My Top 4 Favorite Wrist Watching Spots Of 2020
by Nick Gould
As the resident Quill & Pad watch spotter, I spend many hours on random searches looking for interesting horological finds. Most of the time I find nothing, but occasionally I find nuggets of gold.
The year 2019 was quite a fruitful one for me in terms of unearthing some interesting Wrist Watching stories, but 2020 has been one very strange year. The photo below from 1953 of two gentlemen carrying a pair of massive display watches kind of sums up the sentiment, with the weight of time seemingly on everyone’s shoulders.
Without further ado, here are four of my favorite spotting finds for 2020.
Astronaut Wally Shirra and his Rolex Daytona
My first find was hiding in plain sight for 52 years. Wally Schirra (1923-2007) was a NASA astronaut who holds the distinction of being the first to travel into space three times and the only one to be involved in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs.
While browsing through pre-mission photographs of Apollo 7, I noticed a chronograph on the wrist of Schirra in his official mission portrait. At first glance, the timepiece looked like the NASA-issued Omega Speedmaster. On closer inspection, I realized that it was not the Speedmaster because of its drilled lugs, screw-down pushers, and most importantly a coronet on the crown.
Philip Corneille, founder of Moonwatch Universe, provided me with another photograph of Schirra standing with fellow Apollo 7 crew members Walter Cunningham and Donn F. Eisele.
This provided the confirmation: it showed Schirra wearing a Rolex Daytona, most likely Reference 6240 with a silver dial with contrasting black totalizers. Schirra was familiar with Rolex as he was gifted a Reference 1675 GMT-Master by the U.S Naval Academy Alumni Association in 1965.
The Italian Job: Michael Caine, Michael Standing, and the Omega Speedmaster
My next find does have something to do with the Omega Speedmaster, this time in the 1969 film The Italian Job starring Michael Caine.
I came across a photograph of a lobby card from the film while browsing Getty Images. The photograph shown below is from the scene in the film where Caine utters the famous line “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” to his co-star Michael Standing.
What stood out immediately to me was the recognizable Omega Speedmaster chronograph on Standing’s wrist. I realized that the photograph shown above was taken at a slightly different angle to the actual footage in the film, which did not allow a clear view of the watch on Standing’s wrist.
Yogi Berra and his Rolex Oyster Perpetual
When a famous person’s timepiece comes up for sale, in some cases there is no accompanying photograph showing the person wearing it, just a letter of provenance authenticating the watch.
This was the case back in 2017 when Heritage Auctions sold the Rolex Oyster Perpetual with a special dial commemorating his team’s win of the 1956 World Series belonging to legendary New York Yankee Yogi Berra (1925-2015).
I found this photo from 1968 of Berra wearing the timepiece while having dinner with actress Angie Dickinson and her second husband, Burt Bacharach. You can easily see the watch’s distinctive bracelet on Berra’s wrist.
Rolex Submariner MilSub
The venerable Rolex Submariner has been used by military forces around the world, notably among them the British Navy and its divers with the special Reference 5517, which is now known as the “MilSub” in collector circles.
I came across a photograph taken by American photographer John Dominis while he was on assignment in Taiwan in 1958 during the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis.
He perfectly captured two Taiwanese divers wearing Rolex Submariners, most likely Reference 6538 Big Crown, known today as the “James Bond” after Sean Connery wore the same model in four Bond films.
The composition of the shot caught my attention as it perfectly captured the divers and their tool watches. Five years later, in 1963, Dominis would capture Steve McQueen wearing his Hanhart 417 chronograph (see it in The Steve McQueen/Loren Janes Rolex Submariner 5513 Coming To Auction: How Long Did He Own It, How Often Did He Wear It, And How Much Survived The Fire?).
Quick Facts Rolex Daytona Reference 6240
Case: 37.5 mm, stainless steel
Movement: manually wound Valjoux Caliber 722, 17 jewels, 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph frequency, column wheel chronograph
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; 30-minute chronograph