Watches of the worlds greatest icons
For the genius who understood that time is relative to the speed of light, Einstein still found himself wearing a wristwatch, specifically, a Longines. The watch was a gift from a rabbi during a luncheon of a Zionist convention at a hotel in Los Angeles.
Albert Einstein is thought of as one of the world’s most influential physicists who developed the general theory of relativity. In 1921, Einstein won the Nobel Prize for physics for his explanation of photoelectric effect but is best known for his equation E=MC2.
The watch the physicist originally received in 1931, was an elegant Longines gold piece dating from 1929. The yellow gold watch was tonneau-shaped and had Einstein’s name inscribed on it along with the location and date. Einstein owned two Longines watches, a gold pocket watch dating back from 1943, which currently resides in a museum in Berne and the former wristwatch mentioned. The wristwatch went on to auction for much more than the Longines pocket watch. While not much is known about the Longines wristwatch Einstein owned, we do know that the watch went on to fetch $596,000 at auction in 2008, becoming the highest priced Longines to ever auction.
Buzz Aldrin, an American engineer, former astronaut and fighter pilot is the man that made ‘The Moon Watch’ famous. He wore an Omega Speedmaster on his expedition to space, one of the most auspicious events of our time, making the Speedmaster the first watch to be worn on the moon. Since then the watch has been referred to as ‘Moon Watch’.
One of the first people to walk on the moon, astronaut Buzz Aldrin made the Apollo 11 moonwalk in 1969 with Commander Neil Armstrong. Buzz’s father was a colonel in the Air Force and encouraged his passion for flight. Buzz went on to become a fighter pilot and flew in the Korean War. In 1963 NASA selected Buzz Aldrin for the next Gemini mission and in 1969 he made history. Aldrin went on to develop space technology and became an acclaimed author. Neil Armstrong went on to take one of the most famous photographs in history, of Buzz Aldrin in his spacesuit on the moon; in the photo you can see the black strap of his Speedmaster.
Known for its stealth, the Omega Speedmaster has been worn by pilots, explorers, athletes and astronauts. It is often debated how the Speedmaster acquired its ‘Moon Watch’ nickname and it’s down to the approval it received from NASA after meeting all requirements to go to the moon. NASA declared it ‘operational for space exploration and flight certified’. The exact Speedmaster worn by Buzz was the Omega Speedmaster ST105.012, an asymmetrical edition which displayed the ‘lyre lugs’ with a 42mm case and calibre 321. Upon his return, Buzz followed protocol and sent his watch to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington to be displayed, unfortunately the watch got lost on the way. Today the Moonwatch could fetch millions at auction, even after all this time, it is possible the watch will one day turn up. In the interim, the Omega Speedmaster can be bought as the brand have produced many iterations to suit a variety of needs.
Omega Constellation and Elvis Presley
In 1961, Elvis Presley became the first artist in history to sell 75 million copies of his records, a huge career milestone for the star. To mark the occasion his label RCA presented him with a white gold Omega Constellation watch fitted with a diamond bezel.
Elvis Presley’s life at a glance
The king of rock and roll, Elvis Aaron Presley came from humble beginnings in Mississippi and rose to fame in the 1950s with his infamous vocals and silver screen presence. Elvis’ Memphis home, Graceland has served as a museum to his fans and Graceland is particularly busy at the time of his birthday where a vigil is often held.
The watch story
In the spring of 2018 Elvis’ Omega Constellation went on sale as one of the marquee lots in Phillips’ annual watch auction in Geneva. It’s not unheard of for Phillips to offer historically important timepieces – this is the same auction house that last year sold Paul Newman’s iconic Rolex Daytona for just under $18 million. Just like Newman’s fabled timepiece, Elvis’ has a commemorative engraving on the back. It says “To Elvis, 75 Million Records, RCA Victor, 12-25-60”. The watch carries serious historical weight and has the rare distinction of being a time-only Omega watch with a diamond bezel sold by Tiffany & Co. whose brand name is marked on the dial. (Co-branded dials on luxury watches are now extremely rare but during this time Tiffany would affix its name to the watches made by Rolex, Omega and even Patek Philippe). The 18 carat white gold watch sold for $1, 812, 500, the second highest auction price for the brand.
Audemars Piguet and Jay-Z
One of the world’s best selling artists and acclaimed rappers, Jay-Z has shown a strong affinity for the luxury swiss watch brand Audemars Piguet in his music. In 2006, he collaborated with the brand to celebrate his 10th year in the music industry and a limited edition Royal Oak Offshore watch with his autograph engraved on the caseback was released.
Jay-Z’s life at a glance
Born Shawn Corey Carter in Brooklyn, New York City, Jay-Z went on to become one of the world’s richest rap moguls and married singer Beyonce Knowles. Jay-Z grew up in the feared Marcy Projects where he met collaborator Notorious B.I.G, collectively they sold millions of records and individually Jay-Z became the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Many of his songs are autobiographical and demonstrate his poetic lyrics, always rising to the top of the charts.
Jay-Z’s virtuosity allowed him to indulge in the finer things in life, specifically luxury Swiss watches and his affinity for Audemars Piguet has been detailed on many tracks. In 1997, Francois Bennahmias the CEO of Audemars Piguet took Jay-Z into the private vault of their New York headquarters and from there his love of watches shot past any joy he found in chains and diamonds.
The watch story
As mentioned Jay-Z’s collaboration with the watch brand lead to the release of 100 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore watches, engraved with his autograph. The whole project was all in celebration of Jay-Z’s 10th year in music. The Arabic numeral 10 on the dial was set in diamonds to draw extra attention to the anniversary. Anyone who purchased the watch also received a limited edition engraved iPod featuring Jay-Z’s entire discography to date.With his net worth estimated at $900 million, Jay-Z doesn’t limit himself to just Audemars Piguet. It was widely reported that wife Beyonce gifted Jay-Z a fully bedazzled Hublot Big Bang for his 43rd birthday. This is in addition to Jay-Z’s own Hublot collaboration watch; the Sean Carter Hublot Classic Fusion.
Ulysse Nardin and Jeff Bezos
So how does the richest man on earth spend money on time? With an Ulysse Nardin timepiece made of stainless steel, sapphire crystals and finished with a stainless steel strap.
Jeff Bezos’ life at a glance
Founder of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post Jeff Bezos is the richest man in modern history with his fortune estimated at $150 billion, $55 billion richer than Bill Gates. Princeton graduate Jeff quit his job on Wall Street to open Amazon; a virtual bookstore that became one of the internet’s biggest success stories. Then, in 2013, Jeff purchased The Washington Post for $250 million. With no press promotion, Amazon sold books across the USA and 45 other countries within 30 days, the company grew at a faster rate than anyone could have anticipated. Amazon went on to diversify its offering with the sales of CDs, clothes, electronics and other household goods. In 2007, the company released the Kindle which went on to change the reading landscape.
The watch story
The exact model is a Ulysse Nardin Dual Time 233-88-7; the watch has Dual Time functioning and plenty of nautical design. Featuring the dial of many of the predecessors in the Dual Time range; a local time is shown from centre-mounted hour and minute hands, with small seconds at 6 o’clock. The impressive Dual Time feature is easily set via pushers on the side of the case and even the date display switches as you adjust the time.
Breitling Navitimer and John Travolta
As an actor, producer, Golden Globe Winner and Oscar Nominee John Travolta is no stranger to us and the watch that he seemingly holds the closest to his heart is the Breitling Navitimer. Of all the Breitling’s and watches that the star owns, John is most often spotted wearing a Breitling Navitimer and over the years has featured in a number of their campaigns.
John Travolta’s life at a glance
Best known for his roles in Saturday Night Fever, Grease and Pulp Fiction, actor John Travolta has had an astounding career. As well as his acting and singing career, John Travolta has always had a strong passion for aviation; with his own collection of jets and a pilot’s license. His love of Breitling encompasses his appetite for planes and timepieces alike.
The watch story
The Navitimer was an evolution of an earlier Chronomat with a typical slide rule bezel. The brand decided to improve this highly practical bezel and in 1952 the ‘Navi’ was created. The slide rule bezel was used to calculate complicated operations without any other tool. The United States Air Force used this watch and Breitling became a brand dedicated to pilots. Breitling continue to be the official supplier of board instruments for all the major aircraft companies, e.g., the 1957 Boeing 707 with a Breitling dashboard instrument. The model always on his wrist is the Navitimer AB012012-BB01BK with a black leather strap, black dial and white hands. It is water resistant with a bidirectional bezel and the watch is encased with sapphire crystal for true resistance. The watch is self-winding, has a stealthy power reserve while being stylish and functional. The Navitimer is a truly timeless watch and is available today in many iterations to suit all types of wearers.
Blancpain and Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe, one of the most famous women in history, was often described as the epitome of femininity and beauty. Despite the extravagant lavish lifestyle the star was synonymous with, a dainty diamond Blancpain cocktail watch was one of the few personal accessories that the star owned.
Marilyn Monroe’s life at a glance
The model, actress, singer and 1950s icon left behind an incredible legacy and epitomises fame as we know it. Born Norma Jeane Mortenson in June 1926, she had a turbulent upbringing and spent much of her youth raised by foster parents. Her traumatic childhood made her shy and reserved but she had phenomenal camera presence and began modelling at the age of 16. In 1946, Norma changed her name to Marilyn Monroe, she began drama lessons and landed a movie contract with Twentieth Century Fox, the success of her film thrust her in to global stardom. Marilyn became a symbol of glamour, fashion and beauty.
The watch story
Along with furs and legendary gowns, Marilyn’s Blancpain watch is said to have been a standard 1930s watch of the time that featured additional diamonds and a safety chain.
Set with 71 round diamonds and two marquise diamonds, Marilyn’s watch reads ‘Blancpain’ on the dial and ‘Rayville Watch Co. 17 Jewels, Unadjusted Switzerland’ on the movement. Describing the movement as unadjusted avoided additional import or export expenses on the watch.
The watch garnered $225,000 at auction and was bought by the manufacturer, Blancpain. The famous timepiece is now reportedly on display at Blancpain’s Museum in Switzerland.
IWC Big Pilot and Michael Jordan
The American sports star and former professional basketball player has been spotted wearing many watches, but the one that stands out most is his IWC Big Pilot Platinum (ref. 5002-02), he wore this to the White House when President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Michael Jordan’s life at a glance
Michael Jordan is probably the world’s most famous American basketball star. He has gone on to receive various accolades including Olympic athlete, businessperson and actor. Michael Jordan dominated basketball from the mid 80s to the late 90s, leading the Chicago Bulls to six National Basketball Association championships while earning the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award five times. Between his stake in other teams, sponsorship with Nike and endorsement deals, Michael Jordan’s estimated net worth is more than $1 billion.
The watch story:
The watch is reportedly an IWC Big Pilot Platinum Limited Edition ref. 5002-02 available in limited numbers. It features a large blue dial with a 46mm stainless steel case; the perfect size for the 6’6 basketball player. The timepiece has a brown calfskin leather strap, is equipped with a 7-day power reserve which is displayed on the dial and runs on an automatic movement. To top it off the watch has a soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields and a sapphire crystal with antireflective coating on both sides for maximum protection.
Rado True Thinline and Oprah Winfrey
Media mogul, actress, producer and talk show host Oprah Winfrey had the highest-rated television program of its kind. She’s been known to share gift guides with her hotly-anticipated ‘Favourite Things’ list for Christmas. The Rado True Thinline is a watch that she has often been seen wearing at events and which she has also recommended in her popular gift guide.
Oprah Winfrey’s life at a glance
Media tycoon, philanthropist and talk show host are some of the billionaires’ achievements, but don’t really do her justice. Oprah Winfrey has become one of the most beloved and successful personalities of this century. She was recruited by a Chicago TV station to host a morning show, the success of this led to her critically acclaimed The Oprah Winfrey Show which aired for 25 seasons, from 1986-2011. Following this, Oprah launched her own TV network, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. Her TV success gave Oprah a starring role in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film, The Colour Purple, where she was nominated for an Oscar.
The watch story:
When Oprah first shared the Rado True Thinline watch as one of her favourite products, what drew her to the watch was the fact that you could wear it with almost anything, making it an accessory that you could wear all year round. She was recently seen wearing the watch at the premier of her Greenleaf series. The watch worn was a diamond Rado True Thinline quartz in high-tech ceramics and Oprah reportedly mentioned that she was drawn to the watch due to its readability and effortlessness. The Swiss-made watch appears to be a 39mm version and along with its striking design, the high-tech ceramic watch is also hypoallergenic, lightweight and scratch resistant.
Omega Seamaster and Prince William The Duke of Cambridge
Prince William the Duke of Cambridge has over time consistently favoured the Omega Seamaster Quartz 300m mid-size. The Prince’s preference for the watch is entirely sentimental as it was a gift from his late mother, Princess Diana.
The Duke of Cambridge’s life at a glance
Second in line to the British Crown, Prince William is the eldest son of Princess Diana and Prince Charles of Wales. He studied for his degree at the University of St Andrews, after which he went on to complete 44 weeks of training as an Officer Cadet. He completed pilot training and became a full time pilot with the RAF Search and Rescue Force in 2009. He stopped serving with the British Royal Armed Forces in 2013. He is married to Catherine Middleton now the Duchess of Cambridge and they have three children together. Since graduating, he has undertaken public duties in his capacity as a royal family member.
The watch story:
Much like James Bond, the Omega Seamaster Quartz has gained notoriety because of its versatility; it is rugged, functional and stylish suited to any occasion. The watch was introduced in 1948 as a range of water-resistant and dress-style watches which eventually evolved to become the dive watch as we know it. The Omega Seamaster Quartz model is still available, but has had contemporary updates over the years.
The exact model of the Omega Seamaster 300m is 2561.80.00. This model is often known as the ‘James Bond watch’ due to the appearance of the blue Seamaster in the Bond movies; Golden Eye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is not Enough and Die Another Day. The timepiece features a blue bezel and blue dial, a chronometer, a screw-in crown, a unidirectional rotating bezel, and a helium-escape valve. The dial is covered with sapphire crystal, resistant to scratches, and the wristband is made from stainless steel.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 101 and Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth realms, is the longest reigning British monarch. The special watch is the timepiece she first wore to her coronation in 1953, a Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 101 diamond-set timepiece. To this day, the Calibre 101 houses the smallest mechanical movement ever to have been created. In 2012, Jaeger-LeCoultre presented the Queen with a new 101 creation; to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee, celebrating the 60 year anniversary of her reign.
Queen Elizabeth II life at a glance
Born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in April 1926, she became Queen in 1952 and has been the longest reigning monarch in British history. In February 2017, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated 65 years on the throne with her Sapphire Jubilee. Queen Elizabeth is the mother of Prince Charles, the heir to the throne and is the grandmother of Princes William and Harry. Queen Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten in the autumn of 1947 and despite being distant cousins the two fell in love, making an unusual pair. Elizabeth was shy and reserved while Philip was outspoken and boisterous. Alongside their son Prince Charles, they have a daughter, Anne and two more sons, Andrew and Edward.
The watch story
The Calibre 101 diamond-set piece was created in 1929 with the idea of creating a precise and dainty accessory that could tell the time. The small movement encapsulated delicacy and femininity and gave the in-house designers room to fuse high-end jewellery with horology. The white gold watch is set with baguette diamonds and is so small that its 98 miniscule parts only weigh one gram. Aside from the Reverso and Atmos Clock, the Calibre 101 is one of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most recognisable creations.
Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX5 World Chronograph and Robert Downey Jr.
Much like his character Tony Stark in Iron Man, one of Hollywood’s highest paid actors Robert Downey Jr. is a lover of fanciful accessories. The watch which he is most often seen wearing is his Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX5 World Chronograph, one of a limited edition of 300 pieces.
Robert Downey Jr.’s life at a glance
Robert Downey Jr is an actor best known for roles in Iron Man, The Avengers and Sherlock Holmes. His career began at an early age when he was a cast member of Saturday Night Live and featured in huge hits like Weird Science and Back to School. His breakthrough role came in 1987 for the film Less Than Zero where he played a party loving drug addict. His growing success was marred by his own issues with substance abuse but he managed to overcome his addiction and is considered one of Hollywood’s A-list actors. Despite his personal turmoil, Robert Downey Jr. continued to work and became a regular cast member on the show Ally McBeal, eventually going on to win a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actor’s Guild Award. Robert went from critically acclaimed actor to box-office sensation when he became crime fighter Tony Stark in the hit franchise, Iron Man.
The watch story
The watch was a collaboration between Jaeger-LeCoultre and Aston Martin and the chronograph features an openworked dial with a gridwork motif to mimic the radiator grilles on an Aston Martin. The letters A and M in the word AMVOX stand for the initial letters of Aston Martin and VOX stands for the famous Memovox that Jaeger-LeCoultre created. The watch has two separate crowns that allows one to manually wind and set the alarm and watch. The watch also has world time functions, luminescent white numerals and hour-markers that are arranged in a 270 degree sweep.
Baume et Mercier and Steve Jobs
Co-founder of Apple and one of the world’s greatest tech entrepreneurs Steve Jobs was known to wear an 18-carat Baume et Mercier wristwatch with a brown lizard skin strap. His second watch was a humble Seiko Quartz.
Steve Jobs’ life at a glance
One of the greatest creators of the 21st century, Steve Jobs co-found Apple Computers and changed the face of modern communication with the iPhone. A college dropout, Steve Jobs co-established Apple with Steve Wozniak in 1976. An innovative and creative thinker, Steve had a turbulent youth and lacked direction, after six months at university he dropped out and took a job as a video game designer with Atari, he then left this job to find spiritual enlightenment in India. At the age of 21, Apple Computers began in his family garage, creating user-friendly personal computers. Within three years Apple had sales of $139 million. In 1984, Apple released the Macintosh a computer that was designed to be superior to IBM’s PCs. The company went from strength to strength with the eventual launch of the iPod, iPhone and iPad. This left Steve with a net worth estimated at $7 billion. The tech genius died at the age of 56 in 2011.
The watch story
The watches that Steve Jobs reportedly favoured was no different to his usual classic 80s style. Steve who was rarely seen without his roll-neck sweaters was known to wear the Baume et Mercier and Seiko watches daily. The Seiko went on to fetch a whopping $42,500 after his death. From photos of Steve wearing the Baume et Mercier watch, it is thought that he wore it everyday; the watch is probably one of the most humble watches imaginable for such a creative maverick.
TAG Heuer Monaco and Steve McQueen
American actor Steve McQueen also dubbed ‘The King of Cool’ took a special interest in the TAG Heuer Monaco which he wore during the filming of Le Mans. This watch sold for an impressive $799,500 at auction.
Steve McQueen’s life at a glance
A prolific actor of the 1960s and 70s, Steve McQueen personified the modern gentleman with starring roles in The Great Escape, Bullitt and The Getaway. Steve’s first acting role was in a theatrical production where he was eventually cut from the show, despite this setback he still won a talent scholarship and was accepted to the prestigious Actors Studio where he studied with Lee Strasberg. McQueen went on to land many leading roles and garnered international attention. With his 1963 film The Great Escape, Steve earned his title as an acting legend and continued on an upward trajectory.
The watch story
The TAG Heuer Monaco is a watch that certainly stands out from the crowd, it is bold and unique. It was the world’s first square waterproof Chronograph, when it was launched in 1969. The iconic image of McQueen in his white driving suit wearing a bright blue TAG Heuer Monaco with white sub-dials and red hands goes down in Hollywood history. Today, you can buy a re-edition of that 1969 design, with a modern movement.
Nixie watch and Steve Wozniak
American inventor, electronics engineer and tech entrepreneur Steve Wozniak probably has what could be seen as one of the most eccentric watches (of all the icons discussed in this piece). ‘The Woz’ (as he is colloquially known) favours the Nixie watch. It gets its name from the two 140-volt Nixie tubes invented 45 years ago.
Steve Wozniak’s life at a glance
A co-founder of Apple and the inventor of the Apple II computer, Steve Wozniak is the lesser known Steve behind the billion dollar empire. In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak released some of the first personal computers on the market, with Wozniak personally developing the Apple II which established Apple as a powerhouse in the world of micro- computing. Wozniak mostly worked on the invention of the products while Jobs led marketing, this combination led them to great success. Steve Wozniak ended his employment with Apple in 1985 and went on to create numerous technological ventures, even establishing a foundation for hackers facing criminal prosecution.
The watch story
The technology used for this unique timepiece dates back to the Cold War where the first numeric displays were made for the first digital voltmeters and frequency counters. The glass tubes are filled with gas at low pressure and also contain a wire-mesh anode and cathodes shaped like numerals. One of The Woz’s favourite parts of the watch is its simplicity; there are no visible pushers and the watch works on a tilt of the wrist; it first displays hours, then minutes.
Panerai Luminor and Sylvester Stallone
Action star Sylvester Stallone often referred to as ‘Sly’ often sports the stealthy Panerai Luminor on his arm. His love affair of timepieces began in 1995 when he was preparing for the movie Daylight.
Sylvester Stallone’s life at a glance
A hugely successful action star Sylvester Stallone is best known for his performances in Rocky and Rambo. Born in New York City, Sylvester rose to fame as the writer and leading star of Rocky in 1976. This film catapulted ‘Sly’ to success and made him a household name as he reprised his role as Rocky Balboa for several sequels. The film earned 10 Oscar nominations including Best Actor. As the writer of the script, Sly refused to sell the screenplay unless he was allowed to star in it, making these award recognitions extremely satisfying for the action star. After a few hit Rocky films, Sylvester took on the role as John Rambo, a trouble Vietnam veteran and once again, the film struck box-office gold.
The watch story
While preparing for his role in the film Daylight, Sly wanted to build upon his characters’ presence. It was when he went browsing through stores in Rome, with the shooting of the film, that he came across a Panerai Luminor. It was love at first sight between Sly and the Panerai. He is known to have said that the watch had star power and he has certainly championed that belief. He was so taken by the watch that he went on to order several Mare Nostrum and Submersible models with the inscription “Slytech” and his signature which he then gifted to his friends. Arnold Schwarzenegger was known to be a recipient of the gift and went on to wear it in Escape Plan. Panerai got a huge amount of screen time in Sly’s film The Expendables, which he wrote, directed and produced. All the film’s main stars wore Panerai watches and there are several close-ups of the timepieces. It goes without saying that the relationship between Panerai and Sylvester Stallone always leads to success.
Watches have long been treasured by some of the world’s greatest icons. As was seen in this guide, some of the figures discussed were rarely seen without their favourite timepieces, be it because of the sentimental value attached to it, for the beauty of the piece, or just out of sheer practicality.
Mutually beneficial and now embedded in watch culture, celebrity watches definitely have an influence on the Swiss watch industry. From limited edition watches created by our favourite A-listers to watches commissioned for specific movies, it’s clear that watches and celebrities go hand in hand. It is a partnership that has stood the test of time and will continue to flourish.
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