Some things are quintessentially Bruce Willis. That tough blue-collar edge. That All-American smile. A mean blues harmonica riff. Those watches.
Few actors parallel the energy and excitement that accompany a luxury watch brand’s DNA; like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and 1970s film icon Charles Bronson before them, the much-celebrated actor pulls it off quite naturally; and like his brothers in cinematic arms, Willis’ enthusiasm for Officine Panerai’s reliability, legibility, and functionality in no way sacrifices connoisseurship or understated refinement.
In fact, the German-born Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner has been known to brandish some iconic timepieces. From John McClane’s stainless steel Breitling Chronograph with black dial and three white sub-dials at 12:00, 9:00, and 6:00 o’clock in Die Hard with a Vengeance, to the Hamilton Jazzmaster Viewmatic in It’s a Good Day to Die Hard, Willis’ timepieces are as elegant and sober as he is.
In Willis’ most recent revamp of Charles Bronson’s 1974 thriller, Death Wish, Panerai makes its very own cameo. This would make sense given that the Rolex Yacht-Master and Panerai Radiomir are known to be in his personal collection. It makes even more sense when you consider that vintage Panerai—pre-Vendôme—were fashioned, by Rolex, as tool and dive watches for the Italian Royal Navy.
But the distinctive watch brand had a few hurdles to overcome. The Radiomir protoype of the 1930s and 1950s, complete with a 47-millimeter cushion-shaped steel case, wire lugs, and hand-wound mechanical movement, underwent a series of transformations. As Tritium replaced the radioactivity of Radium, the Radiomir emerged from the Second World War as the Luminor. Dubbed the “Kampfschwimmer” by the German military, the new and improved Luminor boasted a crown-protecting bridge and reinforced lugs.
While rebranding throughout the 1970s and 80s, Officine Panerai launched its first collection, The Luminor, Luminor Marina, and the Mare Nostrum in 1993. But it was Compagnie Financière Richmont’s acquisition of the distinctive brand in 1997 that brought Officine Panerai’s solidly into the global market of fine watchmaking.
Complicated models like the Pocket Watch Tourbillon GMT Ceramica will take you up to $180,000. Calibres such as the P.2003, P.2004, P.2005, P.2006, and P.9000 are produced solely in-house at Pierre-à-Bot, and maritime-themed boutiques were opened in Beijing, Seoul, Taipei, and Taiwan. No wonder a Panerai timepiece that hovered somewhere around $1,500 in the late 1990s, is, at a minimum, $5,000 today.
As one of the world’s most notable, prestigious brands in fine watchmaking, Officine Panerai has wonderfully balanced exceptionally complex models with rugged charm and functionality. It didn’t hurt that the Moonlighting star known as David Addison Bruce wore the Panerai Radiomir 8 Days Ceramica Ref. PAM00384 in his epic photo shoot for GQ Magazine.
But whatever you do, never, and I do mean never, forget his father’s watch. Remember – bedside table! On the kangaroo!