For many years, I’ve been a fanatical nay-sayer when it comes to watch brand ambassadors. However, the world of watch ambassadors is not limited to those paid by the brands. Let’s analyze the different kinds of watch ambassadors and their effect on you.

A brand picks an ambassador, gives him or her a watch, and the next thing you see is said ambassador wearing the watch during photo shoots, TV shows, movies, etc. It often leaves me cold, as there’s (often) no real interest in the watch. It’s just a commercial deal they have, and there’s little thought behind it. The objective of watch brands isn’t to make you buy the same watch you see on the wrist of celebrity A or celebrity B. Rather, it is to create awareness for their brand. Only the big brands have the advantage of having some recognition with a larger audience already, so perhaps you want to buy the Speedmaster ’57 that you see George Clooney wearing in the latest advertisements or the Rolex Air-King that you saw on the wrist of Roger Federer.

Anya Taylor-Joy — Image (c) Jaeger-LeCoultre

Watch brand ambassadors

Over the years, I’ve met with several watch ambassadors (most recently with George Clooney during an event with Omega), and there seems to be a personal angle in the brands they pick. That’s all fine. It makes it at least a bit more authentic when an ambassador is faithful to the brand he or she picks. As a watch media title, we receive — per week — several emails from watch brands about their ambassadors, especially when they’ve appeared on screen with their watches or when a brand announces a new ambassador in its “stable” (Hello, Anya Taylor-Joy at Jaeger-LeCoultre).

Matt Wallace

It kind of matters if an ambassador was already into watches or the brand he or she is representing. It makes a difference if there’s some genuine interest in the watches (and brand) or if it is just a cold commercial deal. I spoke to Audemars Piguet ambassador and golfer Matt Wallace a few years ago. He told me that before Audemars Piguet asked him to join its team of golf ambassadors, he was already interested in watches. Admittedly, teaming up with Audemars Piguet ignited a deeper interest in watches, but he wasn’t new to watches.

Brand ambassadors versus influencers

Let me also make a distinction between watch brand ambassadors and influencers. Influencers often have their target audience, mostly fashion-based, and watch brands love to tap into that audience. They know how to reach the watch enthusiast using watch magazines, blogs, YouTubers, and so on, but for them, it is also good to gain the interest of “normal people”. By handing out (often free) watches to influencers, often with either a big reach or a micro-influencer with their special niche, these brands hope to get noticed by these influencers’ audiences.

The downside is that most of these influencers don’t give a crap about watches, so next week, they are flaunting the next brand that gives a watch or some money for free, names like Daniel Wellington and other fashion brands included. I’ve noticed in the past two years that it seems that brands are stepping away again from this type of advertising, probably due to the lack of loyalty from these partners or just no measurable effect.

Roger Federer in a Rolex advertisement for the Milgauss

Do they wear their watches in private as well?

A watch brand ambassador is different. They associate themselves with the brand like Roger Federer does (or, now that he retired, did?) for Rolex, Mark Ronson for Audemars Piguet, or Monica Bellucci for Cartier.

Monica Bellucci — Image (c) Cartier

Mind you; these brands have many more ambassadors connected to them. They wear the watches during their public appearances, be that on the screen, at an event, or on cover shoots. Sometimes, you will notice that brand ambassadors also wear these watches in private (which I applaud). Others grab a watch from a different brand to wear during their private time. A good example is Max Verstappen, the F1 World Champion sponsored by TAG Heuer, who prefers to wear Rolex and Audemars Piguet in his free time. Of course, it could have everything to do with their agreement.

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano wearing a Rolex Day-Date 18238. Image source: Haute Time.

You love spotting watches on celebrities

That was a long introduction to watch ambassadors, and I am sure many of our readers are familiar with the concept. Anyway, as I’ve already touched upon above, it matters (to me) whether the ambassador is a true supporter of the watch and the brand or if he or she just agreed to an attractive proposal. This doesn’t have to apply to you, of course. If someone famous is wearing a beautiful watch, and it sparks your interest because of this person, more power to you (and the brand).

Lovell (Tom Hanks) wearing the Speedmaster Pro

Watches in movies

Examples that brand ambassadors have a positive effect on (potential) watch buyers are not that difficult to find. Besides the obvious Moon-going astronauts and James Bond characters wearing watches (not strictly Omega), we also see that actors and actresses get their share of exposure on social media because of their watches. Events like the Venice International Film Festival, the Grammys, and others get coverage on watch websites because of the attendees’ watches. Perhaps even more popular are the articles and Instagram posts about spotting watches in movies. People seem to love these types of content, and why blame them? It’s fun to see a celebrity wearing the same watch you have, isn’t it? Most actors and actresses don’t even ring a bell with me (I am not much of a movie buff), to the great amusement of my colleagues here in the Fratello office.

Paul McCartney Patek Philippe Aquanaut - Heroes

Sir James Paul McCartney — Image (c) GQ Magazine

Being “watch influenced” is not new

I have to admit, though, that if I see someone famous (who I know and admire) in a magazine, on-screen, or wherever, I notice what he or she is wearing on the wrist. And perhaps here’s the difference: often, they are not official ambassadors for a watch brand. Instead, we can debate whether they’ll become one as soon as they wear the watch.

Mark Knopfler Speedmaster Watch

Mark Knopfler and his gold Speedmaster Broad Arrow. Image (c) Mark Knopfler

As I’ve written before (here), I am an admirer of Paul McCartney, and I connect him to Patek Philippe, even though he’s not an official ambassador. The same goes for Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits. He has a plethora of watches (here) but seems to love the Omega Speedmaster, and I know he has several.

Tom Selleck (Magnum P.I.) wearing his GMT-Master

I also must admit that when I see watches in movies (often sponsored by the brand), it does bring a smile to my face. The Panerai worn in Daylight on the wrist of Stallone, the Speedmasters featured in Apollo 13 (on the wrists of the astronauts) or Frequency (on the wrist of Dennis Quaid), the Rolex GMT-Master on the wrist of Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I., and so on have become classic examples of “watch spottings”.

I recently spoke to a crime reporter who bought a Rolex GMT-Master at some point because of Magnum P.I., one of his favorite TV shows in the 1980s. So being influenced is an age-old phenomenon, not a recent product of social media. That said, social media amplifies celebrities’ reach and what they wear. Countless Instagram accounts specialize in spotting watches on celebrities to great success (@niccoloy comes to mind).

Don Johnson as Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice — Image source: Rubber B

Don Johnson influenced me

Would I be influenced by the fact that actor Jake Gyllenhaal is wearing a Cartier Santos or Mark Ronson is sporting a gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oak? Probably not, but I am also not blind to the fact that there’s a new generation out there that is growing up with today’s actors and stars. and looks at their wrists the same way I did when watching Magnum P.I. with Tom Selleck or Miami Vice with Don Johnson (who wore an Ebel). My colleague Sinara told me she loved the Omega De Ville on the wrist of Kaia Gerber (don’t worry; if you are over 40, this name might not ring a bell) during the MET Gala in 2021. It made her want one, too.

Image source: CataWiki

A big part of the fun for me when I pull the trigger on that Ebel chronograph with the El Primero movement will be rewatching Sonny Crockett in the 1980s with his Ebel. And by the way, did you know that Ebel officially sponsored Miami Vice with its watches? As I said, “watch influencing” is nothing new.

What are your thoughts on celebrities endorsing watches? Let us know in the comments below.