Amid all the sports cars, private jets, yacht parties, and big-money power plays on HBO’s show Ballers, are some pretty sweet watches. Through its five seasons, the over-the-top show, which stars Dwayne Johnson as a retired NFL player turned sports-business dealmaker, has been one of the best places on TV to spy impressive timepieces, thanks to the interest in horology of both the show’s costume designer, Robert Mata, and its 6′ 5″ star. The Fast & Furious franchise actor and former WWE champion—who topped the Forbes list of most money earned from acting in 2018 ($124 million) and 2019 ($89 million)—values durable, highly legible watches with a heavy feel that can be worn anywhere. CSQ spoke with Mata, who has dressed Johnson since 2014 for film and television roles, about how he chooses timepieces for Johnson’s flashy character, Spencer Strasmore (whose wardrobe is full of bright colors and bold plaids) and what watches he has his eye on now.
How do you source watches for the show?
A lot of times I will be looking through a magazine and go, “That’s a great watch.” I’ll tell HBO’s prop department that that’s a watch I want to use this season and they’ll reach out. That’s how I came across Arnold & Son. We used a couple of their watches in season 2. It’s interesting though, some of the watch companies are really cooperative and sometimes they just don’t want to deal with us.
Really? You mean not every watch brand is tripping over themselves to loan Dwayne Johnson a watch?
I think some watch companies don’t need the exposure.
How did watches become such an important accessory on the show?
That was one of the first things we tried to do when we first created the character. We created small things that would set him apart. Watches can be really subtle and not a lot of people really know about great watches. We tried to find watches that were not really ostentatious but would stand out because they are quality timepieces. Most of all, they have to be the right size for him.
What are some other accessories that have gotten noticed by fans?
We also make him stand out with his sunglasses and shoes. The last couple of seasons we’ve used Dita sunglasses, including their Flight-Seven model. Those are really awesome glasses. For shoes, I like the Magnanni brand because the color options are just incredible. With his character, I want that Miami flamboyance, vibrant colors and interesting plaids and nothing boring. You could put a grey suit or a blue suit on anybody.
Tell me about some of the watches he’s worn on the show.
This season, he’s wearing Panerai, Audemars Piguet, and Arnold & Son. In past seasons, he’s worn pieces by Hublot and Ulysse Nardin; a Richard Mille Automatic Flyback Chronograph Regatta with a white band that was like $180,000; Arnold & Son’s Time Pyramid skeleton watch; and a Breitling Transocean Chronograph Unitime. I liked it because it was not the general look of the brand.
What does Johnson have in his personal watch collection?
He’s always been into Panerais. I think he must have eight or nine of them. Pretty much whenever he does a new film, we always try and give him something different from the last film. In Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, he wore a Panerai Luminor Submersible and we put a suede band on it.
How long have you been into watches?
Growing up, I loved watches. I remember the first watch I bought when I started working. It was a Movado Museum watch, the classic. After that I bought a TAG Heuer, then I went to a Krieger, and then jumped to a Rolex Submariner and then kept going. I’ve got a couple of Panerais and a Cartier Santos. I’ve gotten my wife into watches, Chanel and Cartier, as well. I’m a big fan. I just love going to a watch store and looking to see what’s out there.
How do you match a watch to an outfit?
If it’s a leather band, you generally match it to you belt and your shoes. If it’s a metal bracelet, you can pretty much wear that with anything. And you just try and keep the tone of the face along the same color lines of the outfit. If it’s a dark suit, you go for a grey or a dark face. For some of these lighter outfits, you can make it a little bit more playful watch.
Watches Worn on Ballers Season 5
“Dwayne wore this in a scene where he’s contemplating taking ownership of the Kansas City Chiefs. We wanted him to look like a million bucks. This watch is gorgeous,” says Ballers costume designer Robert Mata of the 41mm automatic watch with a royal purple dial. The glinting frosted effect is achieved by hammering the white gold case and bracelet with a tiny diamond-tipped tool. Limited edition of 200.
Panerai, Johnson’s go-to brand, has appeared on his wrist in such films as San Andreas, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Fast Five, and most recently, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. On the newest season of Ballers he wears Panerai’s 45mm automatic Luminor Due, which features a grey sunburst dial and a case made out of the brand’s patented Goldtech alloy, which includes copper and platinum (to reduce oxidization).
Johnson has worn Arnold & Son since season 2 of Ballers, when he sported its Time Pyramid skeleton watch, which he tweeted was “one of my fav watches. Amazing piece.” For season 5, he wears two Arnold & Son watches: the brand’s TEC1 in a palladium case and its 46mm Tourbillon Chronometer No. 36 with a tourbillon, gunmetal DLC-coated case, red-gold bridges, and main plate. Limited edition of 28.
Watches Robert Mata Has His Eye On
“I love IWC and the Portugieser is just such a classy-looking watch. The one with the silver face is one of my favorites. You can dress it up. You can dress it down,” says Mata, who would love Johnson to wear this piece sometime in the future. This 40.9mm self-winding timepiece in 18-carat 5N gold has a slate-colored dial and 44-hour power reserve.
“I love how complex the face looks. It’s such a beautiful watch,” says Mata of this wish-list watch. A highly complicated, hand-wound perpetual calendar timepiece in pink gold, it includes a tourbillon and such functions as sunrise/sunset, leap year, and equation of time, in a 44mm case.
Price upon request; vacheron-constantin.com.