design Chronograph 1 was created in collaboration with Swiss specialists Orfina (although Porsche Design has since brought design and manufacture in-house.) Originally released in the early ’70s, the model is still updated and released regularly, though none of the later designs quite capture the Top Gun magic of the version sported by Tom Cruise.
While most incarnations of 007 chose to wear either a Rolex or Omega, Seikos have been featured in Bond movies several times. No more famously than in the wild (and somewhat wacky) space shenanigans of Moonraker. While some critics decry the film as a little too silly, we have a definite soft spot for the movie. If only for the fact that it offers Jaws a shot at redemption and sets him up with a love interest.
In the film, Q ensures the Seiko M354 Memory Bank Calendar also comes in handy by equipping it with an explosive charge that enables Bond to escape danger. In reality, you will have to make do with a calendar function and a supremely cool (but slightly dated) display.
The second Bond timepiece on this list (to be honest, we could have written an entire article on 007’s watches), the Rolex Submariner 6538, is the most easily identifiable of the secret agent’s watches. First worn in Dr No, Sean Connery’s debut appearance as the world’s favourite MI6 spy, it also featured in the next four Bond movies. However, the face was paired with a new strap in each subsequent appearance.
In the franchise’s early days, Ian Fleming ensured Bond always wore a Rolex. Though he never explained the decision, the Rolex brand complements 007’s smooth and sophisticated style. In other words, the two are a natural fit.
Gimmick or genius? No, we are not talking about Ghostbusters (which is clearly genius), we are referring to the undeniably ugly Seiko M516 Voice Note. While not regarded as one of horology’s most appealing designs, the Seiko M516 boasts a nostalgic charm. It is a watch that makes you ask: is that really what we thought the future would look like?
Capable of recording audio (poorly), the watch also features a stopwatch and backlight. It is not what we would usually consider a pioneering watch. That said, some of the less obvious details do stand out. The materials, for instance. While they do not look much at first glance, the casing and strap are made from carbon fibre plastic and stainless steel, respectively. That is a pretty ahead-of-its-time design decision for a watch released in the early ’80s.
While we have mocked the Seiko M516 Voice Note slightly here, there is no doubt that it is a cinema classic and one of the most famous watches in movies. Try to pick up a Seiko M516 today, and you are looking at big bucks. Collectors love them. And, to be honest, a part of us does too.
If you want a watch that manages to achieve something completely different, look no further than the Omega La Magique. Utterly unique, La Magique features a circular face framed by a square case and boasts minimalist markings. While it is not to everyone’s taste, we absolutely love it. Most of our appreciation for the watch comes from its distinctive appearance, but the fact that it also appeared in Scarface gives it a considerable boost up the famous movie watches rankings.
Worn by Al Pacino’s iconic anti-hero, Tony Montana, the watch embodies the character’s iconoclastic approach to the criminal underworld. He does not play by anyone’s rules but his own and is willing to do anything to reach the top. And stay there. La Magique also gets a considerable amount of time on-screen. Most noticeably when Tony Montana, one arm in a sling and blood splattering his otherwise pristine blue suit, utters his infamous “every dog has its day” line.
The conflict between the protagonist’s two identities is one of the main themes running through the entire Batman series. Batman and Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne and Batman. Is one more dominant, authentic or honest than the other? Will Bruce Wayne ever live a real life or enjoy a loving relationship while Batman exists? If only he could switch between the two with no repercussions whatsoever. If only he were like the Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso.
The Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso boasts a pretty snazzy swivelling case that allows you to flip the watch’s face. Initially designed to enable polo players to wear beautiful watches without worrying about damaging the glass and dial, the model is now a design icon, and the flippable face speaks more to history and aesthetics than a need to prevent costly polo accidents. Still, is there a more suitable metaphor for the inner trials of the multi-billionaire Caped Crusader than the Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso?
If you had to choose one watch to be launched into space with, what would it be? It may sound like a stupid question, but the boffins at NASA had to think long and hard about it. Their answer? The Omega Speedmaster.
Originally designed as a racing chronograph, the Speedmaster became the only NASA-certified watch suitable for space missions in 1965. The watch was worn during the first American spacewalk and by Buzz Aldrin when he first stepped foot on the moon. Today, it remains one of a handful of NASA-accredited watches recommended for space missions. It is the only model permitted for Extravehicular Activity (EVA), such as spacewalks and external repairs to stations.
While all this is enough to ensure that the Omega Speedmaster goes down in history as one of the world’s most famous watches, an appearance in the 1995 smash-hit Apollo 13 cemented its legacy by featuring it on the big screen.
While many of the movies listed here are concerned with time, we are not sure any incorporate watches as plot points. Step up Interstellar. Whether you loved or loathed this mind-bending ode to Kubrick’s influence on sci-fi and cinema, you can’t say it wasn’t a visual feast. From the spectacular digitally-enhanced setpieces to the rural landscapes and sets that open the movie, it looked incredible.
So the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Day Date was definitely a good choice. Bold, brilliant and topped off with a smart metal band, the watch was worn by the film’s lead, Matthew McConaughey. However, this was not the watch he gifted to his daughter during one of the movie’s more critical and emotional scenes. There does not seem to be much information available on that particular watch, so if any eagle-eyed cinephiles have details, let us know.
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