A wristwatch that appears in a film can reach icon status—even accidentally. These watches are either part of the storyline or add depth to the characters. It goes to show how screen time can influence the value and fame of a watch, particularly on the right wrist and the right actor.
Sometime in the mid-1990s, the use of a watch in movies was purely a style decision. However, it eventually evolved into product placements that are strategically written into the story. Regardless of how these watches got into films, some of them have become stars in their own right.
In this article, we bring you some of our favorite Rolex watches that appeared on the silver screen and made a significant impact on both the world of film and watchmaking.
The 5 Most Iconic Rolex Watch Appearances of All Time
1. Rolex Datejust: American Psycho (2000)
American Psycho is a disturbing fictional novel by Bret Easton Ellis—and the movie of the same name is equally unsettling. But, while it’s the case, it’s difficult to not appreciate Patrick Bateman’s sense of fashion—the main character played by Christian Bale, which was also his breakout role.
An interesting story, though, Rolex only allowed Bale to wear the Datejust when he wasn’t committing any heinous acts. While it limited the watch’s appearance in the movie, it was enough for the Datejust to make a lasting impression.
2. Rolex Submariner 6538: Dr. No (1962)
When you think of James Bond, you would probably almost immediately think of Omega. But, while the world’s favorite spy did eventually move on with the brand, a Rolex watch will forever hold the title of being the first-ever James Bond watch: the Rolex Submariner 6538.
This dive watch is one of the all-time best, having appeared in the very first installment of the literary franchise, Dr. No. It was worn by Sean Connery himself and is regarded for both its impressive mechanical features, aesthetics, not to mention its association with James Bond.
In this 1992 play-turned-drama movie, Alec Baldwin delivered a remarkable performance with arguably the most recognizable quote: Always Be Closing. Apart from that, another thing that’s probably more remembered than the movie itself is the all-gold Rolex Daydate on his character’s wrist.
The model screams opulence, despite being relatively affordable by Rolex standards. Nevertheless, it served as an effective tool to communicate his somehow de-motivating speech about success. On a side note, you would also see Al Pacino’s character in the movie, Richard Roma, wearing a two-tone Rolex Datejust.
4. Rolex GMT Master 1675: Apocalypse Now (1979)
Marlon Brando purchased this GMT Master watch sometime in the 1970s. He opted to wear it while playing his character, Col. Walter E. Kurtz, a former Green Beret, who went rogue during the Vietnam war. Obviously, the filmmakers wanted him to remove it in the movies, but the actor insisted on wearing it. Instead, he removed just the bezel, giving it an unusual, naked look.
The watch was thought to have been lost to history until it resurfaced again and was eventually auctioned off. In 2019, it was sold for a total of $1.952 million.
5. Rolex Datejust 36: Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Matthew McConaughey played Mark Hanna, Belfort’s boss, in this 2013 classic. He introduced Wolf—the titular role played by Leonardo DiCaprio—to the world of insane wealth and his methods that are rather unconventional. In one of the most iconic scenes of the film, he teaches Belfort the so-called Wall Street chant over lunch where you will see him wearing an 80’s two-tone Rolex Datejust with a Jubilee bracelet.
Another Rolex that made an appearance in the movie is an 18k yellow gold Rolex Cosmograph Daytona that features a black dial. It graced the wrist of Jonah Hill who played Donnie Azoff, a character based on Belfort’s real-life business partner and friend.
Rolex and the Cinema
Movies are a great way to promote a brand or a specific product. Well-known celebrities paired with a convincing plot, result in lasting impressions for the viewers. This desired image is then tied to a brand—an advantage that the watch industry has long discovered. In many films, the watches of the main characters appear randomly staged and that’s when you know product placement is successful.
Rolex has long been associated with cinema with its watches appearing in films released as far back as 1962. What is most impressive, however, is that in many cases, the appearance of Rolexes in these movies was purely organic. They weren’t technically PR strategies, but instead a personal choice. In Dr. No, for example, producer Cubby Broccoli apparently gave Connery that watch off of his wrist, which ended up becoming an iconic timepiece.
The Bond name carries so much weight that it basically started the culture of watch marketing in movies. Rolex also owes it to the franchise for launching its product to great success. Today, the average 6538 is a rare piece that can fetch as much as six figures provided that it’s in good working condition.
The silver screen has long been proven to be one of the most effective advertising platforms. It not only provides a visual aspect, but a place to explain a product, connect it to a story, and in some cases, give it a distinct character with which it will forever be associated.
So much can be said about a character through their style, and in this case, their choice of wristwear. Throughout the history of cinema, we have seen several characters sporting watches that have enjoyed unprecedented success as a result.
Effective product placement can make even a lesser-known brand skyrocket. But, more importantly, it can get the audience to associate a product with a certain feeling or lifestyle, influencing their perception of the product in real and tangible ways.
Do you have any other Rolex watches to add to the list of the most iconic movie watches? Let us know by leaving a comment.