Just Because

Batman, Root Beer, Tuna Can, Tintin… Some of the Most Famous Nicknames in Watchmaking

Because we love watches so much, we needed to give them monikers...

calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Xavier Markl | ic_query_builder_black_24px 5 min read |
Rolex GMT-Master II "Steel Pepsi" 126710BLRO

Like them or not, appropriate or not, nicknames have to be earned. Watches are very personal objects and they reflect an enduring connection with fans. Often, these nicknames are directly inspired by the characteristics of the watch, its shape or colours. In other cases, celebrities or a special event made a watch famous and their name has remained linked to the model forever. One thing is certain, iconic watches from cult brands earn nicknames among collectors and aficionados. Not surprisingly, these are widespread across the more popular brands (Rolex, Seiko, Omega) while the watches from niche or high-end brands get less of these familiar monikers. Even cult Patek watches are referred to by connoisseurs with their 4-digit reference numbers, rather than their names. Here are some of the brands with the most nicknames… 

Note: If you can think of any other nicknames, please share them in our comment section below. We’d be delighted to expand the list.

Rolex

As you would expect, no other brand gets as many nicknames for its watches as The Crown. There is a variety of sources of inspiration, ranging from celebrities that have worn the watch (Paul Newman, Jean-Claude Killy, Steve McQueen, James Bond, the President) to sodas and their colours (the Pepsi, the Coke, the Root Beer). There are also the superheroes/popular characters (the Hulk, the Batman, the Batgirl, the Smurf, the Kermit, the Bart Simpson, the Dirty Harry…) or more simply, some inspired by shapes or design details, as with the Padellone (a large pan in Italian), the Freccione, the fat lady, the nipple, the bubble-back, the double-red (and their two lines of red text), the Great White, the Big Red (with an oversized red Daytona inscription) the John Player Special (with its black and gold colour scheme)… or even some referring to the collecting community (Patrizzi, for instance).

The recently introduced Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLNR, nicknamed “Batgirl” and replacing the “Batman”
Paul Newman's Paul Newman Daytona Rolex - phillips Auction
Paul Newman’s own “Paul Newman” Rolex Daytona, the very watch that gave this exotic version of the legendary chronograph its nickname – photo by Phillips

Seiko

Along with Rolex, Seiko is one of the brands with the most nicknames. Like Rolex, these nicknames have a variety of origins but the brand has its specificities. There are the marine creatures: the Tuna (tuna can because of its shape) and its variations, the Turtle or the Sea Urchin. There are the typically Japanese names: the Sumo, the Shogun, the Samurai (and its sword-shaped hands)… Among the brand’s popular models, we could also name the Monster, the Pogue (named after Astronaut William Pogue), the 62MAS (Ref 62 autoMAtic Selfdater), the Discus Burger, the Ripley (named after the Alien movie character), the Darth Vader, the Darth Maul…

Seiko Prospex Diver Samurai vs. Turtle
Two of the most famous Seiko Prospex Diver’s watches, the “Samurai” and the “Turtle”
Seiko Prospex Marinemaster 1000m Emperor Tuna Rose Gold SBDX014
This typical Seiko shape is often named “Tuna Can” by collectors

Omega

If there was only one nickname to remember it would be the Moonwatch, the watch that made history onboard the Apollo 11 mission and strapped on the wrists of astronauts. But there are dozens of monikers commonly used for Omega watches. The Ed White (in reference to astronaut Ed White who used his personal Speedmaster during an EVA), the FOIS (First Omega in Space), the Bullhead (and its distinctive case), the Bond Watch, the Ultraman (a Japanese TV show), the Teutonic (intended for the German market), the Tintin, the Darth Vader, the Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi, the Lobster (and its unique bracelet), the Holy Grail, the Big Blue…

Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch
The legendary “Moonwatch”, which earned its name after being worn by Apollo 11 astronauts
An early example of the Seamaster Diver 300M, often named the “Bond Watch” since it was on the wrist of 007 in the 1995 movie Goldeneye

Tudor

Several Tudor timepieces have earned nicknames in collector circles. The Snowflake (with its distinctive handset), the Big Block (with its thick case), the Monte Carlo (so dubbed because of the resemblance with a Casino roulette wheel), the Tiger (developed in tribute to Tiger Woods), the Home Plate (reminiscent of a baseball home plate), the Marine Nationale are some examples of familiar Tudor Monikers…

An early Tudor Oysterdate “Monte Carlo” Chronograph 7169/0
Tudor Submariner ref. 9401 Marine Nationale
The Tudor Submariner ref. 9401, delivered to the French “Marine Nationale” with “Snowflake” handset

TAG Heuer

TAG Heuer has created some of the most iconic chronographs, and naturally, many are have earned familiar names. Among these, most refer to celebrities that have sported Heuer timepieces, often linked to the racing history of the brand, like for instance the Steve McQueen (who catapulted the Monaco to success wearing it in the movie Le Mans), the Jo Siffert, the Jochen Rindt, the Mario Andretti…

Steve McQueen with his Heuer Monaco 1133B on the wrist, on the set of the 1971 movie Le Mans. This is the reason why this specific version of the Monaco would later be nicknamed the “Steve McQueen”.
A Heuer Autavia “Siffert” ref. 73663 (photos by Manta Watches)

Panerai

The hype for Panerai watches is more recent as it was relaunched in the late 1990s. But, given the success of the brand and its unique community of collectors, and even if they love to use reference numbers, it is not a surprise to see “Paneristi” give nicknames to the Italian brand watches: the Bronzo, the Egiziano (Italian for Egyptian), the Destro (to be worn on the right hand), the Fiddy (for nineteen fifty)…

A vintage Panerai Radiomir “Egiziano” made for the Egyptian Navy in 1956
Panerai Submersible Bronzo PAM00968
The latest version of the “Bronzo”, the Panerai Submersible PAM00968

8 responses

  1. The Tintin is a Speedmaster with a red/white checkered pattern, reminescent of the Tintin rocket.

  2. The TinTin checker pattern is not just reminiscent of the rocket markings in the TinTin comic the watch was supposed to be a tie-in but Herge’s agents did not want to go ahead with the tie-in. Omega therefore marketed the watch as a variation of the Speedmaster Racing dial.

  3. Some of these are confusing , When I was young I used to read the James Bond books and he used a Rolex (and drove a Bentley) . In recent years because of the films it’s an Omega , I never even noticed because Bond wears a Rolex . A good advertising avenue though. I would think it’s a pretty safe bet that more Fortis watches have been in space than Omegas, perhaps they are missing a trick!

  4. The Speedmaster ref. CK 2998 was the first OMEGA to reach space, when astronaut Walter Schirra wore the watch during the ‘Sigma 7’ mission of the Mercury Programme in 1962.

    Ed whites omega unfortunately not the first omega in space,unless you mean first used in a space walk?

  5. Very nice article. The list for Heuers with drivers’ connection could be very long.
    One remark though: the 3-register manual chronograph with white dial and contrasting subdials shown above as a “Siffert” in reality it is not what collectors call a Siffert.
    The proper Siffert is the automatic one (ref. 1163T) with two subdials and a date window. The manual ones that share the same colour pattern of white dial, black subdials and blue accents can be referred to as “Siffert colours” but definitely not Sifferts.

  6. This was a fun article. As far as Tag Heuer goes, a few that are well known which were not included are Viceroy and Orange Boy

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