Welcome to Watches of the Week, quarantine edition. With celebrities staying home, we’re calling in friends and experts to share their favorite pieces from pop culture’s past and present.
“The biggest item in a character’s wardrobe that helps them inhabit who they are and informs the audience is the watch,” says Jeanne Yang, a celebrity stylist. Yang works with the likes of Robert Downey, Jr. and Jason Momoa—and part of her job is to deftly guide them to the most classic of classics. (Or the pieces that look like they’ve been looted from an Area 51 vault, if that’s what a client’s after.) Working in Hollywood and playing matchmaker between celebrity and watch makes Yang privy to the power a watch can have for stars and movies alike. And there is maybe no better example of this than the Rolex Submariner reference 6538 worn by Sean Connery’s James Bond in Dr. No. Bond needs a watch he can wear in combat, while diving into the ocean, while taking walks on the beach with Ursula Andress, and while wearing a tux—the Rolex Submariner capably steps in for every one of those occasions. In exchange, the Submariner is imbued with historic cool and ruggedness. Yang lists another classic, plus a couple blockbuster superhero movie timepieces, in this edition of Watches of the Week.
Sean Connery’s Rolex Submariner Reference 6538 from Dr. No
Ever since Sean Connery wore this Rolex Submariner in 1962’s Dr. No, the reference 6538 has become a favorite among collectors hoping to snag a bit of 007’s inimitable suaveness. The 6538’s distinctive quality is its big crown—the enlarged knob on the right side of the watch—along with the lack of crown guards that typically surround and protect the winding mechanism. Better than any specific features: it’s the very first watch 007 ever wore and consequently is known as the Bond Submariner. “More recently, Daniel Craig has been wearing Omegas, but in the first Bond Sean Connery wore this crazy Rolex Submariner,” says Yang. “When you think of the various instruments that make up the character of 007, it’s the car that starts shooting and has an ejector button. Of course, he’s going to also wear the most exquisite, beautiful watch that he can also jump into the ocean with. It has to be a versatile watch: he’s gotta be able to wear it with a bathing suit and he’s gotta be able to wear it with a tuxedo. The Submariner is the perfect watch for that.”
Steve Mcqueen’s Cartier Tank Cintrée and Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox from The Thomas Crown Affair
This is the fourth quarantine edition of Watches of the Week—and this is the third time Steve McQueen has been listed by one of our guests, and the second time his role in The Thomas Crown Affair was singled out for its excellent timepieces. Funnily enough, the Tank might be the watch Steve McQueen is least associated with. The actor was best known as a rough-around-the-edges guy who did his own stunts and is famous for wearing a Rolex Submariner and Heuer Monaco. His role as the elegant and genteel Thomas Crown was a far cry from typical McQueen fare. Maybe that’s what makes the two watches McQueen wear in the movie stand out so much—they represented a completely different side of the legendary actor.
“He wears a Cartier Tank Cintrée and it’s super thin, super delicate,” says Yang. “McQueen’s character is an art thief so he’s got to wear something that’s exquisite and beautiful. I always think art thieves steal art because they want it for themselves. They’re doing it for the money, but they love art.” And the Tank is art.
But for a lover of beautiful things, the Cartier wasn’t enough, so McQueen’s Crown also wore Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Memovox, a watch introduced in 1950 and one of the most famous to feature a built-in alarm. “He’s wearing two of the most exquisite-looking watches in the world,” says Yang. “The costume designers and the prop stylists for movies, at least a long time ago, weren’t guided by sponsorships. They are looking for things that will guide the character. When you’re on set and the actor gets dressed up slowly, bit by bit, they become that character. The clothing in The Thomas Crown Affair is fantastic, and so is the movie, but the watch is really the punctuation mark on both.”
Robert Downey Jr’s Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX3 Tourbillon GMT and Urwerk Ur-105CT from The Avengers universe
Yang highlights two watches worn by Robert Downey, Jr.—as Iron Man—that represent character growth. The first, a Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX3 encapsulates both sides of Tony Stark: gala-going billionaire and space-age superhero. “[As Stark,] you’re somebody who wants to appreciate the best makers in the world, so you’re going to go and get a JLC,” says Yang. “But then you’re also still getting something that’s a little bit more untraditional.” The AMVOX3 marries refinement of Jaeger-LeCoultre as a brand but still manages to look like a watch fit for a guy who commands an army of Iron Man-style robots.
But the JLC was a watch made for earthbound missions. What about when Iron Man needs to defend the entire universe? “[For Avengers: Endgame,] he decided to go for something really innovative, something that was daring and a little bit more unconventional,” says Yang. “That went along with what happened with the movies, as the character became more involved with not just saving a small part of the earth—the United States—to the whole world, and then in Endgame the whole universe.” The Urwerk’s futuristic design was a perfect match—a watch that looks like it was a prop specifically made for Iron Man. The look of the UR-105CT and its smoothed silver face is even meant to mirror a knight’s armor. And wearing it in the highest-grossing film of all time has its benefits: when Downey ended up auctioning the watch off in December, it sold for $312,000.