What’s hang­ing off the wrists of Hol­ly­wood movie stars while they are on set, you ask? Dar­ren Ho un­cov­ers the movie in­dus­try’s favoured la­bels

Adore Gems & Timepieces - - CONTENTS -

Un­cov­er­ing the movie in­dus­try’s favourite watch brands

With the re­cent ad­vent of Sam Men­des’ Spec­tre, we’re once again re­minded of one of the most ob­vi­ous acts of prod­uct place­ments that took place dur­ing the first Daniel Craig Bond film, Casi­noroyale (2006). Omega had re­tained the sweet rights to strap one of its Sea­mas­ter watches on the MI6 spy and the re­sult was a mul­ti­tude of close-ups of the watch and a shout-out by Eva Green: “You know...for­mer SAS types with easy smiles and ex­pen­sive watches. Rolex?” To which Craig re­sponds: “No. Omega.”

It was Gold­en­eye (1995) that made the Omega Sea­mas­ter James Bond’s watch. But back then, even dur­ing Bros­nan’s reign, the as­so­ci­a­tion was not as ob­vi­ous. Omega’s hold on 007, how­ever, did in­tro­duce a new era of lux­ury la­bel brand­ing in the Hol­ly­wood arena, some­thing that had started since Ar­mani dressed Richard Gere in Amer­i­cangigolo and reached bla­tant heights in Thedevilwearsprada. Ev­i­dently, as­so­ci­a­tion counts.

The real ques­tion is whether the as­so­ci­a­tion ac­tu­ally pays off. Ac­cord­ing to Omega, it has. Since 2006, in­ter­est in the brand and the Bond edi­tions rose, and more im­por­tantly, its brand per­cep­tion com­pared with what some might call the king of Swiss watch­mak­ing spiked. This year, a spe­cial edi­tion of the Omega Sea­mas­ter 300 that Bond wears on set has been launched in con­junc­tion with the film’s re­lease date. Spec­tre of­fers the watch plenty of screen time as well, though Q’s quip of “it tells the time” is twisted, as it also func­tions as an ex­plod­ing de­vice. It’s also the first time the agent is strap­ping on a Nato strap paired with his sharp suits, pos­si­bly a sub­tle hint at MI6’S real- life close re­la­tion­ship with the or­gan­i­sa­tion the can­vas strap de­rives its name from. Whether you like the film or not, how­ever, the time­piece’s com­mer­cial suc­cess is prac­ti­cally guar­an­teed, as is the film’s box of­fice sales.

Omega isn’t the only watch brand to ply its trade in movies. Hamil­ton made waves last year and again this year, when it worked with Christo­pher Nolan’s In­ter­stel­lar and The Mar­tian. The swiv­el­ling of the sec­ond hand, a trick it man­aged us­ing an elec­tric ro­tor, gave the brand am­ple sec­onds of close-ups and sales shot through the roof for the Khaki Au­to­matic time­piece that saved the world.


Brand as­so­ci­a­tions (whether be­tween the brand and the movie or tele­vi­sion show, or be­tween the brand and an ac­tor) feed our ob­ses­sion with celebrity cul­ture. There are on­line fo­rums where peo­ple pe­ruse ev­ery frame of House­of­cards just to see which IWC watch Frank Un­der­wood (played by Kevin Spacey) is wear­ing. It’s im­por­tant to note that IWC doesn’t cash up for the prod­uct place­ment on Spacey’s wrist — he vol­un­teers it. (It’s never the same watch even though his favourite does ap­pear to be the Portugieser Chrono­graph in rose gold.)

The de­sire to be more like the fa­mous makes us want to adopt their habits fur­ther, right up to the wrist bling they’re spot­ting.

It’s very much in the vein of Thetal­ented Mr­rip­ley (1999), where Tom Ri­p­ley (played by ac­tor Matt Da­mon who was once again don­ning Hamil­ton) mim­icked Dickie Green­leaf (star­ring Jude Law). If you think their char­ac­ters are cool, nat­u­rally you’d want to em­u­late their style.

Other fa­mous faces known for their

wrist­watch ob­ses­sions in­clude Robert De

Niro, who has asked for Rolex watches in his films be­fore. Sylvester Stal­lone’s friend­ship with Pan­erai is well-doc­u­mented. In fact, the ac­tor pur­port­edly bought Pan­erai time­pieces for his peers in The Ex­pend­ables fran­chise. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger has a col­lec­tion of Royal Oak Off­shores that would blow most peo­ple’s minds, but now that he has his own epony­mously named watch la­bel, we ex­pect that he’ll be don­ning it in the up­com­ing Le­gend Of Co­nan.

It does go be­yond idola­try. Psy­chi­a­trists tell us there is a sense of trust that’s es­tab­lished with fig­ures we re­spect, whether on or off screen, and some of that trust is trans­lated into the per­sonas they play in movies. It’s a wordof-mouth mar­ket­ing that’s on a large scale and as a re­sult, works ef­fec­tively com­pared with tra­di­tional mar­ket­ing meth­ods. In­ci­den­tally, I do like John Tra­volta, who’s worn Bre­itling in over a dozen movies and I did buy a Bre­itling be­cause he trusts the brand. As Tra­volta, a pi­lot, has stated sev­eral times, he has worn Bre­itling watches even be­fore they ap­proached him to be their am­bas­sador. It is an hon­est part­ner­ship.

My favourite non-prod­uct prod­uct place­ment of all time is prob­a­bly Leonardo Dicaprio’s watch in In­cep­tion. Even if di­rec­tor Christo­pher Nolan had wiped the brand logo off in post-pro­duc­tion, there was just no doubt that it was the Car­rera Au­to­matic that Dicaprio had on his wrist in or­der to keep track of time in the dream state. The slow­ing down of the sec­ond hand up close might have been shot on an iphone but it was cool, none­the­less. It also sealed the Car­rera as the de­fin­i­tive TAG Heuer that didn’t need a la­bel to tell us what it was.

Other di­rect hits in­clude the Ironman fran­chise, where in its sec­ond in­stal­ment, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) re­quests for a watch from Natasha Romanoff (Scar­lett Jo­hans­son) and fi­nally con­cludes: “Brown strap, gold face...bring them over here... I’ll take the Jaeger.” The AMVOX3 Tourbillon GMT was a spe­cial launch for that year and marked a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the way the brand had ap­proached its mar­ket­ing in the past. And let’s not for­get the am­ple screen time the Rev­erso had on Don Draper, along with a spe­cial edi­tion of the Grande Rev­erso Ul­tra Thin 1931 ded­i­cated to the show.


Hol­ly­wood in­sid­ers are quick to point out that it’s not al­ways profit-gen­er­at­ing rea­sons that dic­tate what wrist-wear is seen on a lead.

Some­times it’s for au­then­tic­ity and of­ten just sim­ple prac­ti­cal­ity. Hamil­ton’s rel­a­tive ubiq­uity in Hol­ly­wood is in part due to its Amer­i­can past and sim­plic­ity in de­sign. With char­ac­ters such as Tony Stark, how­ever, you’d ex­pect a tech­ni­cally im­pres­sive time­piece cou­pled with some high-tech ca­pa­bil­ity in­te­grated into it, which was why the AMVOX se­ries suited him per­fectly. In that man­ner, it’s an align­ment. At other times, brands do of­fer a ton of green in or­der to buy into a fran­chise.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, film di­rec­tors re­quest for spe­cific brands to main­tain and en­sure au­then­tic­ity. As Tra­volta pointed out, in the up­com­ing tele­vi­sion se­ries Amer­i­can Crime Story, where he plays lawyer Robert Shapiro, he doesn’t wear Bre­itlings but in­stead, sticks to the watches that Shapiro ac­tu­ally owns. To be fair, au­then­tic­ity in Hol­ly­wood is not a com­mon scene, but when it does oc­cur, they like to keep it close to re­al­ity.

That be­ing said, there are some strange stereo­types that are com­pletely baf­fling. Hol­ly­wood vil­lains seem to reg­u­larly wear one la­bel — and it’s one of the big­gest lux­ury brands in the world. Most re­cently in Net­flix’s Dare­devil, the Cartier San­tos 100 popped up on radars as es­sen­tial wrist-wear for Machi­avel­lian types. For what it’s worth, we’ll ad­mit they’ve plenty of style. The Tank and San­tos watches are our favourites as well.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, the most pop­u­lar Swiss watch in Hol­ly­wood is the ef­fort­less Rolex. The Day­tona, Sub­mariner and Ex­plorer have all been worn umpteen times by ev­ery­one from Sean Con­nery to Al Pa­cino. In a close sec­ond place would be Audemars Piguet. The cur­rent CEO François-henry Ben­nah­mias, who had helmed the Amer­i­can mar­ket prior to his ap­point­ment as CEO, had an ac­tive pres­ence in the Hol­ly­wood scene, mak­ing friends with Arnie and a slew of other ac­tors, many of whom would ap­proach him to col­lab­o­rate on movie ac­ces­soris­ing. How­ever, he pointed out that the brand rarely of­fered watches freely; in­stead, ac­tors would buy watches or a spe­cial edi­tion would be re­leased for a par­tic­u­lar movie, which gave the brand a chance to profit from the part­ner­ship. Smart move.

A rare breed that’s seen once in a while — and only then on char­ac­ters who are high-pow­ered and su­per-wealthy — is, of course, Patek Philippe. In Aaron Sorkin’s The News­room, Jeff Bridges’ and Sam Water­ston’s char­ac­ters both don Patek Philippes of dif­fer­ent mod­els. Har­vey Specter straps on what ap­pears to be a Patek per­pet­ual cal­en­dar in Suits, while his un­der­study Mike Ross wears a con­sid­er­ably less pre­mium Timex. Ed West­wick also has on an Aqua­naut in Gos­sip Girl, as his play­boy char­ac­ter Chuck Bass goes around im­press­ing girls with his moves (and per­haps his ac­cou­trements as well).

The only watch we’ve never had the op­por­tu­nity to see on a film or tele­vi­sion set is A. Lange & Söhne. It’s per­fectly un­der­stand­able, given the Ger­man watch­maker’s phi­los­o­phy and at­ti­tudes to­wards too much brand ex­po­sure. Lange would nat­u­rally re­frain from such demon­stra­tive mea­sures, pre­fer­ring to re­main a bit of an in­sider’s brand. But given its in­creas­ing global pres­ence, we’re guess­ing the time is not too far away when Han­ni­bal will be dressed in a Grand Lange 1, rather than the more ob­vi­ous Patek Philippe chrono­graph.

From top: Frank Un­der­wood has a clear ap­pre­ci­a­tion for IWC time­pieces, with the sub­lim­i­nal mes­sage that the brand’s watches are a match for the leader of the free world; The Portugieser Chrono­graph in rose gold; Jaeger-lecoul­tre’s Grande Rev­erso Ul­tra...

The Omega Sea­mas­ter 300 “Spec­tre” lim­ited edi­tion bears the cal­i­bre 8400 with a stain­less steel case and Nato strap

From left: Mem­bers on the set of The­ex­pend­ables , many of them wear­ing Pan­erais, gifts from Stal­lone; The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Off­shore Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger The Legacy

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