Movies can be a powerful medium for product placement, especially watches. Whether you’re into cosplay, a serious collector or just a casual wearer, the chance to see different wristwatches on the big screen whets our appetite. We look at the 10 top timepieces seen on film.
James Cameron’s meticulous attention to detail is well known and there’s no better example of this than in his epic sequel to Ridley Scott’s already-excellent Alien. He gave each actor playing a Colonial Marine some backstory to his or her character and allowed them to subsequently personalize their body armor. He also made the Seiko-S234-5000 Pulsemaster a standard piece of Colonial Marine equipment, made Bishop (Lance Henriksen) wear a Seiko-7A28-6000, black and red variation, by Giorgetto Giugiaro and Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) wears a Seiko-7A28-7000 Speedmaster, silver and black variation, also by Giugiaro.
Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro had a significant impact during the early 80s, not only with his partnership with the Japanese watchmaker, but he also designed the DeLorean DMC-12 and dozens of other cars. About five years ago, to honor the collaboration, Seiko released six limited edition “re-issues” of the 1983 original 7A28-6000 watch that Bishop wore in the movie, he most famous of course was the black and red version (the re-issue is called the SCED003). There are slight design changes, including the precise dimensions of the case as well as the movement. The original featured an early 1980s Seiko quartz chronograph movement with a 1/100 of a second dial. The 2013 version of the watch included one of the newer Seiko quartz movements (the caliber 7T12) with a 60-minute chronograph, synchronized 24-hour hand (AM/PM) indicator and the date (covertly placed at 3 o’clock). To be honest, the original is more stylish.
Today, if you’re lucky enough to find an original from the era, you’ll be paying upwards of $500 for the Seiko-S234-5000 Pulsemaster, depending on its condition. There might be one or possibly two that sell per year on international ebay. The S234-501A is virtually identical, expect it has yellow buttons instead of silver and if you’re satisfied with less, then this can be bought for a cheaper price. The re-issued 7A28-SCED003 can found for anywhere between $300 and $500, but the original 7A28-6000 is more, going for $1,250 upwards.
Just three years ago, a re-issue of Seiko-7A28-7000 Speedmaster was released. Called the Seiko X Giugiaro Design Spirit Smart SCED035 and SCED037, they are available in gray or black and are almost identical to the original except they’re missing the crown and extra button on the left side of its case. An original 7A28-7000 could cost $1,500 for the black and yellow variation and over $2,000 for the silver and black, while the reissued models can be picked up for under $500.
Back To The Future (1985)
Marty McFly is positively bristling with iconic products from the 80s in Back to the Future, from the AIWA HS-P07 “Walkman” to the JVC GR-C1 camcorder, plus his Casio CA53W wristwatch. What’s interesting about this is that it’s still readily available. Now called, the 53W-1, it’s identical to the original and you can pick one up from the Casio website for $25 or Amazon for just a few dollars more. It features an 8-digit calculator; water resistant; 1/100 second stopwatch; auto calendar, dual time, daily alarm…and just about all the other standard features you remember a digital watch from that era having.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s so-bad-it’s-good Commando ignited the mid-80s craze of similar-styled diving watches, usually accompanied by a chunky rubber strap. Hey, if you had forearms as formidable as Schwarzenegger’s, then you could carry it off. However, the version seen in the actual movie Commando was heavily modified for its on-screen close up.
While the exterior casing remained untouched, the dial showing a set of double dial chronograph registers and a large LCD was specifically created for an eye-candy shot that showed the limited time that Schwarzenegger’s character had and the subsequent all-important digital countdown. It’s also important to note that this isn’t the Seiko H601-5480 as some believe. In fact, different variations of the H558-5009 also appeared on Schwarzenegger’s sizable wrist in Predator (1987) and Running Man (1987), although later in this movie it was replaced by a Casio G-Shock II DW-5500. If you’re lucky enough to find a H558-5009 on ebay, even one in moderate condition it will set you back a minimum of $750.
A little known timepiece from another 80s epic is the Seiko-M516-4009 ‘Voice Note.’ Released in 1983 and produced in a limited edition, it’s most striking feature was a built-in voice recorder that offered a surprisingly tiny four or eight seconds of audio capacity, apparently used to pick up Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP), which is “essential” when attempting to track down ghosts. However, it’s said that the quality was poor and the price was high for its day. It contained a 16k solid-state RAM memory (impressive at the time) that preserved verbal notes.
Worth nothing though is the casing constructed from carbon-fibre and stainless steel. While today, that’s more common, the use of carbon-fibre in watches 35 years ago was relatively rare, thus adding to the feel that this was something high-tech and futuristic. Evidently, it was deemed standard issue for the Gotham-based ghoul chasers since Dr Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Dr Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) can be spotted wearing one in the movie. These seldom come up on ebay and even a broken one being sold for parts might cost you between $300 and $400.
Dr No (1962)
Rolex Submariner 6538
With a tight budget and no official product placement from Rolex, producer Cubby Broccoli supposedly gave Connery the watch off of his own wrist to wear and the rest is history. A Rolex Submariner 6538 used in the early Bond movies was sold in 2016 for $60,000, although it’s not thought to be that particular one, since that’s probably still owned by the Broccoli family and is more than likely priceless. If you’re lucky enough to find a 1957 original, most sources will only divulge the price on specific request.
One of the most prominent and recognizable features of Submariner 6538 is its over-sized crown and lack of crown guards. It utilizes a caliber 1030 nickel-finished lever with 25 jewels movement. The brown or black gloss dial prominently features luminous dot, baton and dagger markers as well as luminous Mercedes hands and sweep center seconds. The dial and case are topped with a revolving black bezel calibrated for 60 units.
This marked the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Bond and Rolex and was largely inspired by Ian Fleming’s own passion for the brand. His personal favorite was a Rolex 1016 Explorer, which is no longer in production. “He could not just wear a watch. It had to be a Rolex,” he said in his book Casino Royale, convinced that “a gentleman’s choice of timepiece says as much about him as does his Savile Row suit.”
After Connery, Roger Moore’s Bond began wearing Rolex but switched later Seiko with their liquid crystal displays, with models like the 0674 in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and the 7549-7009 in For Your Eyes Only (1981). Pierce Brosnan took the now multi-million dollar Bond product placement in a new direction with Omega and then of course Daniel Craig wasn’t even subtle with it when he unashamedly announced that Omega was his watch of choice while having dinner with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in Casino Royale (2006). In that movie he was wearing the Omega Seamaster 300M Co-Axial 2220.80.00.
Who Dares Wins (1982) and Top Gun (1986)
Orfina Porsche Chronograph PDN 36
The gorgeous black steel design was seen on the wrists of both Captain Peter Skellen (Lewis Collins) in Who Dares Wins and Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) in Top Gun. Although in one mid-flight scene, Maverick’s timepiece briefly changes to a Rolex Submariner, but that’s a continuity error probably down to the fact that for those few frames of footage, it wasn’t actually Cruise’s hand on the throttle.
The Orfina Porsche Chronograph PDN 36 is a stylish, very high-quality military-grade timepiece manufactured by the same company that makes some of the very best cars in the world. Moreover, Orfina is a company steeped in history. It was founded in Grenchen, Switzerland in 1922 and from the outset have focused on building durable, practical and robust watches. To this end it achieved a great deal of success in producing, aviation, navigational and military wristwatches. They rose to world eminence when they were awarded the contract to build the Porsche Design watch. The original was designed by Ferdinand Porsche himself.
It’s hard to say how you would expect to pay for a PDN 36…because we simply couldn’t find any information on one of these being available to buy. Later variations, that look very similar, like the 3H and the 7750, can be found for $3,500 upwards, but evidently the PDN 36 is a treasured possession.
The Last Boy Scout (1991) and Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)
Breitling Chronomat Evolution A13356
Believed to actually belong to Bruce Willis, this classic timepiece crops up in a few of his movies from the 90s, most notably The Last Boy Scout and Die Hard With A Vengeance. He wears a Breitling Chronomat Evolution A13356, with stainless steel case, black face, three white sub-dials at the 12, 9, and 6 positions, plus a dark brown leather strap with edge stitching. Still readily available, they typically retail for about $6,200 brand new, but second-hand ones can be picked up for about $4,000. It’s a simple, stylish and still very current timepiece, waterproof to 300m and features automatic movement, chronograph, chronometer, date, hour, minute, second and tachymeter.
Breitlings crop up in quite a few movies, almost as many as Rolex Submariners. In a similar manner to how many divers favor the latter, the former tend to be the preferred timepiece for pilots and aviation aficionados. Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) wears a Breitling Pluton in Point Break (1991) – although he probably qualifies for both, Colonel O’Neil (Kurt Russell) sports a Breitling Sirius in Stargate (1994) and Captain Hiller (Will Smith) wears a Breitling Airwolf in Independence Day (1996).
Apollo 13 (1995)
Omega Speedmaster Professional
This is not really the story of this watch appearing in a movie, it’s the story of the watch that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon. Speedmaster’s relationship with outer space began when NASA’s flight equipment buyer went to Corrigan’s watch shop in Texas to purchase five chronographs, all of different brands, including the Omega Speedmaster. The year was 1961. Just like the astronauts themselves, the watches went through extensive testing during the Mercury program, at which point it decided to go with the Speedmaster. NASA purchased lots more and continued to test them. It’s unknown precisely which models were purchased, but it is known that it they had the original calibre 321 movement. Following NASA’s official adoption of the Speedmaster, Omega itself made some changes and in 1966 the Speedmaster Professional was born. The straight lugs and triple-register were present from the start, but the baton hands, black aluminum bezel and wider case were all later additions. Two years later in 1968, the original calibre 321 was changed for the newer, magnetic-resistant calibre 861.
Naturally the Ron Howard movie wanted to be as accurate as possible, so what you see are modern versions of the Speedmaster Professional, which are virtually identical and are readily available to buy, costing in the region of $3,500 to $4,000. In 2014, Omega launched a limited edition of the Speedmaster Professional to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landings. Again, it looks very similar to the original, but it’s crafted from high-grade titanium, instead of steel and features a calibre 1861 a manual-winding chronograph movement.
These watches had to be reliable, especially on the Apollo 13 mission, to accurately time each course correction main engine burn – there were in fact many more than just one as seen in the movie – and they are actually the only wristwatches officially certified to be spaceworthy.
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