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Hype pieces, eye-popping auction results and high-profile Hollywood wrap gifts made for a banner year in the watch world in 2021, which saw Audemars Piguet bring out a character watch with Marvel (the Black Panther Flying Tourbillon) and Patek Philippe debut a Tiffany Blue Nautilus (quickly embraced by LeBron James and Jay-Z). Below, THR looks at the year that was in horology as well as the celebrity watch collectors, from Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg to Tom Holland, who help drive interest in fine mechanical timepieces.
Audemars Piguet’s Black Panther Watch
It seemed like an unlikely collaboration: one of the Big Three of Swiss haute horology doing a character watch. But it turned out to be one of the most successful, expensive, painstakingly made and in-demand character watches ever.
Back in March, Audemars Piguet announced a partnership with Marvel and a few weeks later revealed its limited-edition purple-and-black 42mm Royal Oak Concept watch the Black Panther Flying Tourbillon with a live streaming event from Los Angeles hosted by Kevin Hart.
The watch, of which only 250 are being made, features a flying tourbillon, black ceramic bezel, sandblasted titanium case and a figure of the Black Panther white gold. It’s hand-painted and engraved, requiring 30 hours of work by a craftsperson. Friend of the brand Don Cheadle, AP ambassador Serena Williams and LeBron James (who collaborated on a watch with AP in 2013) have all since worn the watch which sells for around $163,000, as has The Weeknd.
One of the watches has already been flipped; at an auction at Christie’s in September, a Black Panther Flying Tourbillon netted around $480,000.
But that doesn’t top the $5.2 million netted in April when AP sold a one-of-a-kind version with a white-gold case engraved with symbols inspired by Wakanda in an auction to benefit two charities, First Book and Ashoka. It remains the most expensive Audemars Piguet ever sold.
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Other character watches of note in 2021 included the Konstantin Chaykin ‘Minions’ watch, the Gérald Genta Arena Retro Mickey Mouse Disney, the (sold out) Tag Heuer ‘Super Mario’ connected watch, and the Bamford ‘Joe Cool’ timepiece.
Tiffany Blue Patek Sells at Auction For $6.5 Million
Patek Philippe, which is retiring the 5711 Nautilus, brought out its final iteration of the coveted stainless-steel timepiece in December, a version with a Tiffany Blue dial. Sold exclusively at the retailer and stamped Tiffany on the back, the $52,635 watch has already been worn by Jay-Z and LeBron James. It’s limited to just 170 pieces, one of which sold at auction a few weeks ago for a whopping $6.5 million, with proceeds benefiting The Nature Conservancy.
Keanu Reeves Gifts Rolex Submariners to his John Wick Stunt Team
In October, Keanu Reeves surprised his four-person stunt team on John Wick: Chapter 4 by giving each of them a Rolex Submariner engraved with a personal message. Jeremy Marinas — who received a watch along with Bruce Concepcion, Dave Camarillo and Li Qiang — called it the “best wrap gift ever” on his Instagram Story. The back of his Submariner read, “The John Wick Five” and “Jeremy Thank you Keanu JW4 2021.”
Watches continue to be items of choice when it comes to gifting and celebrating in the entertainment and sports worlds. Last year, Drake gave Lil Baby a Rolex Day-Date customized with a Chrome Hearts bracelet. Stormzy gifted rapper Dave a skeletonized rose-gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. After taking the crown for the most career three-pointers in the NBA, Steph Curry gifted his teammates Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson with Rolexes.
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Mark Wahlberg and Kevin Hart: Hollywood’s Two Biggest Watch Collectors
Not counting the music world — where John Mayer, Jay-Z, Ed Sheeran, Drake and DJ Khaled rank as top-dog collectors — the entertainment industry’s undeniable kings of flex in 2021 continued to be Mark Wahlberg and Kevin Hart. CelebWatchSpotter (@celebwatchspotter), the Instagram account that tracks famous wrists, named Wahlberg its “2021 Collection of the Year Winner” and spotted him wearing six Pateks (including the 12-complication Sky-Moon Tourbillon in rose gold) and eight Rolexes (including four with factory-set diamonds) this past year.
CelebWatchSpotter meanwhile clocked Audemars partisan Kevin Hart rocking no less than 13 APs plus two Pateks (a platinum Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Grand Complication with salmon dial, Reference 5270P, and a rose-gold Split-Seconds Chronograph and Perpetual Calendar with black dial, Reference 5204/1R) and an ice-blue Rolex Daytona.
Tom Holland: Next-Gen Watch Collector
The Hollywood Reporter has had its eye on what’s on Tom Holland’s wrist for a while. Cut to this November and GQ declared that the 25-year-old Spider-Man star just might be “the next great celebrity watch collector.”
At GQ’s Men of the Year celebration in November, he wore a Cartier Tank with his brown velvet Boss tuxedo jacket and trousers. “Unsurprisingly, playing Spider-Man has afforded Holland the chance to build a very major watch collection. He’s already racked up many of the classics, including a Patek Philippe Aquanaut, a special-edition Tag Heuer Monaco Titan, a Rolex Submariner “Cermit”, and a Rolex Daytona,” wrote GQ’s Cam Wolf. At the L.A. premiere of Spider-Man: No Way Home, he was also seen wearing a rose-gold Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar 5940R. Later in December, Holland flexed a second Aquanaut, one in stainless steel with a black strap, while at the same event his co-star and girlfriend Zendaya showed she’s also a fan of Patek Philippe, wearing a rose-gold Ladies Automatic Nautilus.
Other celebrity watch wearers on the radar last year included Simu Liu (seen in an IWC Portugieser Chronograph at the London screening of Shang-Chi and Jacob and Co. at the Met Gala); Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in a Cartier Santos; Nick Jonas in a Speedmaster Moonwatch in his Spaceman video; Instagram head Adam Mosseri (a Patek Nautilus, a Patek Aquanaut and a Rolex Daytona), Regé-Jean Page in a Longines Legend Diver; and Kumail Nanjiani, who got himself a Patek Nautilus to celebrate the release of Eternals.
Tyler, the Creator and Jay-Z Sport the Cartier Crash
In a year in which vintage Cartier watches became increasingly collectible, the watchmaker’s surrealist Cartier Crash watch found a home on the wrists of Tyler, the Creator, who wore it in his Lumberjack video, and Jay-Z, who sported a 2015 skeletonized version in titanium. (Tyler, the Creator also has been seen in a Cartier Tank, Cartier Santos-Dumont and an unusual Cartier Obus Quadrant.)
Tyler, The Creator and Jay-Z followed in the footsteps of Kanye West who prominently began wearing a Cartier Crash a couple years ago, as well as Kim Kardashian who acquired one. Created in the swinging 1960s in Cartier’s London workshop, the Crash — which was never produced in large numbers — reached new heights at auction in 2021, with one selling for around $885,000 at Sotheby’s in November. It was only the third Crash to hit the auction block in about a quarter of a century. “Cartier watches have been gaining a ton of popularity within the collecting community in recent years ,” says Paul Altieri, CEO of Bob’s Watches. “As a brand, Cartier has never not been popular. However, as a watch manufacturer, Cartier primarily produces more dress-oriented models and this has resulted in them largely being overlooked during the years that everyone was solely focused on stainless steel sports watches. With that in mind, Cartier has a remarkable history as a watch manufacturer and several of its models have unique and instantly recognizable designs that boast similar levels of mainstream recognition as many Rolex watches. Although Cartier watches have always been desirable, a maturing community of collectors and enthusiasts is wising up to the horological significance of the Cartier brand and wants to add some of its models to their collections.”
The Omega 007 Edition Hits the Big Screen
Nearly two years after it was first revealed, Omega’s 42mm Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition finally got its big-screen debut, with the release, after much delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, of the Daniel Craig-starring No Time To Die in October. Omega — longtime partner on the Bond films — worked closely with Craig and the filmmakers on the creation of the $9,200 watch, which features a titanium case and mesh bracelet, skeletonized hands, dual crowns, and a tropical brown dial and bezel. In the film, it also functions as a spy gadget. (Watchonista gave a run-down of the Omega watches worn to the London premiere of the film by Craig, co-star Naomie Harris and Prince William.)
The Year’s Best Event for Watch Spotting: The Met Gala
In September, the Met Gala, sometimes called the Oscars of fashion, eclipsed the Oscars themselves as the best place to spot major watches on celebrities. “We were faced with an onslaught of heavy-hitting timepieces,” wrote Hodinkee. Among the sightings were Aldis Hodge in a Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30° Edition Historique; Taika Waititi in a stainless-steel Cartier Santos-Dumont; Jack Harlow in a Rolex Sky-Dweller; Finneas in a yellow-gold Santos de Cartier with coral dial and Kit Harington in a white-gold Harry Winston Midnight 42mm Automatic.
Also seen: Simu Liu in a Jacob & Co. Astronomia Solar WG Zodiac Baguette; Justin Bieber in a yellow gold Rolex Daytona and Corey Gamble in a Reference 5208R diamond-set Patek Philippe Grand Complications with 719 parts, a minute repeater, monopusher chronograph and perpetual calendar.
Ignoring Diddy’s opinions on Richard Mille — in August he called the watches “not hot,” adding that “Richard Mille is like a Timex or some shit like that” — Frank Ocean wore a Richard Mille RM 37-01 Automatic Kiwi and Pharrell Williams accessorized with a Richard Mille RM 17-01 Tourbillon in red gold with baguette-cut diamonds.
Omega was represented by ambassador Kaia Gerber in a De Ville Prestige Dewdrop watch and Jimmy Fallon in a vintage Omega Speedmaster Mark II from 1972. Hublot was seen on image architect Law Roach (a Big Bang Unico Rainbow King Gold) and Chance the Rapper (a Classic Fusion King Gold Pavé). And NBA players Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry were stand-outs in a diamond Patek Philippe Nautilus and an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Dual Time, respectively.
The Watches at the 2021 Oscars
Watch spotting at the Academy Awards has become an annual rite. At this year’s (poorly rated) Oscars show, held at Los Angeles’ Union Station, skeletonized watches were the the trend.
Judas and the Black Messiah winner Daniel Kaluuya sported a Santos de Cartier Skeleton, The Sound of Metal nominee Riz Ahmed wore a Girard-Perregaux Laureato Skeleton, and Judas producer Charles D. King opted for a Piaget Polo Emperador Skeleton Tourbillon.
Other watches getting a turn on the red carpet included a yellow-gold 41mm Omega Constellation Co-Axial Master Chronometer (seen on Leslie Odom Jr.); a rose-gold Harry Winston Midnight Moon Phase (on Aldis Hodge); and a 39mm Omega Constellation (on Sacha Baron Cohen).
Martin Desmond Roe and Travon Free, the filmmakers behind the Oscar-winning short film Two Distant Strangers about police murders of Black Americans, opted for vintage pieces — a 1970s Audemars Piguet and a 2003 Patek Philippe Aquanaut, respectively — provided by Watches of Switzerland.
Other great events for watch spotting in 2021 included the Golden Globes (Gear Patrol and GQ had the goods); the Cannes International Film Festival (Wachonista had a full report); and the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference (where Netflix’s Ted Sarandos was spotted in a Glashütte Senator Observer and Jeffrey Katzenberg wore a Patek Philippe Nautilus).
Ryan Gosling Becomes Global Ambassador of TAG Heuer
In October, Ryan Gosling, who had never in his career done a brand partnership, arrived in an ad campaign for TAG Heuer‘s new Carrera Three Hands timepiece collection. In the ads, the actor and new TAG Heuer global ambassador channeled the stuntman he played in Drive.
Continuing the watchmaker’s motor racing heritage, the new stainless-steel Carrera collection ($2,300 to $3,300) includes a 41mm Carrera Twin-Time with rhodium-plated indexes and the Carrera Day Date in three sizes, 29mm, 39mm and 41mm. “I appreciate its timeless design,” said Gosling of the sleek new wristwatches, at a launch event in the Hollywood Hills. “I like clean and simple design generally. Growing up, we lived on a pretty tight budget. I gravitated toward things that were simple and timeless so I didn’t have to think about keeping up with trends.”
In other celebrity ambassador news, THR connected with Julia Roberts about becoming the face of Chopard’s Happy Sport watch collection and Watchonista caught up Charlize Theron about her ongoing partnership as one of the faces of Breitling.
Presidential Watches: What Was on Joe Biden’s Wrist
The timepiece was a Christmas gift from his wife Dr. Jill Biden. (Dwight Eisenhower was the first president to wear a Rolex, also a Datejust.)
The interest in what’s on Biden’s wrist continued throughout the year. as he became the first president to wear an Apple watch and the first president to wear an Omega Speedmaster (known famously as the Moonwatch as it was the first watch worn on Earth’s satellite during the Apollo 11 mission).
Other watches that Biden has worn over the years include a Seiko 7T32-6M90 alarm chronograph, a blue-dial Omega Seamaster Diver 300m, a Tissot T-Touch and a Vulcain Cricket alarm watch, which has also been worn by Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson.
Watches in Space: Jeff Bezos and Michael Strahan
When Amazon’s Jeff Bezos went into space on the Blue Origin in July, he and the rest of the passengers wore a stainless-steel Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch, with a hesalite crystal and custom Velcro strap. Per Hodinkee, all of the watches were donated by Omega and personalized. “Bezos’ Speedmaster (and ostensibly all the watches on board) had casebacks engraved with the wearer’s name, the flight number, and the feather insignia of Blue Origin.” In December, when GMA’s Michael Strahan journeyed into space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard, he wore a white-gold Rolex GMT-Master II with a dial made out of a material that was quite fitting for the occasion: meteorite. And in September, when SpaceX’s Inspiration4 rocketed into space with an all-civilian crew, including Shift4 Payments CEO Jared Isaacman, they all wore unique white ceramic IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition Inspiration4 timepieces with the mission’s logo on the dial; the watches were later auctioned to raise money for St. Jude.
Francis Ford Coppola Collaboration Sells for Nearly $5 Million
Independent watchmaker F.P. Journe collaborated with director Francis Ford Coppola on a one-of-a-kind creation that sold for around $4.9 million in November at Only Watch, the biennial charity timepiece auction that raises funds for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The F.P. Journe x Francis Ford Coppola FFC Blue is an exceptional piece that was sparked from a query the director put to founder François-Paul Journe a few years back. (The two had met after Coppola’s wife Eleanor gifted him an F.P. Journe timepiece.) Coppola’s thought was: had anyone ever made a watch where one human hand on a dial tells the time by counting numbers? Journe ran with it and created a timepiece featuring a large central blued hand with five mobile fingers that point and retract. It features a tantalum case with a mechanism in rose gold. The design of the fingers was inspired by a mechanical hand that was created centuries ago by Ambroise Paré, a 16th-century French physician who some historians consider the father of modern surgery. “I think his watches are little works of art,” Coppola told Hodinkee of Journe’s work. “I’ve always had an admiration for art and scientific ingenuity. F.P. Journe watches seem to me to be masterpieces of design and engineering.”
Jennifer Aniston’s Friends Reunion Rolex
Back in May, when the beloved cast of Friends gathered for the much-anticipated reunion special on HBO Max, Jennifer Aniston wore a classic Rolex Day-Date which features a President bracelet. Hodinkee believes it was a vintage model due to its older-style clasp and liked the unconventional way she wore it: over her sleeve. “What panache! Menswear icon (and former head of Fiat) Gianni Agnelli famously wore his watch this way, and it looks great on Aniston, too,” wrote Hodinkee’s Danny Milton.
The Debut of the Jimmy Chin Panerai
In July, Panerai unveiled two new limited-edition watches in honor of their ambassador, Jimmy Chin, the professional climber, photographer and director (along with his wife Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi) of Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo. The timepieces are the 47mm Submersible Chrono Flyback Jimmy Chin Edition (PAM01207, priced at $19,400) and the 47mm titanium-and-black-DLC Submersible Chrono Flyback Jimmy Chin Experience Edition (PAM01208) with a shaded grey dial. The latter, priced at $43,200 and limited to 14 pieces, included an opportunity to travel to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for a multi-day experience where buyers could hang with Chin himself.
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