The Unlikely Watch Collector: Tom Selleck
Unlikely Watch Collector

The Unlikely Watch Collector: Tom Selleck

The Magnum, P.I. and Blue Bloods star has rocked a magnificent mustache and some pretty serious wrist action for as long as we can remember.

By Rhonda Riche

Who doesn’t love Tom Selleck? His brand of slightly exasperated cool has made him a welcome presence on our TV screens since his first appearance on The Dating Game in 1967. And who can forget his silver screen turns in classics like Quigley Down Under (1990) and Three Men and a Baby (1987)?

His most beloved character, however, was (and still is) Thomas Magnum in the Oahu-based television crime drama of the 1980s, Magnum, P.I.

His most beloved character, however, was (and still is) Thomas Magnum in the Oahu-based television crime drama of the 1980s, Magnum, P.I.

The show ran for eight years and made Hawaiian shirts and luxurious facial hair fashionable in the 1980s. But Magnum was not Selleck’s only sartorial success. His dadcore look as ophthalmologist Richard Burke on Friends still inspires Gen Ys who are reviving ’90s fashions. And let’s not forget how much we love the man in uniform on Blue Bloods.

Selleck’s style shows range and longevity. And his on- and off-screen watches deserve a place in the pop cultural pantheon as well.

The Magnum Years: Part I

The character Thomas Magnum was a Ferrari-driving, former Navy SEAL and Vietnam vet now working as a private investigator in Oahu. Yet despite the character’s penchant for loud, floral-printed shirts, for the first few years of the series, the show’s prop masters supplied him with an unassuming Chronosport Sea Quartz 30.

Introduced in 1977, this work-a-day watch made some sense in that it reflected the character’s military past, but after three seasons, the Sea Quartz 30 was replaced with a Rolex “Pepsi” (more on that in the next section).

Chronosport has now rebranded as Momentum and in January 2023 the brand reissued the Sea Quartz 30 as a limited edition. With its 42mm steel case, screw-down crown, and 300m water-resistance rating, as well as a generous layer of C3 Super-LumiNova on the hands and markers, this watch is as quintessentially ’80s as Selleck’s high-waisted jeans. Priced at just $295, the first batch quickly sold out, but the next round is available for pre-order now.

The Magnum Years: Part II

As rad as the Sea Quartz was, Magnum was a man who led a life of luxury. He lived in a lavish estate and drove a red Ferrari 308. Ultimately, the character had to up his watch game with a Rolex red and blue GMT-Master Ref. 16750 on an Oyster bracelet.

We first got a sip of the “Pepsi” when Selleck sported a Seiko SQ Quartz diver with a red and blue bezel in a couple of episodes. Eventually, Magnum switched to the stainless steel 1675 – the one with the classic matte dial variant produced from 1980 to 1988 – matching the series’ run to the very year.

Some say this timepiece was Selleck’s watch, but in an interview with in 2018, the actor said: “Ah, the Rolex 1675! That I did keep. I’ve always loved that watch. It was the perfect match for Magnum. It’s a watch that likes action, and believe me, I know what I’m talking about. I’ve had my fair share of ‘sport’ watches but never one as tough as the Rolex. It’s been underwater, buried in sand, taken I don’t know how many knocks, and never a problem…I thought the red went well with the Ferrari and the blue matched Hawaii’s lagoons and sky.”

And at the end of the interview, he added: “All that’s left of my Magnum days are my Rolex, a couple of Hawaiian shirts, and my mustache comb. The rest is history!”

Three Men and a Little Timex

Magnum, P.I. made Selleck a pop cultural dynamo, so, naturally, he made the jump to the big screen. And his biggest cinematic success was the 1987 romp Three Men and a Baby.

The plot of the film, as many of you probably know, centers around three bachelors who raise an infant dropped off on their doorstep. While Selleck’s architect character sported a two-tone Rolex in the film and some of the promotional materials, his character’s main timepiece was a Timex Triathlon (which later morphed into Timex’s IRONMAN collection).

Why wear a Timex when you have a Rolex? Well, it’s not that big of a jump to assume that a playboy architect would wear such a low-end timepiece, after all, President Bill Clinton wore one while he was in office.

The Friends Era

In the recurring role of Monica’s much older Jaguar-driving, ophthalmologist boyfriend Richard Burke on the TV show Friends, Selleck was also the inspiration for Chandler growing a mustache and Joey taking up cigar smoking.

In fact, we binge-watched the second season of Friends trying to figure out what the cool dad version of Selleck wore on his wrist. Sadly, our eyesight isn’t that great.

However, we did note that he wore a modern Rolex Daytona Ref. 116515LN with a ceramic bezel, rose gold case, and off-white dials on a leather strap during the 2021 Friends reunion.

Blue Bloods, Gold Watch

Selleck is a Rolex loyalist, but he does take advantage of the brand’s diverse offerings to find models that best suit his roles.

For example, as Frank Reagan, the patriarch of a policing dynasty on the long-running drama Blue Bloods, Selleck wears a two-tone Oystersteel and Gold Datejust on a Jubilee bracelet, which is apt for the character because it’s the kind of watch that you can see being passed down through the generations.

And just like Selleck, two two-tone watches are back in the collective consciousness. We’d argue that they’ve never gone away.

And receive each week a custom selection of articles.

The Unlikely Watch Collector: Columbo Part 2 – The Victims & Villains

By Steven RogersContributor
Whether used by the murderer or worn by the victim, watches and clocks play a key role throughout the long-running TV series. We check out the incriminating...

The Unlikely Watch Collector: Columbo

By Steven RogersContributor
For a man who might not appear to care too much about what he wears, it turns out the iconic TV detective likes to switch up his wrist gear, big time.

The Unlikely Watch Collector: Pharrell Williams

By Rhonda RicheEditor-At-Large
This Grammy-winning producer is also a watch N.E.R.D.