What would James Bond be without his Omega or Rolex on his wrist? In the movie industry, wearing the right watch and outfit for the occasion is not merely a matter of performance, but a statement. The watches in the upcoming auction also promise plenty of star appeal.
The history of watches in movies and their use by actors goes back a long way. Watches were used for both practical and dramaturgical reasons. In the early days of film, watches were often used as props to illustrate the passage of time or achieve humorous effects. Charlie Chaplin was famous for using watches in his slapstick comedies – either to tell the time or to create whimsical and comical situations.
In the Golden Age of Hollywood (1930s to 1950s), watches often functioned as status symbols. Actresses such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn wore elegant jewellery and watches to emphasise their glamour. Liz Taylor, for example, wore a Bulgari Serpenti in the film Cleopatra from 1963, a piece of the series fetched 102,500 euros at the Dorotheum.
The choice of watch was often an element of character design. The brand and model of the watch were chosen deliberately to emphasise the actor’s role or the plot of the movie. The spy movies of the 1960s and 1970s are a typical example. Watches worn in those movies often have a wide range of special functions, some of them unexpected. The Rolex Submariner, for example, was a secret agent’s watch in Goldfinger and Live and Let Die.
Over time, the way watches have been used in movies and on TV has changed, but timepieces remain an important element of the overall design. They help with character development, create tension, and function as status symbols or gadgets relevant to the plot.
Complicated chronographs made by the watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen are sporty and ingenious accessories in Top Gun with Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, and are featured in Brad Pitt’s new Formula 1 movie, which has just started shooting. Time also plays an important role in Drive, 2011, in which Canadian superstar Ryan Gosling tells the time from his Patek Philippe wristwatch. Rolex is the watch of choice for celebrities. Famous fans of the legendary brand include actors such as Mark Wahlberg, Will Smith and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.