Ah, “Mad Men”: the series that follows the mad, mad lives of the ad men and women(!) of Madison Avenue in the 1960s. If you can look past the appalling sexism, adultery (hey, it was New York City in the 1960s), questionable morals and hint of racism, the show pays an incredible attention to detail.
The team behind this is made up of 3 highly respected figures in the “behind the scenes” department in the TV and film business: prop-masters Scott Buckwald and Ellen Freund joined forces with Emmy award winning Costume Designer Janie Bryant to create a picture-perfect 1960s atmosphere through their design choices for outfits, artwork and, more importantly for this article, watches. This team worked tirelessly to carefully select the watches featured in the show so that they were as “period correct” as possible.
A lot of the watches that were featured in the hit TV show were actually “rented” from WatchesToBuy’s Derek Dier, a vintage watch specialist who, as per his website, has “bought and sold vintage watches for over 35 years, supplying them to collectors and to the TV & Film industry”.
As a side note, if there is one thing that you should know about me it’s that I’m a sucker for 1950s and 1960s aesthetics, from advertisements, to posters, film, style and fashion, and of course, watches. So, if you’re into that, too, “Mad Men” is a series you should definitely check out.
Anyways, without further ado, let’s dive into the watches on the wrists of the characters of AMC’s highly celebrated “Mad Men”.
Don Draper – A progression throughout the seasons
The first watch on our list is a “Tuxedo” version of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Memovox. This “Tuxedo” configuration features a white dial with a black outer ring, housed in a steel case.
The Memovox was primarily targeted at frequent travellers, so unsurprisingly it was a hit amongst the businessmen of the 60s who were always on the move; it acted as a personal assistant of sorts with its mechanical alarm feature. It perfectly complements Don Draper’s restless attitude in the first season as we are thrown right into the hustle and bustle of 1960s New York City.
The Master Memovox was discontinued at the end of the decade, but the “Tribute to Deep Sea” version was re-introduced in 2012. Have a look at the two to see their differences!
The Master Memovox wasn’t the only JLC to appear on Don Draper’s wrist: in the second season, the protagonist upgrades (or downgrades: desgustibus) to a beautiful yellow gold Reverso Classique on a brown leather strap.
(You can find the story of this watch here).
Although it was introduced in 1931 as a watch for Polo players (in order to protect the glass, one can flip the face over to display the caseback), shortly after its release it became globally beloved.
Don’s wife – Elizabeth “Betty” Draper – uses the reversible case to its full potential and gets the caseback engraved in this season.
In 2012, JLC released the Grande Reverso Ultra Thin – Tribute to Mad Men, a very niche collaboration between the Swiss watchmaker and the show that is just awesome. Limited to only 25 pieces, the watch bears a lot of similarities to the Tribute to 1931 release from the year before: it features a stunning matte black dial with Art Deco accents and luminous baton hands. The caseback is hand-engraved with the logo of “Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce”, the advertisement firm in the series.
The watch also comes with a handful of high quality reproductions of vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre adverts; definitely something for the vintage lovers out there.
In Season 4, Don Draper is working an advertising account with Rolex, so a wardrobe change was only natural. The Creative Director of the ad agency opted for the Rolex Explorer I, unmistakably so, with its 3-6-9 Arabic numerals on a glossy black dial and the oyster bracelet.
This seemed a logical choice as the Explorer features a smooth bezel and a slimmer case, making it suitable for the workplace, whereas a Sub would stick out like a sore thumb in that environment.
Having already covered Rolex and Jaeger-LeCoultre, the prop-masters needed a new high-end luxury watch for the protagonist of the series. The timepiece of choice was an Omega Seamaster DeVille ref. 166.020 dating to 1966. Not coincidentally, this is when Season 5 takes place.
This choice was probably made due to the fact that Omega was already incredibly popular in the US during the 1950s and 60s with the release of their Seamaster range; watches targeted at those who enjoyed diving and sailing. The DeVille line was the “dressier” watch in this collection: far more refined and elegant than the white-dialled regular Seamasters.
Although the Reverso and the Explorer are undoubtedly more iconic watches in the public eye, in my opinion, the DeVille is the watch that is synonymous with “Mad Men”, not only because I have a soft spot for vintage Omega Seamasters, but Draper wears this from the beginning of Season 5 all the way to the series finale in Season 7. It is the watch that accompanies Don through the most significant character development of the program.
Not only was it significant to the series, but it was also important to Jon Hamm; the actor who plays Don. He can be seen wearing that exact watch on his cover for Rolling Stone magazine in April 2013.
The Silver Fox that is Roger Sterling (Don’s colleague and “friend”) is an incredibly well-dressed and classy man.
One significant watch choice comes in Seasons 5 and 6, in which the elegant and suave ad-man dons a 1959 Tudor Oyster-Prince ref. 7967 – a piece that features Rolex’s first automatic movement.
Derek Dier nicknamed this particular configuration the “Tuxedo” Oyster-Prince because of its silver and black dial. This is a more conservative dial for the older Roger Sterling, who, after all is most definitely Draper’s senior.
Fun fact – like Hamm with his DeVille, the Tudor meant a lot to John Slattery, the actor who portrayed Sterling: so much so that he wanted to buy one for himself.
Don’s bride, Megan Draper can be seen wearing a 14k white gold Jules Jürgensen watch, Est.D 1740.
This ellipse-dialled piece features a diamond bezel. This elegant watch seems perfect on Megan Draper’s (Jessica Paré) wrist as she lives the jet-set life of the 60s.
In Season 5, junior accounts manager Pete Campbell – played by Vincent Kartheiser – opts for an unusual Hamilton “Sputnik”, featuring a flushed case, flared lugs and dial that screams sixties décor.
Given his position in the company, a more accessible piece such as this Hamilton would have been an appropriate choice for his character.
The Hamilton Electric (could be confused for the Ventura, an equally popular item as it was worn by Elvis Presley) makes an appearance on the wrist of account executive Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) in Season 3.
This was a gift from a client that he had taken very good care of. The Hamilton “Electric” was first introduced in 1957 and revolutionised the watch world as it was battery-powered (but not quartz!) rather than automatic/mechanical.
Like the “Sputnik” of Pete Campbell, this piece has some incredible lugs – take a look!
We don’t want to give anything away, but it is really fascinating to compare the characters’ tastes/choices in timepieces with their respective persona development throughout the seasons. When you look a little closer, the horological progressions just make perfect sense. No wonder this show won so many Emmys.
Besides being great quality pieces, these may be your next watches. Still in doubt about what to buy next? Take a look at our guide here!