The watch on a man’s wrist can speak volumes about his personality, style, and taste. That’s why watches have always been an essential accessory for men.
On the big screen, they play a pivotal role in shaping the character’s persona. From Steve McQueen’s robust Monaco to James Bond’s sleek Omega, watches have become storytelling devices in movies. Sometimes they’re subtle, and sometimes they steal the scene.
Here’s our list of the most iconic watches in movies that have left a lasting impression on the audiences.
1. Rolex Submariner ref 6538 in Dr. No (1962)
When it comes to James Bond, most people think of Omega watches, given that Agent 007 has been wearing the brand for the past 28 years. However, Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond novels, always put 007 in a “heavy Rolex Oyster”.
For the first James Bond movie, 1962’s Dr. No, they decided to honor this detail. As the first ever James Bond, Sean Connery wore the Rolex Submariner. This particular reference, 6538, eventually became known as the James Bond Submariner among watch circles.
As the secret agent needs to bounce from one environment to another seamlessly, a Rolex is the perfect tool at his wrist from the beach to a luxury dinner. While unlike other James Bond watches, this watch held no special powers or capabilities, this holds a special place as the original Bond watch. Sean Connery went on to wear this in his first four Bond movies. (photo: 007 on Instagram)
2. Porsche Design Orfina Chronograph in Top Gun (1986)
The Porsche Design Orfina Chronograph was introduced in 1972 and was the first PVD watch on the market. Fourteen years later, the pioneering blacked-out watch would feature prominently in Top Gun, which hit theaters in 1986.
Featured in the movie is the Valjoux 7750-powered piece, where it is seen in many close-up images. The PVD coating in black gave the watch a stealthy look and the chronograph was favored by pilots at the time for its durability and reliability.
Main character Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, played by Tom Cruise, was featured using the watch to time his takeoffs, landings, and other maneuvers as true pilots would have done. When the movie was remade in 2022 with Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise has the same watch on his wrist. (photo: 007 on Instagram)
3. TAG Heuer Monaco in Le Mans (1971)
Sometimes, it’s not the prop department that decides all the accessories for a character, but the actor himself. Racer and actor Steve McQueen chose the watch for pro racer Michael Delaney in the 1971 movie Le Mans and he chose TAG Heuer Monaco from the lineup of watches provided by the brand.
The reference 1133B featured in the film in 1971, when the company was still known as Jeuer. McQueen’s decision to wear it launched the model into popularity among watch enthusiasts. The square case, blue dial, and two-chronograph dial watch not only came from one of the racer’s sponsors but gave the character a sense of authenticity.
The Monaco also played a role in one of the film’s most famous scenes. In the scene, McQueen’s character is driving his Porsche 917K during the 24 hours of Le Mans race. The watch is prominently displayed on his wrist as he drives, and it helps add to the tension of the scene.
The watch worn by actor Steve McQueen in this movie is now considered one of the most iconic watches ever featured on film because of its sleek design and simple elegance — not to mention how well it fits into his character’s persona. Today, modern iterations of the famous timepiece remain in the TAG Heuer catalog.
4. Omega Seamaster 300M in GoldenEye (1995)
If you’re a fan of James Bond, then you’ll be familiar with the Omega Seamaster 300M watch that he wears in the 1995 film GoldenEye. Sitting snugly under his cuff, this signaled the change of Bond’s watch from Rolex to Omega.
In the film, Pierce Brosnan sported a quartz-powered Omega Seamaster 300m Professional (ref 2541.80). The emblematic timepiece is now world famous for its scalloped bezel, blue wave pattern dial, and skeleton hands.
The Seamaster 300M featured prominently in the film plot. It was equipped with a number of hidden features, including a laser, a compass, and a detonator. Bond used these features to help him complete his mission and defeat the film’s villain, Alec Trevelyan.
The Seamaster and Omega watches continued to appear in subsequent Bond films (the latest being No Time to Die starring Daniel Craig) but this model holds a very special place as the watch that started it all for Omega and James Bond.
5. Rolex Datejust ref 16013 in American Psycho (2000)
Two-tone, steel and yellow gold watches were all the rage in the 1980s. Combining robust steel with luxurious gold, these watches became the quintessential symbol of success at the time.
This was also the time when Rolex rose to fame as an integral part of the executive style — it was almost a ritual for young professionals to get a Rolex when they made it to Wall Street, and part of that was its iconic appearance in the film American Psycho.
Patrick Bateman, played by Christian Bale, is an upwardly mobile young man in Wall Street who harms people in horrifying ways. As a wealthy investment banker, Bateman uses the Rolex as a symbol of his status and his desire to be truly accepted by the upper class.
Despite the despicable nature of his character, the Datejust ref 16013 that appeared on his wrist gained fans, and was instantly adopted by young professionals at the time.
While Rolex is mentioned 26 times in the novel that inspired the movie, the brand did not want any connection with the film, and was never mentioned, for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, it’s an example of excellent product placement.
6. Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch in Apollo 13 (1995)
The Omega Speedmaster Professional “MoonWatch” is famously known as the first watch on the moon, having been worn by the astronauts during the first moon landing in 1969. You simply can’t make a movie about the Apollo missions without including an Omega Moonwatch.
The movie Apollo 13 tells the story of an accident that happened during this mission, which caused problems with oxygen levels and water supplies onboard their spaceship called Columbia. One of the challenges faced by the crew required a precise timing of a fuel burn and Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks) uses the Omega Speedmaster chronograph he was provided by NASA to do this. The Speedy served a life-saving role as it helped the crew return safely to Earth.
While the Omega Moonwatch was already incredibly popular thanks to its use on many lunar missions, the appearance of one on Tom Hanks’ wrist in Apollo 13 reached more people and added an incredible amount of authenticity to the character.
7. Panerai Luminor Pre Vendome in Daylight (1996)
The brand Panerai was brought out from obscurity in the luxury watch world when Sylvester Stallone decided to have Gabe Walker, in Daylight, wear a Panerai PAM5218-201/A in 1996. The brand has been supplying timepieces to the Royal Italian Navy since the early 1900s, but only became available to the public in 1993.
Like other brands, having a watch appear in a movie is a significant event when it comes to marketing.
A story that is always told was how Stallone discovered Panerai while filming in Daylight in Rome, but Panerai experts say he first saw the watch on a Montenegrin photographer named Monty Shadow, who was well-versed in luxury goods. No matter where Stallone discovered Panerai, it can’t be denied that he played a huge role in its success in Hollywood and in the mainstream.
The Panerai played a pivotal role in Daylight. Other than timing certain events, like a bomb detonation, the watch had a built-in compass that allowed Walker to find his way through the tunnels. These scenes also featured the luminescent dial, allowing him to track the time and direction in low-light conditions.
The Daylight watch helps Gabe Walker save the day and became a symbol of his strength, determination, and ability to overcome any obstacle. The Panerai watch, in this case, was perfectly cast in the film!
8. Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso in The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005, 2008, and 2012)
Christian Bale has been truly lucky with the watches he has worn in film. Aside from his Rolex Datejust in American Psycho, he also famously wore two Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso watches as Batman in The Dark Knight Trilogy.
The Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso is a watch that can be worn with the dial facing up or down. First produced in 1931, the Reverso was made for polo players, who needed the watch to be protected from shocks and dangers.
When it comes to iconic movie props you might think of Indiana Jones’ whip or James Bond’s Rolex, but the watch on Bruce Wayne’s wrist blends in so seamlessly to the character, it’s easy to miss. The understated refinement of the Reverso watches featured in these movies carries perfectly with the more sober and understated attire of Bruce Wayne compared to his Batman alter ego.
The best part is the flip-over case design. When the LeCoultre Reverso design was launched, it made the watch face capable of flipping towards the wrist to allow the caseback to give added protection during polo matches. What better subtle nod to Bruce Wayne’s alter ego than a watch face that conceals itself?
Bale wore a Jaeger LeCoultre (JLC) Reverso Grande Taille for the first two installments of the trilogy, and a JLC Grande Date, for the final movie.
9. Hamilton Ventura in Men In Black (1997)
There’s no better watch case to feature in a movie about secret agents battling aliens than the Hamilton Ventura. Hamilton Ventura has been the official watch for the Men in Black franchise since its first appearance in 1997.
Several models feature throughout the films but it’s the Chrono Quartz that takes a starring role in the first film. In a scene where the two main agents, K and J (played by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith), are following clues to a mysterious locker, they find a community of tiny aliens that built their religion and world around two items Agent K left them to safeguard — a watch and an old video store card. Not only is the wristwatch a clue in the movie, but Agent J relinquishes his own watch, a Hamilton Ventura, to ease the suffering of this alien colony at the loss of their sacred monument.
The watches featured in these films have extra features (as most secret agent watches do) that include a laser, a compass, and a detonator.
10. TAG Heuer 1000 in Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Leonardo DiCaprio is perfectly cast in the biopic and black comedy Wolf of Wall Street. He plays Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker that makes a fortune by defrauding his clients. The true to life film shows the outcome of greed and materialism – and having the main character wear a luxury watch was in order.
In one of the most famous scenes from the film, DiCaprio’s character is shown launching a watch into a crowd after claiming it’s worth $40,000. At first glance, the watch might look like a Rolex GMT-Master in yellow gold, but the actual timepiece he wore was a TAG Heuer Professional 1000.
While it looks like a Rolex, as the character Belfort tries to imply, it’s only gold plated and has a quartz movement. DiCaprio, being a brand ambassador for TAG Heuer, compromised with the costume department to bring in a watch that only looks like a flashy Rolex.
Most Famous Watches in Movies: Final Thoughts
There are many more iconic watches in movies, but these ten are probably the most memorable. Not only do they represent some of the best movie moments and scenes ever made, they also show the power a watch has in shaping one’s personal style and taste.
If you’re looking for a watch with pop culture significance, then these models should be on your list. Explore our vast selection of luxury watches at SwissWatchExpo.com.