How can you tell what makes a character tick? From Jacob Palmer in Crazy Stupid Love (Ryan Gosling), David Sanders in The Deep (Nick Nolte, above) and Michael Vronsky in The Deer Hunter (Robert de Niro), there are countless films in which the big-name star wears a wristwatch to match.
That Rolex has become a go-to choice for costume designers reflects not only the iconic nature of the watches, but also that they say something about who’s wearing them. They can help to place a character - in the boardroom or on the high seas - and imbue him (or her) with charisma and authority. “Watches are as rich in symbolic complexity as they are in mechanical complications,” says The New York Times.
Here are a few of Rolex’s most memorable big screen cameo roles.
ROGER MOORE IN LIVE AND LET DIE
The original Bond always wore Rolex - as Sean Connery does in Dr No and Ian Fleming’s character did in the novels. But it was the big screen’s Q and his department of clever gadgets that ensured 007’s wristwear did more than just tell the time. In Live and Let Die, Roger Moore’s Submariner could generate a magnetic field, while its bezel doubled as a mini buzz saw.
MICHAEL CAINE IN GET CARTER
The watch itself - a Datejust - is rarely seen in Get Carter, and when it does appear it tends to be overshadowed by the wrong end of a shotgun. But the fact that Michael Caine’s Jack Carter wears one - with a gold dial, on a brown leather strap - to complement his Doug Hayward suit conveys his status. “Carter, of course, is a paragon of strength, intelligence, ruthlessness, sexual attraction and even a dry sense of humour,” said The Daily Telegraph in its 1971 review of the film.
DAVID OYELOWO AS MARTIN LUTHER KING IN SELMA
In dressing fictional characters, film-makers may reach for a Rolex to lend weight to a protagonist of their own creation. But in Selma, the 2015 biopic about Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the substance came from the man himself, and David Oyelowo’s portrayal of his central role in the civil rights movement. The watch was simply a matter of historical record: King’s timepiece of choice was a yellow gold Rolex Datejust.
ALEC BALDWIN IN GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS
“You see this watch? That watch costs more than your car,” boasts the head honcho salesman in David Mamet’s 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross, whose concerns are a little more material than those of Martin Luther King. The watch, a gold Day-Date worn by Alec Baldwin, was a signifier of success, and an era-defining status symbol. “That\'s not to say that it\'s not a beautiful piece,” says Esquire.
ROBERT SHAW IN JAWS
Jaws may have had a greater impact on the public psyche than any previous movie, to the detriment of sharks and the benefit of Rolex, whose association with adventure and expertise was subtly underlined in the film. It was a double bill for the brand: not only does Robert Shaw’s gnarly shark hunter wear a Submariner but so does Richard Dreyfuss’s shark expert. And there was a third Rolex-wearer lurking behind the scenes: Peter Benchley, the author of the original novel - and the star of a Rolex magazine advert of the time. “If, like Peter Benchley, you ever feel the urge to take a closer look at a shark, the Rolex Submariner has another useful quality,” read the text. “It is virtually unaffected by shock.”
STEVE MCQUEEN IN THE GREAT ESCAPE AND THE HUNTER
Steve McQueen, a true connoisseur of watches, topped and tailed his career with a Rolex on his wrist. In The Great Escape, which launched him onto the A-list, he wore a Speedking - and with good historical reason. “When British servicemen arrived in German POW camps, they routinely had their watches stolen by the guards,” explains Crown and Caliber. “Rolex learned of this and began replacing them, often sending the watches with Red Cross packages straight into the camp.” Years later, in his final film, The Hunter, McQueen was allowed to wear a watch of his own choosing, and picked a Rolex Submariner.