You can tell a lot about a man by the kind of watch he wears, and it’s particularly helpful when it’s celebrities. Normally, we’d never have a chance to get to know people at that level of society, so learning more about the ways they accessorized gives us the rare chance to get to know the guy behind the accomplishments. Plus, knowing what they wore lets us shamelessly copy them.
Steve McQueen’s Rolex Submariner
Steve McQueen is easily one of the coolest men to ever live. Like, ever. In fact, the Bullitt star was so cool that his nickname in Hollywood was quite literally, “the King of Cool.” McQueen actually gifted his prized Rolex Submariner to legendary stunt driver Loren James, who also did his stunts on movies like Bullitt and The Getaway. Inscribed on the back is, “LOREN, THE BEST DAMN STUNTMAN IN THE WORLD. STEVE.” It’s a great quote, given the nature of McQueen’s counter-cultural anti-hero persona, back in those days. The coolest part about this watch isn’t even the men it belonged to, but rather what it endured. It survived the LA Sand Fires back in 2016, and even though it was serviced by Rolex after the fact, there are still chunks of soot caught in between the band clasps and caseback. While the watch hasn’t been sold at auction yet, it’s due on the block this October, and is estimated to pull within $300k-$600k. Link
Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona
One of the uncontended greats, Paul Newman was easily one of the most badass men to ever grace the screen. Not only was he an actor, director, and producer, but he was also an exceptionally badass driver. When one of Newman’s prized Rolex Daytona’s hit the auction block this last October, it set an all-time record for the most valuable watch ever sold at auction, bringing in over $17.8 million after fees and percentages. The watch is so famous and so valuable that it transcends the boundaries of being a vintage watch, or even a vintage piece of Hollywood memorabilia; it’s a literal piece of American history, and a relic owned by one of America’s most beloved movie stars. Link
Buzz Aldrin’s OMEGA Speedmaster
As you know, Buzz Aldrin is credited with being the second man to step foot on the moon. Consequently, it can also be said that the OMEGA Speedmaster Aldrin was wearing was also the first wrist watch to make it to the moon, too. When the astronauts made it back to earth, they sent all their gear to the Smithsonian. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, Aldrin’s famous Speedmaster never made it there. So, technically speaking, his famous and pricelessly one of a kind Speedmaster could still be out there somewhere—unless he managed to leave it on the moon, of course. Link
John F. Kennedy’s Presidential OMEGA
JFK is considered to be one of the greatest Commander In Chiefs in U.S. history. However, before he was president, he was a polite U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Of course, that didn’t stop his friend and former Florida State Senator Grand Stockdale from commissioning the design of a custom Omega Ultra Thin to commemorate his winning of the election—despite the fact that, at the time it was ordered, JFK hadn’t yet won the election. The watch, whose face is cream white and case beautiful 18-karat gold, has the inscription, “PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES JOHN F. KENNEDY FROM HIS FRIEND GRANT” on the back. OMEGA paid $350,000 at auction for the watch in 2005, and it now resides permanently at the Omea Museum in Bienne, Switzerland. Link
Major Desmond Homard’s Tudor Oyster Prince
Major Desmond E.L. Homard might not be someone you’ve heard of if you’re not well versed in Arctic exploration, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t somebody worth remembering. He took part in two of the most important British polar expeditions in the post-WWII era, the British North Greenland Expedition of 1952-54, and the Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1955-58. His now-famous Tudor Oyster Prince was specially designed for survival in the extreme temperatures he and his colleagues faced on the BNGE, and included a special wristband that could fit over arctic overalls. However, the watch seemed lost to time after his wife misplaced it following his departure for the Trans-Antarctic Expedition sometime in 1956. There’s a happy ending here though, when Homard recovered the watch in 2014, a year before his death, after he found it in the back of one of the drawers in his kitchen. The watch now resides in Tudor’s brand museum. Link
Martin Luther King Jr.’s Rolex Datejust
Martin Luther King Jr. was, for quite obvious reasons, one of, if not the, most important Civil Rights activists in a decade packed full of important leaders, and his methods are still taught in classrooms and communities all over the world today. He also had excellent taste in wristwatches.
While we don’t know much about King Jr.’s prized Rolex Datejust, we do know that he wore it almost everywhere. It was on his wrist during his historic 1958 arrest in Montgomery, Alabama, when he met with President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and pretty much everything else he did, mundane and monumental. Perhaps what’s most interesting about this watch, on this man, is just how little we know about it. We don’t know where it went after MLK was killed, we don’t know how he came to own it—nothing. Some fables claim the watch was a gift of solidarity from the folks at Rolex, while others claim that it was given to him by another Civil Rights activist who wanted it to serve as an ice breaker for MLK in difficult meetings with skeptical adversaries. Nevertheless, all that matters is we know he owned and loved his Rolex Datejust. Link