Paul Newman made the Rolex Daytona famous for all kinds of reasons, but money wasn’t one of them. Will Bradley Cooper make the Louis Vuitton Tambour a legend of the watch world? Well, when the American actor was an IWC ambassador, he didn’t get a watch (nick)named after him. Also, once his deal with the brand from Schaffhausen ended, he posted a picture of himself wearing a watch from a brand that you don’t buy for yourself on his Instagram page. And more examples prove the rule that watches worn by the celebs of today won’t be the icons of tomorrow. But there might be a few exceptions.

Okay, I used Bradley Cooper in the intro as an example of how ambassadors move from brand to brand. But if you want more names, I have to point you in the direction of two articles that Jorg wrote — “Fratello’s Top 5 Watch Brand Ambassadors Ever” and “Fratello’s Top 5 Worst Watch Brand Ambassadors Ever.” With that out of the way, let’s focus on the statement that watches worn by the celebs of today won’t be the icons of tomorrow. Freedom of choice, a gift from a loved one, and getting in character are factors that led some watches to become legendary. Money is never the motor behind watch fame. You might think that the times when the likes of Newman and McQueen made watches famous are gone, but there are possible modern-day equivalents. You just won’t find them in watch ads.

Watches Worn By The Celebs Of Today

Bradley Cooper wearing the Louis Vuitton Tambour Twenty

Why watches worn by the celebs of today won’t be the icons of tomorrow

We’re dealing with an absolute overload of celebrities showing you luxury stuff while being paid generously to do so. And everybody knows it. I understand the 13-year-old who wants to wear the same boots as Lionel Messi. But I don’t understand anyone who desires a Piaget Polo. That’s not just because Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds is a gun for hire but also because it’s almost impossible to envision Deadpool, the anti-hero Reynolds brought to life so very successfully, as the Piaget-wearing kind — the “DeadPolo”? Also, when Reynolds saves Welsh football club Wrexham AFC, it happens in a universe that’s millions of miles away from the star system in which Piaget shines.

Watches Worn By The Celebs Of Today

Ryan Reynolds wearing a Piaget Polo. Is it the future “DeadPolo”?

Ambassadors vs. honorary consuls

As you know, an ambassador is a government representative stationed in a foreign capital or country — a paid diplomat. Honorary consuls, on the other hand — people who open doors for business and facilitate visits, for instance — do without pay and are not employed by their governments. And just like ambassadors of countries are doing a job, so are the ambassadors of watch brands. And just like diplomats, they go from post to post. It’s a brand ambassador’s job to say the right scripted thing in interviews and wear the commercially correct thing in campaigns and on red carpets.

Watch brand ambassadors tell you what to wear without voices of their own. Honorary consuls, however, inspire you to wear watches that they genuinely love. The best example of an honorary consul when it comes to watches is quite possibly John Mayer. For this world-famous American guitarist, the love for watches is sincere, deep, and lasting.


IWC Big Pilot’s Watch IW5002

Keeping it real

John Mayer is not an honorary consul working for free for just one brand. Because he’s a serious enthusiast and avid collector, he’s a promoter of watches in general. He does have his preferences, and those led to an open letter to IWC — his first watch love — and a Rolex Daytona with his name on it. When you love somebody or something, you’re more critical towards the person or object of your affection. Mayer has deep feelings for IWC. On the fretboard of Mayer’s Martin OM-28JM signature acoustic, you will even find the Big Pilot’s 12 o’clock indicator as a decoration. But when he felt the brand was going in the wrong direction by releasing limited edition after limited edition, he wrote the following on Hodinkee:

“When you started to open brick-and-mortar boutiques in high-end fashion districts across the world, the integral models in your lineup saw their DNA spliced into special limited editions so many times over that the original models began to look like a tired sperm donor.”

Can you spot the IWC Big Pilot’s 12 o’clock indicator on John Mayer’s Martin OM-28JM signature guitar?

Mayer was certainly keeping it real. Had he been on IWC’s payroll, he wouldn’t have written so candidly. But IWC did benefit from the superstar’s outspokenness. Despite the criticism, Mayer’s writing on a prominent watch platform meant that IWC was relevant. And IWC had little choice but to listen to such a prominent voice.

Rolex Daytona “John Mayer” 116508 — Image: Montro

You can’t buy a nickname; you have to earn it

There are several interesting watches in John Mayer’s collection, but there’s only one nicknamed after him. The yellow gold Rolex Daytona 116508-0013 with a green dial debuted during Baselworld 2016, and after the guitar player started wearing it later on and passionately praised it in a video, it got its “John Mayer” Daytona nickname. Sure, the “John Mayer” Daytona is not as famous as the “Paul Newman.” But still, it’s significant. There are plenty of watches out there with famous names attached to them, but they had those names since they were “born.” In those cases, a name is just a name. A nickname, on the other hand, is earned, given for a reason, and can be worn as a badge of honor both by the watch and the wearer.

Watches Worn By The Celebs Of Today

Paul Newman wearing his Daytona on a Bund strap

Brand ambassadors and influencers are going the way of the dodo

The phenomenon of the influencer might seem new, but, of course, it isn’t. A brand pays an influencer who seems like a good fit and reaches a certain audience to show a certain product, and then the influencer makes it happen. There will be no billboards in airports, but travelers on their smartphones could come across the influencer wearing a watch while waiting to board their planes.

The “brand ambassador lite” is omnipresent, but just like regular brand ambassadors, influencers could go the way of the dodo. Luxury customers of today and the ones of the near future — the aspirational watch fans of today — have a finely tuned “BS” detector. Brands can only ensure public attention through engaging honestly, and honest storytelling is key. It is key if brands want to reach, engage, educate, and build a lasting relationship with Gen Z, the most important and influential luxury-buying generation today. And much more than looking for an instant buzz, “zoomers” do appreciate values like authenticity, sustainability, and a personal connection with a brand. Gen Z is open and willing to understand what traditional, qualitative, luxury watchmaking is all about. So they understand a guy like John Mayer, but a guy like Bradley Cooper? Most probably not.

Watches Worn By The Celebs Of Today

Steve McQueen sporting the Heuer Monaco in the movie Le Mans

Money can’t buy me love

Lennon and McCartney — both Patek Philippe wearers — already knew back in 1964 that money doesn’t buy you love. In other words, the best things in life are free — yes, a duet sung by Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson in 1992. You can pay someone to play a role, but in the current world of luxury, reality is king. In the world of watches, the meaning of the word “icon” has devalued at a staggering rate. A brand can’t claim the unofficial title of “icon” simply by declaring that one of its watches is one. And spelling it phonetically also doesn’t work, Maurice Lacroix. No, the creation of an icon is something that just happens. And it’s iconic people who create iconic watches. They do so naturally, of their very own will, and without intention.

Watches Worn By The Celebs Of Today

Rolex Milgauss 6543 from circa 1955 — Image: Christie’s

Following in the footsteps of icons

Are there any superstars around who are like John Mayer or could even fill Paul Newman’s shoes? I have little hope in brand-hopping actors/ambassadors like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, no matter what they wear in their free time. Could Orlando Bloom do it? The sharp-shooting elf from the Lord of the Rings trilogy did manage to acquire an interesting selection of vintage Rolexes, including a rare 1950s Milgauss 6543 and a 1973 Explorer II 1655 “Steve McQueen,” but he auctioned the latter watch for charity a long while ago.

The reason I still mention that particular Rolex model is because the Explorer II 1655 has two nicknames. One makes sense and the other doesn’t at all. The arrow-shaped GMT hand of the 1655 gives it its Italian nickname “Freccione,” which means arrow. That makes sense. But to the best of anyone’s knowledge, Steve McQueen neither owned nor ever publicly wore an Explorer II 1655, so that nickname doesn’t make any sense at all. The watch has been incorrectly associated with the King of Cool ever since a case of mistaken watch identity in the early days of the World Wide Web.

Rolex Explorer II 1655 — Image: Analog Shift

Start by wearing just one watch

Musicians like Jay-Z and Ed Sheeran, basketball legend LeBron James, and also actor/comedian Kevin Hart all own an impressive number of contemporary watches. They, however, come across more as watch hoarders than inspired collectors and devoted fans. Could any of their timepieces, over time, get nicknamed after their famous owners? It would be easier to answer that question if any of these guys just stuck to wearing one watch — a “GADA watch,” if you will, one that would be on their wrists all the time.

LeBron James in the Audemars Piguet atelier

Future icons are hard to predict. It might be safer to predict that there are none in the current catalogs of the leading luxury watch brands. And it’s also impossible to fabricate an icon by sticking a watch on a celebrity. It’s accidental heroes, sincere watch fans who happen to be famous, who we have to watch for possible future icons. It’s definitely not the hired guns you see in advertisements and during award shows. I fear that most of the watches worn by the celebs of today will fade away and be forgotten forever.

Featured image: Analog:Shift