The original Top Gun (1986) was an unhinged, hyperpatriotic adrenaline rush that served up a testimony to American military might – with a side order of volleyball in jeans. This weekend, just in time for Memorial Day, we get the long-awaited sequel, Top Gun: Maverick. Thirty-six years have passed since the original, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at the curiously ageless Tom Cruise, who is back in the cockpit as Maverick, the renegade flyboy and chronograph enthusiast.
Instead of being the smooth-faced, smooth-talking rookie, he’s now an instructor. One of his students happens to be the son of his old pal Goose (RIP), played by Miles Teller of Whiplash fame.
The movie is positioned as an old-fashioned blockbuster. My colleague Cole “Iceman” Pennington, HODINKEE’s resident aviation expert, texted me yesterday saying it has the “The best flying scenes that have ever been made, period.”
Are you feeling what I’m feeling? I feel the need, the need for spotting watches in the latest Top Gun film. And boy are there plenty of ’em.
Why We’re Watching
Great balls of fire, it’s opening weekend!
This article will be a spoiler-free affair, given that the film is so new. But the basic setup is as follows: A rogue nation is harboring a uranium repository deep within a mountain base. The location of this nation makes it impossible for the most modern aircraft to carry out a strike. So in order to get intel, top pilots and old-school fighter jets are needed. Someone has to teach those pilots, and that someone is you-know-who. When last we saw Maverick, he was but a student – now he is the master.
In 1986, Maverick famously wore a Porsche Design Chronograph 1 by Orfina, a fully blacked-out sport watch that came to prominence in the ’70s and ’80s. So what does he wear in 2022? A Porsche Design Chronograph 1 by Orfina – or at least that’s what it appears to be. In fact, it looks to be the exact one he wore in the original film. This means that not only has he not progressed beyond the rank of captain, but he also has managed to not buy a new watch. He also has the same motorcycle from the original film. Who needs new stuff?
Porsche Design watches have an interesting history. They were powered by Valjoux movements and shared similar case, dial, and overall styling with a few other brands during those decades. Brands like Heuer and LeJour made effectively identical watches to the Porsche Design chronos, with the same movements, only a different logo on the dial. You can see one such watch in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), which we covered in one of the earliest installments of Watching Movies. Porsche Design also has a quirky manufacturing past. The watches were made by Orfina, as we see here, and by IWC. Now they’re their own entity.
Speaking of IWC, if you know a little bit about TOPGUN (the real-life Navy Fighter Weapons School) then you know that IWC watches loom large in that world. There are special IWC models that are only available to instructors and students. IWC calls these “Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor” (SFTI) models and they come in both Mark XVIII and Chronograph variations. These watches appear in droves in this film.
Each of the recruited pilots, Maverick’s underlings, wear these special IWC watches, both in chronograph, and time and date configurations. And that’s not all. In a pivotal scene toward the film’s end, you’ll see a prominently featured IWC stopwatch. To my knowledge there isn’t a modern stopwatch in the IWC catalog so it’s possible this was made just for the film.
That’s not all, watch-wise. In fact, this movie is what I might call a target-rich environment for watch spotting. As Maverick’s love interest, Jennifer Connelly plays Penny Benjamin – and on her wrist is what looks to be a Rolex steel sports watch. While initially it appeared to be an Oyster Perpetual — a closer look at the watch indicates that it could be an Explorer, and a vintage Explorer (potentially a ref. 1016) at that.
Top Gun: Maverick is a horological fever dream, and it’s also chock-full of automotive intrigue. Keep your eyes peeled for an air-cooled Porsche 911 and a Ford Bronco, in addition to the OG bike. There are also some nice planes, like Maverick’s own P-51 Mustang.
When We’re Watching
The film opens on an aircraft carrier and then gives us exactly what we want: Maverick. We watch as he preps for a test flight to achieve Mach 10 speed (a feat that has never been recorded … to our knowledge). As he does so, we get a clear glimpse of the Porsche Design Chronograph on his wrist. Shortly after, he merges onto the highway to the danger zone and not only hits Mach 10, but bests it. Tom Cruise, man.
About 15 minutes into the film we find ourselves inside a dive bar where the naval aviators hang out. This is where we’re first introduced to the recruits that Maverick will eventually be training. It’s a fun scene because we watch them meet one another and size each other up. But most importantly, they’re each wearing IWC TOPGUN watches. All those IWCs in one place can really take your breath away.
Top Gun: Maverick (starring Tom Cruise) is directed by Joseph Kosinski with props by Robbie Duncan. It is now playing in theaters everywhere.
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The HODINKEE Shop features a selection of pre-owned and vintage IWC and Rolex timepieces; explore our collection here. For more information about watches from Porsche Design and IWC, visit their websites.