Hollywood Watches of Espionage

Hollywood Watches of Espionage

Mercenaries, Arms Dealers, CIA Contractors, and Navy SEALs – a timepiece can complement a fictional character.

Watches play a significant role in film. An accurate depiction of a character often includes a watch they might actually wear, and this is especially true in the military, intelligence and espionage genre. When this happens, it lends a sense of credibility to the work.  This is likely a mixture of art imitating life and vice versa.  Believe it or not, we know plenty of real “spies” and “operators” whose watch choices were influenced by movies.  The Bond Omega and Bond Rolex are obvious ones. But other watches are also featured on the silver screen, and we’ll explore them here.

James Bond Rolex
(Photo Credit James Rupley)

In Hollywood, watch decisions range from paid product placement (as seen with the Bond Omega) to actors' personal watches worn on set and prop masters making specific choices for what they deem is best for that character.  It’s a small detail, but as enthusiasm around horology grows, and viewers develop a more nuanced understanding of the details that make up a character for the growing number of watch enthusiasts, the watch becomes an element that says a lot about a character. 

In this piece, we’ll take a look at several examples of W.O.E. in Hollywood and provide our thoughts on the watch choices for a given character. 

Blood Diamond- Breitling Chrono Avenger:

Blood Diamond Breitling

In Blood Diamond, Danny Archer, a Rhodesian smuggler and ex-mercenary, embarks on a hair-raising adventure to find a large diamond in the midst of the Sierra Leone Civil War. Leonardo DiCarprio's character wears a Breitling Chrono Avenger, with a black dial and solid titanium 44mm case on a brown calf leather strap. 

Overall, this watch nails it.  We all know that sketchy dudes wear Breitling and a Rhodesian mercenary turned diamond smuggler is the very definition of sketchy.  The movie takes place in 1999, when Breitling was at the height of its sketchiness and was a go-to tool for gray area operators. Both former CEO of Blackwater Eric Prince and former British SAS turned African mercenary Simon Mann wore Breitling Emergencies.  

Blood Diamond Sketchy Breitling

Breitling has developed an almost cult-like following in the national security community. With strong roots in aviation, Breitling is a signal that one is adventurous but also appreciates fine craftsmanship in utilitarian tools. Breitling has cultivated this narrative through marketing and product development of unique tools for adventurers, particularly in the military and aviation space. 

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi - Rolex Submariner

Rolex CIA 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

In 13 Hours, Ty "Rone" Woods, a CIA Global Response Staff contractor played by James Badge Dale, wore a six digit Rolex Submariner while defending the State Department facility and the CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya.  As a former SEAL turned GRS contractor, this choice makes sense given the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community's long standing relationship with Rolex and Tudor.  As we have documented in the past, it is common for SEALs to commemorate a deployment or BUD/S graduation with a Rolex Submariner.

In fact, according to research by Rolex Magazine, the real Tyrone had at least two watches: a Rolex Sea-Dweller reference 16660 and a Panerai Luminor Marina, which is also common in the Teams.

Ty "Rone" Woods CIA GRS COntractor

As documented by Rolex Magazine, "On January 1st, 2010, late on a Friday night, he registered an account with RolexForums.com under the username sdfrog177. He wrote a post mentioning the sale of his Panerai Luminor Marina 44mm and a Rolex Sea-Dweller triple 6 model (1983-1984 model). Thanks, T.W., he signed at the bottom.”

CIA Global Response Staff GRS Rolex

According to a declassified CIA document, “On the morning of September 12, the CIA Base was subjected to repeated mortar fire . . . Defending the Base from the rooftop, they died when a mortar round landed near them. Tyrone Woods loved his life, his family, and his country. All who knew him remember that he was a joy to be around and he always made people feel better. Tyrone was 41 years old.”

Lord of War -  Platinum Rolex President Day-Date:

Lord of War Rolex

Lord of War is a 2005 (mostly) fictional Hollywood account of the life of Viktor Bout, aka the "Merchant of Death," a notorious Russian arms dealer who took advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union to sell off the massive arms left over at significant profit.

Yuri Orlov, played by Nicolas Cage, wears a platinum Rolex President Day-Date, overall a fitting timepiece for this uber-wealthy and charismatic character. Cage, an avid watch collector himself, has an impressive collection; it is possible this is a personal watch. 

Lord of War Rolex

The real Merchant of Death, Viktor Bout, was arrested in a sting operation led by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Bangkok in 2008.  During his arrest, Bout was wearing a Breitling B-1, a watch that he was able to wear while in detention for at least a month.  Another sketchy dude wearing a Breitling . . . in the business, we call this a pattern. 

Merchant of Death Viktor Bout Breitling

Terminal List - Oris, RESCO Instruments, IWC, Ares and more:

Chris Pratt RESCO Rolex
(Photo Credit: Justin Lubin)

Watches play a central role in former SEAL-turned-writer Jack Carr’s Terminal List book series.  Central to the story of James Reece is a legacy Rolex Submariner, purchased by his father, Thomas Reece, during an R&R in Saigon during his first tour in Vietnam with SEAL Team Two. The elder Reece went on to wear this Sub while serving as a CIA Case Officer overseas (sound familiar?).

So it is no surprise that the Amazon series adaptation contains several accurate and well-placed watches for the lead (James Reece) and supporting characters.  We are told that these choices were organic and not product placements, which makes it even cooler. 

Chris Pratt G-Shock
(Photo Credit: Justin Lubin)

James Reece, played by Chris Pratt, wears several watches throughout the series, including an Oris Aquis Pro Date Calibre 400, Resco Instruments BlackFrog Gen2 Black PVD (an insider told us he wanted to wear a military watch in specific scenes), a G-Shock GA-100-1A1 and a period correct 5.11 Military Tactical Field Ops Watch.  Carr even makes a cameo in the film wearing an Ares Diver, who the founder of was former CIA.

Jack Carr Rolex Terminal List
(Photo Credit: Justin Lubin)

Overall, it is a well done series with great “watch spotting,” including several Oris, Digital Tool Watches (DTWs) and even an IWC Big Pilot IW500901 worn by Steve Horn (the villain- Jai Courtney).  Both Pratt and Carr are watch guys and it's cool to see these pieces featured, another subtle and accurate nod to our community. It’s always a joy when someone gets it right. 

Terminal List IWC Rolex Resco

Magnum PI - Rolex Pepsi GMT-Master 16750:

Magnum PI Rolex GMT-Master 1675

We have previously said that the Rolex GMT, any reference, is the ultimate CIA Case Officer’s watch– a classy and refined tool that signals to others you are a man of culture, yet don’t mind getting your hands dirty. The ideal Case Officer has been described as a “Ph.D. that can win a bar fight,” and this idiom covers Thomas Magnum well.

Rolex GMT for Spies Spy Watch CIA
(Photo Credit James Rupley)

Magnum was a former SEAL, Naval Intelligence Officer and Vietnam War veteran. He’s the ultimate cool guy from the 80s and the Pepsi GMT is the perfect watch for him.  During an interview with Frank Rousseau, Selleck said of the watch:

"I’ve always loved that watch. 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. It’s been underwater, buried in sand, taken I don’t know how many knocks, and never a problem. It’s called the Pepsi because the bezel colors are the same as the Pepsi logo. Personally, I thought the red went well with the Ferrari and the blue matched Hawaii’s lagoons and sky. "

Magnum PI: Rolex GMT-Master 1675

You might think you’re cool, and you might actually be cool, but you will never be Tom Selleck sporting a legendary mustache in a red Ferrari wearing a vintage Rolex GMT Pepsi cool.

READ NEXT: Prince Harry The Military Watch Enthusiast

This article has been reviewed by the CIA's Prepublication Classification Review Board to prevent the disclosure of classified information.


What, no mention of one of the CIA’s most famous characters, Jason Bourne? Tag Heuer Link Chrono?


Let’s not forget Clive Cussler hero Dirk Pitt with his early 70’s Doxa SUB300 with orange face. They literally evaporated off the secondary market when those books were on the best seller list. Seemed like over night. It took me years to find one.

Craig Fochtman

ARES founder Matt G was most certainly employed at CIA. I worked there in a contractor capacity, doing nothing remotely interesting, or exciting. He was not a CO though. Matt is a very accomplished and respected instructor.


Are you confirming that the founder of Ares, was in fact a CIA officer? I know there has been some discussion about the veracity of his various claims, and you would certainly be considered an authority on the matter.


Huge fan and not trying to knit pick, but a pet peeve of mine is how common it is for people not to know what DEA stands for. It is Drug Enforcement Administration not Agency. Cool article though as usual. Thanks for posting.


Leave Your Thought Here

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Related Articles