Like any occupation, the life of a celebrity has its pros and cons. Yes, the legions of adoring fans and pay checks that read like phone numbers definitely go in the ‘perks of the job’ column, but you have to measure that against living under constant scrutiny and with a paparazzo hiding in every bush.
One of the things that make it all worthwhile, of course, is having the sort of buying power that provides for the best of everything. And many of the world’s great and the good have chosen to spend their hard earned by amassing the sorts of watch collections we mere mortals can only dream of.
Below, we’ll take a look at how some of the biggest name celebrities in the business tell the time.
Legendary musician Eric ‘Slowhand’ Clapton (or ‘God’ if you were around in the 60s), is well known for his taste in the finer things in life. Whether it’s cars, suits, guitars or indeed watches, he has accumulated formidable hordes of them all over the course of his stellar career.
But with the apparent ease with which he seems to give them up for auction at various points, you could be forgiven for thinking he doesn’t form much of an emotional attachment.
Whether that’s true or not, he has definitely been through some incredible timepieces in his life. With a particular fondness for both Rolex and Patek Philippe, and ultra rare editions specifically, he has owned, and sold, some of the most expensive models ever to go under the hammer.
In 2012, he parted with his Patek Philippe ref. 2499/100, a perpetual calendar chronograph with moonphase, one of only two examples forged in platinum, and walked away with around $3.6m.
Three years later, he unloaded an ‘Albino’ Daytona ref. 6263, one of four in existence, for $1.4m, briefly becoming the most expensive Rolex ever.
In his day to day life and on stage, the guitarist’s guitarist flits through a range of luxurious offerings and has been seen sporting the Milgauss ref. 116400GV, GMT-Master II ref. 116710 with an all black bezel and a yellow gold Daytona ref. 116528.
If we didn’t know Mayer was a fanatical watch collector before, we certainly do now after the recent legal misery between him and high end dealer Robert Maron.
Maron reportedly sold the musician upwards of $5m worth of vintage pieces over the years, with the majority of them being Rolex. However, when the company themselves noted some ‘discrepancies’ with one of the watches Mayer sent in for servicing (counterfeit and non-standard parts in other words) he was, justifiably, less than happy. The black, three-color dial on the Paul Newman Daytona, which has since been christened ‘the Mayer dial’ is one that is so rare and undocumented that many doubt it was ever released by the brand.
Without getting into the meat of the matter, happily it all seems to have been concluded and doesn’t seem to have soured Mayer on the whole watch collecting practice.
His catalog is immense and ranges from one-off Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillons in rose gold to vintage Casio G-Shocks, by way of Audemars Piguet Royal Oaks and just about every Rolex you can imagine.
Of all of them, he supposedly has a particular fondness for a white dial Explorer II, the first ‘real’ watch he bought after scoring his breakthrough with the hit album ‘Room for Squares’ in 2001. Since then, he has indulged his passion to the tune of, he estimates, tens of millions of dollars.
A champion of all things horology, John Mayer is the watch nerd in all of us.
Another celebrity whose watch collecting secret was outed via the courtroom, the Lord of the Rings star fell victim to the infamous Bling Ring in 2009. The band of teenage burglars broke into Bloom’s home in the Hollywood Hills, relieving the actor of close to half a million dollars worth of fine vintage pieces.
Among the haul were seven classic Rolexes, including three Submariners; the beloved ref. 5513, the more modern ref. 16610LV ‘Kermit’ and, most heinously of all, an early big crown ref. 6538, the James Bond Sub.
Other notable pieces made off with by the light-fingered scamps were one of the very few inaugural Milgauss references, the ref. 6543 with a rotatable bezel and, on Bloom’s example, an ultra rare tropical dial.
Add to that a pair of Explorers—the beautifully understated ref. 1016 original and the Steve McQueen Explorer II ref. 1655, along with a GMT-Master ref. 1675 with a Pepsi bezel and the pointed crown guards of the earliest examples, and it’s hard not to feel sympathy for the actor for the scale of his loss.
Fortunately, justice prevailed and the larcenous gang were apprehended a few weeks later, reuniting Bloom with his collection.
Immensely talented, Oscar-winning actor, climate change activist and uber-wealthy heartthrob, the star of Titanic and The Departed wears many labels.
And to them, we can add serious watch collector. The Tag Heuer ambassador has several of the brand’s pieces in his private collection; among them, a vintage Carrera Chronograph from the 1960s and a limited edition Aquaracer.
But he is known as a Rolex fan as well. In a 2015 auction hosted by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, a non-profit organization set up to help protect the earth’s threatened ecosystems, the star donated his own white gold Daytona ref. 116509 to the lot.
Along with other biddable items like a Harley Davidson ridden in the movie Terminator and the chance to attend a year of major events such as the Academy Awards and the Cannes Film Festival as the personal guest of, ahem, Harvey Weinstein, the event raised around $40m.
Known to immerse himself totally in his many diverse roles, DiCaprio’s attention to detail carries over to every aspect of the characters he plays, right down to the watches he wears.
So, as the eponymous dreamer in The Great Gatsby, it was an Art Deco-inspired Raymond Weil. As a conflicted smuggler in Blood Diamond, he strapped on a rugged, titanium Breitling Chrono Avenger, and as Jordan Belfort, the amoral charmer from The Wolf of Wall Street, he returned to the crown with a yellow gold GMT-Master.
Fine watch brands have long sought out celebrities from every field to wear their products. Getting the seal of approval from major influencers practically guarantees your creations will be seen by millions of people. Whether they wear it on screen, on the red carpet or just going out to buy milk, our fascination with the lives of the rich and famous means the association will stick in our minds.
Owning the same watch as your favorite celebrity might not bring you worldwide recognition and the admiration of your peers, but on the plus side, you can still walk down the street without your picture appearing in Us Weekly.