Richard Holt on the movie industry’s love of watches
Sylvester Stallone may be in his seventies but he is still tough as granite and punting out action movies all over the place. As a film star, he is a legend, and his commitment as a car fan is well known – a Bugatti Veyron, and a whole load of Ferraris, Aston Martins and AMGs – but something underappreciated about Stallone is the extent of his influence on style, and in particular watches.
Stallone spent time in Switzerland as a teenager, and pressing his nose up against the posh Geneva watch shops, he dreamed of a day when he could buy himself something fancy. When the first Rocky money came in, he bought the first of many gold Rolex Submariners, but it was with a company from his father’s homeland that Stallone made his mark.
In the Nineties he was in Rome shooting the disaster film Daylight. On the lookout for something macho to wear onscreen, he spotted an unusually large watch from a little-known Italian brand called Panerai, which supplied navy divers in the Forties and Fifties. He liked it so much he bought several for friends – including a fellow actor called Arnold. They both wore the watches in films, and with the combined muscle of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, Panerai became huge.
The effect went far beyond one company, spearheading an ongoing trend for big military watches that go just as well with a well-cut suit. Panerai also changed the game for product placement. There used to be the odd watch here and there, then suddenly companies like Hamilton were getting masses of screen time, even designing special one-off movie watches.
Panerai may have led the way, but its influence hasn’t waned. In the Expendables franchise, half the stars wear Panerais – the watches are even seen front and centre on promo posters. Watches once had cameo roles; now they are stars in their own right.