As a form of art, film has a way of creating a truly lasting impression both on individuals and on our culture as a whole – whether that be with their themes, music, imagery, or (perhaps most enduringly) with their style. And while we love all of the fashion that has been ingrained in our collective consciousness from movies, we do tend to appreciate the gear just that little bit more.
Sometimes, iconic movie gear is bombastic and in your face. At other times, it’s so subtle that you might have to go back and give a film a couple more watches to really grasp everything offered up on the silver screen. The latter is the case with the subject of this particular roundup. The following 15 pieces of gear are the most iconic movie watches of all time – from the opulent timepieces of corporate dramas, to retro-futuristic sci-fi tech, to straight-up military-inspired throwbacks.
Seiko Giugiaro 7A28-7000
While the front-end loader from the end of James Cameron’s Aliens is arguably the ’80s movie’s most recognizable piece of gear, those with a keen eye might have noticed something much smaller (though just as interesting) around the wrist of Ripley, the film’s main character played by Sigourney Weaver. Made by Seiko in a collaboration with Giorgetto Giugiaro (a famed automotive designer), this sci-fi watch is as strange as it is elusive. Though the appearance of the design is novel, the analog watch’s functionality is actually quite simple and straightforward. Still, this watch is now pretty hard to find, despite a recent re-release by the Japanese watchmaking brand.
Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho is a brutal and disturbing fictional novel – and the movie of the same name (which was Christian Bale’s breakout movie) is plenty unsettling. But the violence and depravity are even harder to swallow in the high-profile world of ’80s New York business. As challenging as the movie might be, the main character Patrick Bateman’s fashion sense was never difficult to appreciate – as evidenced in part by his choice in watches. Interestingly enough, Rolex only agreed to allow their handsome Datejust wristwatch in the movie so long as Bale’s character was never wearing it whilst committing any heinous acts. That did, however, limit the watch’s appearance to just a few key scenes.
Widely considered the definitive Seiko dive watch, the 6105 actually has a lot of real-world history that led to it being included as Capt. Willard’s timepiece of choice. In fact, during the Vietnam War, it was an extremely popular watch amongst U.S. servicemen for both its style and durability. While the watch was certainly the obvious choice for the character, we have to applaud director Francis Ford Coppola’s inclusion of the timepiece, as it’s just another example as to how important the little details can be to the lasting power of a film – of which Apocalypse Now is one of the absolute best. It’s hard to find an original of this particular watch, but Seiko recently built a recreation of it with a modern movement that they are presently selling, called the Seiko SRP777K1. As an interesting secondary note, the antagonist of the film, Colonel Kurtz, can be seen wearing what looks like a bezel-less Rolex GMT-Master – a watch that is considered to be one of the greatest missing watches of all time.
Omega Speedmaster Professional
Like the Seiko 6105’s real-world involvement in the Vietnam War era, Omega’s Speedmaster Professional, as it appears in the Apollo 13 movie, was a decision driven by the fact that the very same model was actually used aboard the real Apollo 13 manned space mission. And since the watch was so integral to the story (we won’t spoil it for anyone unfamiliar with either the flick or the actual near-disaster), it would have been a huge mistake for Ron Howard to take liberties on the specific model. Luckily, he knew much better than that. While finding a model of this watch from the correct era (the mission occurred in 1970) can be a daunting task, Omega actually still makes modern versions of this very watch – including a commemorative edition specifically for the real-life Apollo 13 mission.
Casio CA53W Twincept Databank
Back To The Future
If ever there was a polarizing timepiece, it’s the digital calculator watch. Decried by timekeeping purists and beloved by retro fanboys, the jury is pretty split on whether it’s a waste of circuitry or a design for the ages. A big argument for the latter, however, is the Casio CA53W Twincept Databank’s appearance in Back to the Future. Wrapped around the wrist of Marty McFly before he takes the titular time-traveling trip, this is one of the few iconic movie watches that not only can still be found brand-new today, but it will also cost you almost nothing to own. And while that’s not a great argument for its value as an everyday carry item, it’s definitely good news for anyone that wants to put together an excellent throwback Halloween costume or loves the 1980s, ironically or not.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Grande Taille
In the DC universe, Bruce Wayne is one of the richest people in the world. So you’d expect someone with a nearly infinite disposable income to at least have a decent grasp of opulent style. And, if you look to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, you’ll find exactly that. Worn in both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso Grande Taille is Wayne’s wristwatch of choice. But the high-end watch brand isn’t just favored by Christian Bale’s Batman – it was first worn by Val Kilmer in the critically-slammed Batman Forever. In fact, there have been special editions of a couple of LeCoultre’s watches specifically released for both Kilmer and Bale’s appearances.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual
DC isn’t the only comic book universe with characters that like Jaeger-LeCoultre watches. Marvel has their own horological fanboy in Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange – which is appropriate when you consider that the character is essentially a wizard with the ability to control the tides of time. This gorgeous moonphase watch – which is still in production in varying styles – can first be seen in the movie slowly rotating away in Dr. Stephen Strange’s watch winder, but also appears in some of the marketing material. As far as iconic movie watches go, this one certainly ranks amongst the most character-appropriate. But, honestly, the watch is a gorgeous work of art even without the association.
Rolex Submariner 6538
No fictional character throughout storytelling history is as closely associated with wearable timepieces as James Bond. Really, watch any Bond film at all and you’re guaranteed to see at least one drool-worthy wristwatch. One of the all-time best, however, appeared in the very first of the literary super spy’s films, Dr. No. Worn by none other than Sean Connery, the Rolex Submariner 6538 is one of the most highly-lauded dive watches of all time – both for its impressive mechanical aspects, appearance, and association with James Bond. And while 007 has moved onto Omega as his brand of choice in more recent films, this Rolex will forever hold the title of the very first James Bond watch.
Seiko M516 Voice Note
Like Marty McFly’s calculator watch, the Seiko M516 Voice Note, as worn by the Ghostbusters (yes, all of them), is not widely considered a horological work of art. It is, however, a big deal for movie buffs. Used in the sci-fi comedy for its ability to record audio (a common ghost-hunting trick), this bizarre now-retro digital watch is nigh-impossible to find in anything other than banged-up condition. In fact, most listings note these watches as being in a condition only suitable for repair and/or parts. Still, if you’re a big Dan Ackroyd or Bill Murray fan, you can find one in working condition – so long as you’re willing to pay.
Glengarry Glen Ross
Always. Be. Closing. This phrase from the play-turned-drama movie is definitely the most recognizable quote – arguably more well-known than the movie itself, nowadays. And while Alec Baldwin delivered a brilliant performance as Blake – the character that utters the quote – our favorite part of his appearance has to be the Rolex Daydate on his wrist. It’s a bold piece of gear done up in all gold, but that fits the bombastic salesman perfectly. And we’d be hard-pressed not to frequently tell people, “that watch costs more than your car,” if we were so lucky as to strap it around our wrists. If you want an iconic watch that screams opulence, even if it’s a little tongue-in-cheek, this is the one for you. Just remember, it is still a Rolex, so the price is still quite high.
Hamilton Khaki Pilot Day Date
While Doctor Strange is a time-traveler with a penchant for great watches, Interstellar’s time-traveling element is heavily dependent upon the functionality of an actual watch, making the timepieces that appear in the film absolutely integral to the story’s resolution. Thing is, one of the watches – the one Matthew McConaughey’s character gives to his daughter – is an exclusive one-off. But the one he wears is actually a Hamilton Khaki Pilot Day Date, which is a current production model pilot watch you can get from the brand. It’s handsome, fairly straightforward (12-hour dial plus day & date windows), and looks great both with a linked metal band, a leather one, or, say, a NATO strap.
Heuer Monaco Chronograph
Long before TAG bought a majority stake in the company, Heuer was making waves in the world of wristwatches. In fact, they were responsible for creating the world’s first automatic chronograph. And, wouldn’t you know it, that very watch is the one worn by Steve McQueen in his racing film, Le Mans. With its unique squared shape (with matching sub-dials), cobalt face, and striking red hands, this would be an important horological item even if it wasn’t worn by one of the greatest actors of all time. Best of all, however, is that the brand still makes a version of this watch you can purchase brand new today. That being said, it’s not what we might call a budget watch by any stretch and will still cost you several thousand.
Hamilton Ventura XXL
Men In Black
Hamilton is inarguably most famous for their traditional style watches and chronographs. But that doesn’t mean they don’t venture off the beaten path every now and again. Take, for instance, their avant-garde timepiece that was features in the sci-fi film series Men In Black, the Ventura XXL. With its unique arrowhead style case, this futuristic watch was the perfect choice for Earth’s intergalactic police force. And, believe it or not, there were actually several different models used throughout the films – including an especially cool ’60s version in the third film. Unfortunately, this watch got very little screen time and, especially in the first entry, appears as though it was only put in as product placement and not so much as a legitimate part of the characters’ uniforms.
As worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first Predator film, the fame of Seiko’s H558 dive watch was so intertwined with the sci-fi horror flick that people actually began calling it the “Arnie.” In fact, in horological circles, that’s still the term used in place of its numbered designation today. But this watch is notable more for just its appearance in the ’80s action film, as it was the first dive watch to feature a digital alarm chronograph in conjunction with an analog display. Nowadays this watch is fairly rare and in pretty high demand, though it’s not a stretch to say your average watch fanatic would be able to afford to pick one up for relatively cheap. Still, you’ll find it very difficult to track one down, as owners of this watch tend to hold onto them.
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M
While James Bond originally appeared on screen wearing a Rolex, he’s actually sported timepieces from a few different companies. Most recently, that honor goes to one of Rolex’s chief competitors, Omega. And that was a big enough deal to the filmmakers that, in Casino Royale (Daniel Craig’s first jaunt as the lauded super spy), the change over was even mentioned in conversation between Bond and his femme fatale, Vesper Lynd. Since then, Craig’s bond has only worn Omega’s – our favorite of which being the Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m 42mm. A striking and rather large watch, we’re firm believers that this is the perfect timepiece for the newer, rougher around the edges 007.
One of the most controversial movie watches of all time (perhaps the ultimate) appears in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. If you’ve seen the film, you already know what we’re talking about. If you haven’t, let’s just say the story surrounding this timepiece is less than savory and involves a little bit of creative bodily smuggling on the part of Christopher Walken and a fellow soldier in a Vietnam P.O.W. camp. But that’s not even the most talked-about part of the story, at least in horological circles. You see, nobody has ever been able to definitively identify the watch in question, as Walken’s description as to the watch’s origins is fictional. Some folks say it’s a legitimate field watch from WWI; others believe it was a one-off set piece just used for the movie. The truth is, we will likely never know for sure.
12 Best James Bond Watches
No movie character is quite as well versed in quality watches as the super spy, 007. And we’ve got proof on our list of the 12 best James Bond watches of all time.