Zach Goes to the Movies: The Watches of House of Gucci

Editor’s note: Back in the first few years of Worn & Wound we had a series called “Watches on the Screen” – we’ve decided now to dip our toes again into cinema with a new concept from our very own film buff, Zach Kazan, looking not just at the wrists of actors, but at the films themselves. Enjoy the first part of our new series “Zach Goes to the Movies”

I’d be hard pressed to think of another movie I was more primed to see in 2021 than House of Gucci. When the trailer dropped earlier this year, I admit I watched it on repeat several times in those first few hours. The music, the clever editing, and the silly Chef Boyardee accents had me absolutely hooked. Ridley Scott, the director, has long been one of my favorite filmmakers. Not just for Alien and Bladerunner, consensus picks, perhaps, for the best movies he’s ever made (and among the best movies in the science-fiction landscape, period). But for many of his less celebrated films and later output, like Matchstick Men, with one of my favorite Nicolas Cage performances, and the absolutely bonkers The Counselor, which has more than a little in common with Gucci in terms of tone and style. Scott, now in his 80s, remains one of the most versatile major filmmakers working today, and every movie with his name attached is a legitimate event, at least for me. 

House of Gucci is the story of the later stages of the Gucci family’s control over the company that still bears their name. It all went down in flames (spoiler warning, I guess) in the mid-90s, when Maurizio Gucci (played by Adam Driver in the film) was forced to sell his family’s stock in their own company to cover his epic personal financial misadventures. As you’re well aware of if you saw a supermarket tabloid at any time between 1995 and about 1997, Maurizio was killed by a hitman hired by ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga). The trial that came later, resulting in Reggiani’s conviction, was noted as being something of a circus, and dominated Italian news for years. 


This is a story, obviously, about 1980s excess, hedonism, rich and powerful people, and a monumentally dysfunctional family. I didn’t need any other reasons to be excited about it, but the prospect of some interesting watch spotting didn’t hurt. Now, I’m a movie lover even before I’m a watch enthusiast, believe it or not, and I don’t go to movies to see watches on the wrists of actors, but I can’t deny that I notice them. We all notice them, sometimes to the point of distraction.

There’s also the Italy of it all at play here. Many will convincingly argue that it was the Italian dealers and collectors who were the tastemakers that laid the foundation for the boom in vintage watches that has now lasted decades. Think John Goldberger, Davide Parmegiani, and others. These were the people who seemingly saw into the future, and acquired the Paul Newman Daytonas and rare steel Patek references before the market went absolutely mad. Plus, almost any watch is going to look exponentially better when photographed in Milan. That’s just a fact. 

Al Pacino, right, wearing a Breguet. Image credit: MGM

Watches are everywhere in House of Gucci, but they probably aren’t what you’d expect. There’s almost nothing particularly flashy or, how can I put this, obvious. I didn’t spot a Paul Newman Daytona, for example. A steel sports watch would hardly feel appropriate in this milieu, where everyone (literally everyone) is immaculately tailored in every shot of every scene. The costumes are this movie’s special effect, and they’re perfect. 

The most noticeable watch in the movie sits on the wrist of Adam Driver. It’s a pink gold Boucheron Epure with a white sector dial, and it stands out largely because of its size: it measures 42mm. If a 42mm watch on the wrist of a man whose job is to lead one of the world’s great fashion houses in the 1980s seems out of place, that’s because this particular watch didn’t exist until 2013. 

The Boucheron Epure worn by Adam Driver in House of Gucci

Styling watches in any movie is complex, but particularly in a period piece. The filmmakers need to determine the appropriate balance between authenticity and pure aesthetics. In the modern age, production might have to navigate endorsement deals that stars have struck with big brands (see: Leonardo DiCaprio and the many TAG Heuers he’s donned on screen in just about everything he’s made recently, save The Revenant). In House of Gucci, the watch looks great on Adam Driver, but is understandably a bit out of time if you’re an enthusiast who notices these things. 

It’s a little ironic, at least for me, that Driver shares the screen with Al Pacino in House of Gucci, who is the subject of one of my favorite watch spots in one of my favorite movies. Of course, I’m talking about Michael Mann’s Heat, in which Pacino can be seen wearing a Bulgari Diagono chronograph throughout the duration of the 3 hour (but still somehow too short) film. I love this watch, or at least I love the way it looks on screen as worn by Pacino, which I guess is a different thing altogether, and it strikes me as a missed opportunity not to flash Bulgaris at every opportunity in Gucci. (Bulgari jewelry, we’ll point out, is seen frequently in the film). 

Al Pacino’s Bulgari Diagono in Heat

Incidentally, Pacino’s watch in House of Gucci is a completely appropriate Breguet Classique Moonphase. It’s a chic gold dress watch that you absolutely believe Aldo would wear, but the choice suffers from the same problem as Driver’s Boucheron: it wasn’t in production during the time period the film is set in. This particular reference entered the collection in 2011, decades before the predominantly 1980s timeline of the film. This watch-casting idiosyncrasy is perhaps more forgivable than Driver’s oversized Boucheron, as Pacino’s Breguet is conservatively sized, and the brand certainly made watches in this style during the time period, although they had a very different standing in the watch community than it enjoys today, coming out of the quartz crisis, and prior to being acquired by the Swatch Group. The question of whether someone like Aldo would choose a Breguet for himself is an interesting hypothetical.

Pacino, again wearing an apparently time traveling Breguet Classique Moonphase. Image credit: MGM

The narrative arc of House of Gucci takes us through a transformational time for the company. Maurizio is portrayed as a wonton spender, sinking the brand further and further into the red thanks to extravagant personal expenses, a Patek Philippe 2523 worldtimer among them. This watch is mentioned specifically (but never seen) in a climactic and particularly tense scene, in which Maurizio is confronted by his business partners and it becomes clear that he’ll inevitably have to relinquish control of the family company to outsiders. The mantra among watch collectors is always “Watches Are Not an Investment,” but still, imagine losing a fashion empire thanks in part to purchasing a Patek. This movie is definitely a portrait of the 80s. 

The fate of the Gucci brand mirrors, in very real ways, the changing landscape of the watch industry, as it’s become dominated by large luxury groups, selling increasingly mass manufactured goods to more and more people. The growth of the watch industry is a fundamentally good thing, of course, but the commoditization of traditional craft is probably not, and that is essentially what happened to Gucci once the family lost control, if not before. There’s a great scene midway through the film where Pacino’s Aldo is asked to address the problem of fake Gucci products, spotted for sale via street vendors in New York City by Patrizia. Aldo’s reaction, to Patrizia’s great disappointment, is essentially “So what?” He wants Gucci to be a household name more than he wants to be associated with a quality product, and he makes that clear in an over the top Italian accent and some truly wild gesticulating body language (Al Pacino is a treasure). 

A Patek Philippe 2523. Image credit: Christie’s

While I certainly can’t think of a watch brand that would endorse fakes, it’s not hard to imagine some brands accepting a certain decline in quality to be put in front of more potential customers. And that’s the devil’s bargain that luxury brands have been navigating for years in a global economy: keep it in the family and relatively small scale, and tear each other apart in the process, or get yourself absorbed by a behemoth and cash out (and hopefully don’t get yourself shot by an Italian hitman on your way to work).

Would I recommend House of Gucci? Unequivocally my answer is yes. It’s fantastic escapist entertainment, which is a great way to think of the world of luxury goods writ large. I don’t have a desire to own the supercars and super watches variously described and seen in the film, and I can’t even remember the last time I really needed to wear a suit, but it’s still fun to see these things, and get lost in another time and place for a few hours. Ridley Scott transports us to 1980s Milan and New York as effectively as he does the Nostromo in Alien. And while House of Gucci doesn’t have the truly gross creature design and unrelenting suspense as Scott’s earlier film, it does have Lady Gaga plotting a murder using the voice of a Mario brother, so there’s that. 

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.