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 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.
- Why Do We Love Movie Watches So Much?
- Rolex Submariner 6538
- Heuer Monaco Chronograph
- Alsta Nautoscaph
- Seiko 6105
- Seiko M516 Voice Note
- Casio CA53W Twincept Databank
- Seiko Giugiaro 7A28-7000
- Porsche Design Chronograph One
- Seiko H558
- Rolex Day-date
- Omega Speedmaster Professional
- Hamilton Ventura XXL
- Rolex Datejust
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Grande Taille
- Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M
- Hamilton Khaki Pilot Day Date
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual
- Vintage Citizen 8110A Automatic Bullhead
- Honorable Mention
- The Best James Bond Watches
Why Do We Love Movie Watches So Much?
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. Wristwatches are a subtle way to express our fandom without going all-in on graphic-laden apparel. Likewise, we feel connected to our favorite characters from the silver screen in a unique way, through something as simple and intimate as being able to look at the time.
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.
Movie: Dr. No
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.
Movie: Le Mans
Upon its release, no movie had been truly as big as Jaws. With his 1975 mega-hit, Steven Spielberg both invented the summer blockbuster and changed the way studios approached nearly every aspect of production, from cinematic experience to special effects to the scrupulous planning of release dates. In the film, Richard Dreyfuss plays oceanographer Matt Hooper, who appears to be wearing an unusual timepiece from a then-American/now-British watchmaker Alsta. With a widely porous steel bracelet and an assertively square case around its circular dial, the Nautoscaph has since been reissued with the intention of bringing this piece of moviemaking to your own wrist.
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 of 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.
Movie: Apocalypse Now
Seiko M516 Voice Note
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.
Casio CA53W Twincept Databank
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 who wants to put together an excellent throwback Halloween costume or loves the 1980s, ironically or not.
Movie: Back to the Future
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 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.
Porsche Design Chronograph One
Top Gun may appear to take place entirely at sunset and have a bit too much ’80s cheese by today’s standards, but in 1986, Tony Scott’s aviation drama made all the money. In fact, it was so popular that fans had been clamoring for a sequel for some 36 years until Top Gun: Maverick, which may have saved the cinema upon its 2022 release. In both films, Tom Cruise’s Maverick wears an all-black chronograph from Porsche Design. One of the first PVD-coated black steel timepieces, the Chronograph One was the design firm’s inaugural model in the ’70s and is still being made today.
Movie: Top Gun
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 since owners of the original reference tend to hold onto them. Fortunately, Seiko sells a faithful reissue, ref. SNJ025, on its website.
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 Day-Date 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.
Movie: Glengarry Glen Ross
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 with 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.
Movie: Apollo 13
Hamilton Ventura XXL
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 featured 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.
Movie: Men in Black
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 of 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.
Movie: American Psycho
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.
Movie: Batman Begins
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 changeover 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.
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.
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.
Movie: Doctor Strange
Vintage Citizen 8110A Automatic Bullhead
Leave it to Quentin Tarantino to pick the perfect watch for Brad Pitt, playing an aging stunt double, to wear in 2019’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as he aimlessly drives around 1969 Hollywood awaiting his next gig working alongside Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton, a struggling movie star (also aging). Aptly affordable for the automobile-enthused character who lives out of his run-down trailer, the Citizen 8110A Automatic Bullhead chronograph rests atop a bund leather strap for extra period correctness and Pitt’s character does well to show it off out the window since it’s probably one of his most prized possessions.. can be acquired for around $100 today and still holds the same charm that it did over 50 years ago.
Movie: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
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 of 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.
Movie: Pulp Fiction
The Best James Bond Watches
If you’re wanting to dive deeper into the watch world of 007, check out our guide where we highlight the best James Bond watches.