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Terms of endearment: the most iconic watch nicknames ever

Some luxury watches are fortunate enough to go by more than one name – the second usually bestowed by the public

Watch nicknames are a welcome addition to the horology dictionary.

Nicknames can go either way – good or bad – but once they are known, they tend to stick. Margaret Thatcher, once the firm hand at the helm of Britain, earned the nickname “The Iron Lady”. Not bad, if it fits the job description. Bill Clinton might not have been too happy to be known as “Slick Willie”, and the vote is still out on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “The Governator”.

It’s understandable why some things get nicknames, though – otherwise they may only be known by a reference number, or a really long description. Giving a watch a special nickname is also a form of recognition of its status. And sobriquets are terms of endearment, after all. Well, mostly.

Luxury watches might not seem like an obvious choice for these pet names, but given the number of different kinds of Rolex Submariner or Omega Speedmaster out there, it’s impossible to ignore these nicknames. They tend to stick – and they can either make or break a watch’s popularity. We’ve put together some of the best-known watch nicknames.

Watch nicknames are a welcome addition to the horology dictionary.

The "Paul Newman" Rolex

“Paul Newman”: Rolex Ref. 6263 Daytona

Actor and motorsport enthusiast Paul Newman’s name got linked to this particular Rolex after his wife, Joanne Woodward, gave him a Daytona when he began racing cars in 1972.

The watch that bears his name had set records at auction before the one Newman actually owned – Ref. 6239 with a personal inscription on the back from Woodward (“Drive Carefully Me”) was rediscovered and put up for auction.

One of the most mythical watches in vintage circles, it sold for $17.75 million after a serious bidding war last October, becoming the most expensive wristwatch ever sold under the hammer. Another example recently also made big money under the hammer in Dubai.

“Pussy Galore”: Rolex GMT 6542

The GMT Master from Rolex first appeared in the 1950s, when transcontinental flight created the need for dual time watches. Since then it has become one of the most recognisable luxury watches, period.

When Honor Blackman appeared next to Sean Connery in the James Bond classic Goldfinger as the mischievous Pussy Galore, it was probably the first time a woman appeared on screen wearing a man’s 40mm sport Rolex. It also earned the model on her wrist, the 6542, the nickname it still has today.

“Steve McQueen”: Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655

Some would argue that this nickname is technically a misnomer, and that “The King of Cool” actor Steve McQueen never actually wore one. Somehow, though, this was rumoured to be his favourite timepiece and the name stuck – and good luck to anyone who tries to unstick it. Rolex produced five variations of the Explorer II 1655 between 1971 and 1985. The watches remain coveted collectors items.

The Panerai PAM 382 "Bronzo"

“Bronzo”: Panerai PAM 382

In 2011, Panerai created a special edition limited to 1,000 pieces – the PAM 382, with an incredible bronze-finished case that weathers over time, making it even more appealing as it ages.

The timepiece spawned a niche industry within the luxury watch niche – the so-called “New Bronze Age” – and the nickname “Bronzo” says it all.

“Jo Siffert”: Heuer Autavia Ref. 1163

In 1968, when there was still a place for privateers in Formula One racing, Joseph “Seppi” Siffert drove into F1 history books by winning the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch in Rob Walker Racing Team’s Lotus 49B. Three years later he died in a crash in the final race.

TAG Heuer made a name for itself on the racing track, so it’s fitting that the Autavia 1163 carries the name of the famous, and beloved racer.

Best of the rest

The list of iconic watches bestowed with special nicknames doesn’t stop there, of course. Add to these the green Rolex “Hulk” or the “Kermit”, or if you prefer a blue dial – why not “Batman” or “Smurf”?

Whether the nickname comes from a recognisable feature of the watch or purely from the timepiece’s association with a famous name, they’re a welcome addition to the horology dictionary. 

The writer is cofounder and managing partner of Momentum

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