Welcome to Watches of the Week, quarantine edition. With celebrities staying home, we’re calling in friends and experts to share their favorite pieces from pop culture’s past and present.
What makes a good Batman? The voice, of course, is important. Looks, too: an actor needs the hair to pull off the debonair Bruce Wayne, and the chin to look just as handsome while wearing the cowl. For Eric Wind, the owner of Wind Vintage, it’s also the watch. There are endless watches that could capture business playboy Wayne’s elegant side, and just as many to go with his badass Batman persona, but few can seamlessly live in both worlds. The Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso does just that—it’s designed with a dial the wearer can rotate with a blank but indestructible steel shell. “It’s an appropriate choice given that it flips over and changes its identity like Batman with his mask,” says Wind. So while all things Bat—mobile, cave, suit, and -arang—have changed over the years, the watch has stayed the same since Val Kilmer played the part. Below, Wind walks us through his other favorite watches seen on U.S. presidents, iconic comedians, and Crazy Rich Asians.
Christian Bale’s Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso Grande Date 8 Days in Batman Begins
When you think about it, the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso is the perfect watch for Batman. Gotham’s hero has two sides to him: elegant billionaire Bruce Wayne and hardened vigilante Batman. The Reverso also has two sides to it: elegant timekeeping on one and on the other a hardened shell, built to sustain a whack from a polo mallet and keep on ticking. “Imagine if he had to quickly change into his suit,” says Wind. “He could just flip the watch over and cover it. [Watches] are either tough like a Rolex or they're elegant, like a Patek Philippe, and the Reverso bridges the divide.”
Maybe that’s why Bale wasn’t the only Batman to wear the watch. Val Kilmer’s version of the hero also wore the Reverso, and a limited-edition version of the watch was made with the Bat Signal engraved on the reverse side of the piece. The ‘90s and 2000s were a great period for the Reverso in Hollywood. In addition to Kilmer and Bale’s Batmans, Pierce Brosnan wore the watch in a remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. In those years the watch was “not the most obvious choice,” says Wind, “but it was beginning to infiltrate the public consciousness. It was this interesting, elegant, yet tough watch in a way that few watches are usually.”
Plus, you can’t ignore that, like one of Batman’s greatest nemesis, the Reverso is a “two-faced watch,” Wind points out.
Jerry Seinfeld’s Heuer Autavia “Siffert”
In 2012, Jerry Seinfeld tweeted that he bought this watch “from an Italian gentleman 7 years ago.” Being Seinfeld, that could mean he went to a reputable Milanese dealer—or that he bought this off Robert DeNiro’s wrist. Either way, this Heuer made for Swiss racecar driver Jo Siffert was a perfect match for Seinfeld in multiple ways. For starters, the watch was made for racing—a great fit for a guy so obsessed with cars a whole third of his show is about them. (The other thirds: comedians, coffee) But it went even deeper than that. “It was such an appropriate choice,” says Wind, “because Seinfeld is a Porsche guy and Siffert was a Porsche driver.”
“The Autavia was the Heuer equivalent to the Paul Newman Daytona in look and desirability and obviously similar white dial and black registers,” says Wind. What sets this model apart are those very cool ice-blue hands. “It pops,” says Wind. “There are not many watches that have that combination of colors.”
Seinfeld’s choice caused a minor stir in the collecting community, leading folks to start paying more attention to vintage Heuers. “I bought one,” says Wind, who credited Seinfeld for helping putting the pieces on the map for him and other collectors. “It was one of my first vintage watches.”
All the President’s Vulcain Crickets
In 1949, Swiss watch company Vulcain unveiled its new creation, the Cricket, during a glamorous launch at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. The watch was not the first to be made with an alarm function, but the Cricket is the watch that got people to start taking them seriously. “It really was the iPhone of its day when it was released,” says Wind. Releasing the Cricket at the hotel was a gambit to get the watch on the wrists of American businessmen. “It was targeted towards the American market, which is where all the momentum and wealth was post-World War II,” says Wind. “All these traveling businessmen had no ability to have an alarm that was portable to wake them up. They were literally traveling with clocks.”
The Cricket was the watch of a serious person: someone who had appointments to attend and breakfast meetings to be awake for. The watch quickly caught on with U.S. presidents like Lyndon B. Johnson (above), who wore his on a metal bracelet and allegedly bought 200 models of the watch to give away as gifts during his time in office. Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, and vice president Joe Biden all wore the Cricket, too.
While the tradition of wearing Crickets started with presidents who wanted a functional timepiece, it was carried on by Finnish jeweler Keijo Paajanen, who partnered with Vulcain to offer any commander-in-chief who visited Finland a Cricket. Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter all got Crickets from Paajanen. Donald Trump reportedly received one as well.
While the Rolex Day-Date claims the nickname of the President’s watch, the Vulcain Cricket could make a pretty convincing argument it also deserves the title. “From a collector’s perspective, they're still extremely undervalued,” says Wind. “And you can find great ones for under $1,000, which you can't do with most brands and watches today.”
The Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona in Crazy Rich Asians
Wind got a desperate call on a Monday morning in 2017. On the other end was Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan, who needed to get a status watch to the movie adaptation’s filming location in Malaysia by Wednesday. “[Director] Jon Chu was looking for an appropriate watch for Astrid [Gemma Chan’s character], this very elegant wealthy lady, to give her husband. They wanted something special that would impress watch collectors.”
So Wind started calling around to everyone he knew in the area, looking for a watch that would fit the occasion. “I was trying collectors with Patek Perpetual Calendar Chronographs. I contacted A. Lange & Söhne and Jaeger LeCoultre collectors,” says Wind. “The response from most collectors I got throughout Asia was, ‘Crazy Rich Asians, what the heck are you talking about? What is this? And no, I'm not lending my expensive watch to this movie on such short notice.’”
Finally, with the help of Eric Ku, a Rolex dealer and expert, he tracked down a collector whose wife was a fan of the book. He had the perfect watch, too: a Rolex Daytona “Paul Newman.” “Getting a Paul Newman Daytona was an unexpected treat for sure,” Wind says. The watch, which broke the record for most expensive piece ever sold just a few months after the release of the movie, was the perfect piece to represent outrageous wealth. The placement of the watch went over so well that vintage pieces will likely factor into the movie’s upcoming sequel, too. “I was talking with John Chu and he wants to do more cool watches in the sequel because the response was so positive,” says Wind.
Steve McQueen’s Jaeger LeCoultre Memovox in The Thomas Crown Affair
After wearing a Cartier Tank for almost the entirety of the film, McQueen changes into a JLC Memovox while... picking melons. Like the Vulcain Cricket, the Memovox was one of the early watches that helped popularize the alarm function. “I’ve always thought it was such an interesting complication,” Wind says. “One of the unloved complications, given how technically impressive it is to build one.”
While the Tank seemed to fit neatly with McQueen’s uppercrust playboy role in The Thomas Crown Affair, Wind wonders if the Memovox was meant to hint at the character’s secret identity. “The character appears to not have any cares,” says Wind. “But the watch betrays that in fact he had this secret life robbing banks where precision was necessary. It seemed very appropriate for him—almost even more appropriate than the Cartier.”