The Unlikely Watch Collector: Andy Warhol
Unlikely Watch Collector

The Unlikely Watch Collector: Andy Warhol

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol, 1975

By Liam O'Donnell
Senior Photographer

Andy Warhol was an avid collector of curiosities throughout his life. Much like a magpie, he had a penchant for beautiful, shiny objects. He was even known to adorn the inside of hs Perfecto jacket with vintage diamond brooches, something that only he could admire. 

Andy Warhol and his Perfecto jacket

So, it is not surprising Andy was often photographed wearing a watch – most famously his Cartier Tank Louis. However, it was a total surprise when his secret collection of some 300 watches (hidden from public knowledge in dresser drawers) was sold by Sotheby’s during a 10-day auction of the Warhol estate in 1988 (read HERE).

Cartier Tank Louis

Once quoted as saying, “I don’t wear a [Cartier] Tank watch to tell the time. In fact, I never wind it. I wear a Tank because it’s the watch to wear,” the Cartier Tank Louis is easily the watch most often associated with Andy Warhol. Perhaps even more than the one worn by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Andy Warhol wearing his Cartier Tank Louis

This iconic watch was inspired by the Renault tanks on the front lines of the Western Front in World War I and has remained virtually unchanged since its inception over a century ago. The watch’s design is a rectangular prism in either stainless steel or 18K gold, with lugs that look like an extension of the case. These lugs have come to be known as “brancard-style” lugs, which means “stretcher” in French. The Tank Louis also sports Cartier’s signature Roman numeral dial and crown capped with a sapphire cabochon.

Andy Warhol and his Cartier Louis Tank

Connection With Piaget

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Warhol’s death, Piaget collaborated with the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to host a ‘Time Capsules’ event in London.

Hidden deep in Warhol’s archives were 600 boxes filled with letters, memorabilia, personal items, and more than a few historic Piaget timepieces. It’s no secret that Warhol was a fan of precious metals, and the Piaget timepieces in his collection speak to the style and funk of the 1970s.

Envelope with nine watch stills (from Piaget) from Time Capsule 348. Collection

Warhol’s connection to Piaget runs so deep that the brand still produces an ‘Inspiration Watch’ which features an 18k rose gold 45mm rose gold case and a beautiful lapis lazuli dial.

Other notable pieces in Warhol’s Piaget collection included 18 and 24 carat yellow gold ingot watches. These remarkable pieces date to 1974 and are powered by Piaget’s 9P Ultra-Thin movement. Being that Warhol was also a style icon, various Piaget cuff watches adorned his wrist, most notably, an intricate mechanical version with tiger eye dial.

Right: Watch that formerly belonged to Andy Warhol Yellow gold
Gold ingot watch that formerly belonged to Andy Warhol 24-carat gold (ingot) and

Based on the sheer volume of Piaget timepieces in Warhol’s collection, his relationship with the Swiss watchmaker is one that's still being celebrated.

Piaget Vintage Inspiration Watch

Rolex Chronograph Ref. 3525

This fascinating Rolex chronograph (read our profile HERE) was seldom photographed on Andy’s wrist. It’s quite possible he never even wore it and just enjoyed the aesthetics of the watch.

Rolex Chronograph Ref. 3525

Warhol's Rolex ref. 3525 is an important watch for the venerable Swiss manufacturer. It was the first time Rolex used its patented hermetic “Oyster” watch design with a chronograph movement.

AndyWarhol with his Rolex

While it may seem like a unique looking Rolex today, this reference was produced for about nine years (1939-1945) in numerous metals and combinations of metals. This particular reference has a pink gold bezel, crown, and bi-metal rivet style bracelet. However, the bracelet is not original to Warhol’s watch and was fitted with a leather strap before being auctioned.

Rolex Chronograph Ref. 3525

It doesn’t need to tell the time, but it’s nice when it does

Other notable watches in Warhol’s collection included a Patek Philippe ref. 3448, Patek Philippe ref. 2503, and a Patek Philippe ref. 2526. While it may seem like he had a penchant for leading luxury watch manufactures, Andy also had an affinity for mass-produced and inexpensive watches that had cartoon characters on them. It is believed that it was less about the technical prowess or isochronism for him, and more about how it looked on him, and how it felt in his hands.

Andy Warhol wearing his Cartier Tank Louis
Patek Philippe Ref. 2503 ©Christie's

A Collaboration with Movado

Despite being an avid watch collector and pop art icon, Andy only ever designed one watch of his own. The Movado Times/5 was a bracelet-style watch with a highly recognizable design, featuring photographic contact sheets, similar to the ones Andy would have used, as the basis for the bracelet.

Andy Warhol Movado Times/5 Watch

Each link in the bracelet was a photo of a different New York City building, and every link was its own watch. Additionally, all five watch links could be set individually. And with five separate watches, you could easily keep track of just as many time zones. Now that’s a world timer!

Andy Warhol Movado Times/5 Watch

At the time of Warhol’s unfortunate death, production of the Times/5 had yet to be completed, and his final selection of dial images were unknown to Movado. However, in a fortunate turn of events, shortly after his passing, an envelope was discovered with his final choices. The Times/5 was released a year later, with only 250 pieces being created. This collaboration laid the groundwork for the Movado artist series that still exists today.

Andy Warhol Movado Times/5 Watch

The Ripple of Pop Art Continues

Andy Warhol is arguably one of the most influential American artists of the 20th century. His work created a lasting ripple effect that is still influencing art, advertising, and even social media. His prolific work in all mediums continues to serve as inspiration for new generations. Moreover, his approach to watch collecting exemplifies a simple truth: Whatever it is you decide to collect, do so because you enjoy it.

Andy Warhol at Studio 54
And receive each week a custom selection of articles.

The Unlikely Watch Collector: Albert Einstein

By Sophie FurleyEditor-At-Large
The work and theories of Albert Einstein turned the world of physics upside down and led to him becoming the most influential physicist of the 20th century....

Get Your Sport Chic Style On This Summer With The All-New Czapek & Cie Antarctique

By Sophie FurleyEditor-At-Large
The Czapek Antarctique is not the first steel bracelet sports watch to be launched of late, but it is certainly one of the nicest.

The Unlikely Watch Collectors: Chefs Edition

By Frédéric BrunContributor
Time management is a key element in the kitchen. Not surprisingly, many top chefs also turn out to be fine watchmaking enthusiasts.

The Unlikely Watch Collector: The Shah of Iran

By Frédéric BrunContributor
A champion of modernity, the Shah of Iran was also an authority on watches, vintage vehicles, and lavish parties.

The Unlikely Watch Collector: Prince Charles

By Frédéric BrunContributor
The future king represents the epitome of longevity, he's also recovering from the coronavirus. Prince Charles's recent confinement gave us the...

The Unlikely Watch Collectors: Rolex Edition

By Marco GabellaCo-Founder - Executive Publisher
Despite watch connoisseurs around the world primarily viewing Rolex as a professional tool watch, the brand with the crown is now seen by the wider public as...

The Unlikely Watch Collector: The Pope(s)

By Frédéric BrunContributor
The Holy See is the unlikeliest of all watch collectors, yet for centuries, the pope has developed a unique relationship with time.

The Unlikely Watch Collector: Queen Elizabeth II

By Viviana ShanksSocial Media Manager and Junior Editor
Arguably the most famous person on earth, everyone knows the Queen and her colorful outfits. For this writer, it is not the dazzling tiaras that catch my eye...