Eddie Murphy Wore Watches That Were Just As Fun As His Movies

31 March 2020
Watches of the Week, Eddie Murphy, Rolex Day-Date, ROLEX, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, Rolex Submariner 5512, Paul Newman
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A vintage Rolex dealer takes us on a celebrity watch deep dive with Murphy, Steve McQueen, and more

Watches of the Week typically clocks the most incredible wristwear from the week in celebrity. But since celebs, like everyone else who’s able to, are hunkering down and keeping socially distant, we’re turning to the famous watches of the past—with a little help from our friends. Here Jacek Kozubek, an expert in Rolex who sells beautifully aged timepieces from his Tropical Watch site, shares his favorite watches from pop culture past.

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Eddie Murphy’s diamond-set Rolex Day-Date

Many of the watches on Kozubek’s list, and the ones he naturally gravitates to for his own collection, are the hard-wearing sport watches that Rolex is best known for. But the brand also makes its fair share of dazzling, rainbow-colored, diamond-smothered watches. For Kozubek, these diamond- and gem-set watches are a perfect match for the biggest comedic star of the 1980s. “In Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, and Trading Places, Eddie Murphy brought that laugh and joy to everything that he did and you felt happy watching him,” says Kozubek. ”He made y ou feel like, even if shit was really bad, you could still find joy. And if you see photos of Eddie Murphy wearing watches, they are always these crazy bedazzled versions.”

Murphy’s characters and blinged-out watches manage to channel the same emotions. “If you watch an Eddie Murphy movie, you find laughter and joy the same way you can find it in these diamond watches,” says Kozubek. “The whole point of these watches is to remind you that life isn't always that serious. So when I see Eddie Murphy wearing these watches, I think of him and his personality, and then choosing to wear them. Because he's like: I love how this looks, and it just makes me laugh. That's ultimately what it's about for me.”

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Tom Selleck's Rolex “Pepsi” GMT-Master 1675 from Magnum P.I.

“In the ‘80s, the GMT was as iconic and popular as it is now, but it was more of a utility than anything else,” says Kozubek. Still, the made-for-pilots watch wasn’t exactly a fit for a Hawaii-based private investigator. “I always imagined in my head that [Selleck’s character Thomas Magnum] should probably be wearing a Submariner. Just because he's going to submerge it and it's a little bit more rugged. But for whatever reason, he wore a GMT.” (Selleck told the FHH Journal that he liked the watch so much he kept it after the show wrapped. “I’ve always loved that watch,” he said. “It was the perfect match for Magnum. It’s a watch that likes action, and believe me I know what I’m talking about. I’ve had my fair share of ‘sport’ watches but never one as tough as the Rolex.”)

“I love the GMT,” says Kozubek. “Seeing his character wear it on that show reinforces the whole idea of the watch for me: the casual coolness of it, the playboy character, the fact that everything works out all the time for him. No bullets hit him, he's invincible, he finds the answer to everything. I liked Magnum P.I. because, when you're a kid, you see a Ferrari and a helicopter and guns shooting and you're like, ‘This is amazing.’”

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Robert Redford’s Rolex “Red” Submariner from The Candidate

Growing up in Poland, Kozubek never really thought about the watches that his favorite characters or actors were wearing. It wasn’t until he got into watches in his 20s that he went back and saw how pieces could reinforce his perception. One such example is Redford and his trusty Submariner. “Robert Redford represents stability to me,” says Kozubek. “Just like Tom Selleck, Redford’s always going to win and so it makes sense he’s wearing something really reliable and robust. I have a lot of confidence in him as an actor and a character—and I have a lot of confidence in his watch, too.”

By some twist of fate, Redford doesn’t wear just any Submariner, but a version of the watch with the name of the model written out in red. While that would have been standard at the time, it’s now a sought-after detail by collectors. “Versions of this watch with ‘Submariner’ written in red are really valuable now, but it wasn't until much later on when the internet hit that people realized these nuances were so interesting,” says Kozubek. “That watch was probably in production in 1972, when that movie was made, around the time that red Subs were around. They didn't think of it as an iconic piece of jewelry or anything like that yet. If you were a guy who wanted a Submariner, you'd go to the store and this is what you’d probably buy.”

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Steve McQueen’s Rolex Submariner 5512

There are so many variations within just the Submariner world that two different references can represent two polar-opposite personalities.

[blockquote:] “The Sub is such an icon that it's a very hard watch to pinpoint it to one celebrity. But it really fits McQueen because he was a renegade kind of dude. I definitely wouldn't want him to be my father. If Robert Redford were my dad I know he'd come home. Steve McQueen is just doing whatever he wants and follows his own rules. He’s wearing that watch because he's such a bada** that he needs something that's going to hold up.”

“Steve McQueen was one of those dudes who would buy motorcycle parts at swap meets and try to buy and sell watches there, too. So he had all these different watches. People used to call the 1655, the Rolex Explorer with that big orange hand, the McQueen but there are no photos of him wearing it. The one he's photographed the most wearing is the 5512 Submariner.

It’s a unique watch because the 5512 was an uncommon reference. A majority of the watches produced in that era were 5513s, which were the two-line Submariners [two-line Submariners refer to versions of the watch with only two lines of text just above the 6 o’clock marker; McQueen’s is four-line Submariner, with that extra bit of text added to denote its chronometer certification.] The 5512 was an officially certified chronometer that only people who really needed very precise timing watches would buy. Rolex didn't make that many because most people just bought a 5513. It's a unique choice.

In my eyes, I always felt the red Submariner or a Submariner with the date was more official. The people who buy watches with dates usually have a job that requires them to know what day of the week it is. But if you have a 5512, you can forego the meeting, what day of the week it is—you just need to know the time. It’s a much simpler, enjoyable way to be. I wish I didn't have to know what day of the month it was.”

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Paul Newman’s circa-1980s Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 6263

Paul Newman is so closely associated with the Rolex Daytona with an “exotic” dial—the two-tone face with a contrasting outer ring—that it is known as the “Paul Newman” Daytona. The watch he owned is so monumental it momentarily held the record for most expensive wristwatch ever sold when it went for $17.8 million at auction in late 2018. But! That is not the Newman watch Kozubek loves.

“When you think of Paul Newman and the Daytona, you probably think of the 6239 with the exotic dial that his wife gave him. But when I saw this photo many years ago I realized that Paul Newman also wore a 6263—this black-dial Daytona,” says Kozubek.

“It's a reminder that Paul Newman wasn't doing anything for us watch fans; he was just doing something for himself. People were influenced a lot by the watches celebrities wore, but ultimately, it's about what makes you happy. When I see him wearing that, I know that that's what made him happy. He didn't wear Daytonas to be cool. He wore Daytonas because he loved Daytonas.”

Plus, Kozubek argues, this is actually just a better watch. “The 6263 has screw-down pushers, so it’s waterproof,” he says. “It's actually a positive design change on those models because now you can jump in the pool with a Daytona, which you couldn’t do before. And these are called the ‘Big Red’ Daytonas because the font [over the bottom sub-dial] is a little bit bigger and stylized than later dials or service dials on the same watch. Now everyone refers to the original dials as ‘Big Red’ Daytonas.”


Via GQ