What Kind of Watches Does a Former NFL Superstar Wear?

Photography courtesy of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif shares his watch collection — and what it takes to find the perfect timepiece.

My first watch was a Swiss-made timepiece gifted to me by my grandfather when I was 12 or 13 years old. While I don’t recall the exact brand, I remember that it had a white dial with a metal bracelet and case. I wore it everywhere. That watch, which I unfortunately lost at a gym many years ago, sparked an appreciation for timepieces that continues to this day. But when you’re six foot five and 320 pounds and you have what seems like the biggest handshake and the biggest wrist, it can be difficult to find a timepiece that feels like a perfect fit.

The average case size for a men’s watch typically ranges from 38 to 46 millimetres. And having a preference for a timepiece that is at the larger end of that range can, I’ve found, considerably narrow the offerings. Thankfully, certain brands can be counted on to create bigger cases than others. While the Rolex Sea-Dweller and Deepsea models were two of the first luxury watches I added to my collection after joining the National Football League nine years ago, it’s my Panerai Luminor Marina PAM00422 that I would say is my perfect everyday fit. At 47 millimetres, it aligns with my personal preferences in both size and style. And I appreciate the brand’s history, which dates back to 1860, when founder Giovanni Panerai opened a watchmaker’s shop on the Ponte alle Grazie in Florence.

The Panerai Luminor Marina PAM00422 is perfectly proportioned for Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s six-foot-five, 320-pound frame
The Panerai Luminor Marina PAM00422 is perfectly proportioned for Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s six-foot-five, 320-pound frame.

When I buy a watch, the case size isn’t the only element of its design that I consider. I’d say the number one thing for me — what I want to learn about — is the mechanism. I enjoy discovering exactly what makes the watch tick. While reserved in its design, my Panerai still features all the technical elements of a luxury timepiece. I like that the watch’s interior quality (a hand-wound mechanical P.3001 calibre movement and Glucydur balance wheel) is balanced by its exterior subtlety.

With a brown leather strap and a polished steel case, it’s certainly not the fanciest watch out there. But that suits my tastes. I’m both an athlete and a doctor in residency at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, and the simple strap works well with anything I might wear on a day-to-day basis, but I enjoy playing around with it. I met a guy through Instagram who makes different types of straps using materials such as ostrich and crocodile, and they’re available in different hues. A fresh strap can change the whole vibe of the watch to perfectly suit my style and mood. I love switching it up that way.

I wear my watches like pieces of jewellery; I view them as collectibles rather than functional timekeeping devices. For me, they’re a way to look a little more dressed up than I usually am without appearing too extravagant. I’m not trying to impress people. If people know about Panerai, then they know about it. And if they don’t, they don’t. That’s the way I like it. This understated approach also comes into play with my 2020 Super Bowl 54 Ring from my time playing with the Kansas City Chiefs. Occasionally, I’ll bring the ring to events, but I usually keep it tucked away in its box rather than wear it because I find it too flashy. Truthfully, I see it as more of a trophy than a ring.

While my Panerai is my go-to timepiece, I try not to wear an expensive watch when I interact with kids. When I’m working with the Laurent Duvernay-Tardif Foundation, which supports and promotes physical activity for youth, I prefer to wear a much more affordable style. I’ll wear a $100 or $300 watch because my message is about more than just appearance. The topic of health is, above all, what is most important to me.

For those looking to elevate their watch wardrobe to true collector status, here are four alluringly luxurious watches for the in-the-know timepiece shopper.

Accutron Legacy Limited-Edition Automatic

Billed as “unisex,” this limited-edition Legacy timepiece ($1,895, at Maison Birks and maisonbirks.com), with its 33-millimetre gold-tone stainless-steel case, is sure to add a stylish touch to any wrist it adorns. The American brand’s timeless design features an automatic movement and a classic croc-embossed brown leather strap.

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Patek Philippe 5205R

A gilded masterpiece, the 5205R ($70,800, at Maison Birks and maisonbirks.com) sees a design first revealed in 2010 by the Geneva-based, family-owned watch brand given a bold colour update with a warm rose-gold case, sunburst olive-green dial and hand-stitched alligator strap.

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Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda GT Chronograph

The Tonda GT has changed the way many collectors view luxury brand Parmigiani Fleurier. The timepiece was originally released in 2020, and its design signified a sporty step in the history of the Swiss watch company. This Tonda GT Chronograph ($31,700, at Parmigiani Fleurier and parmigiani.com) is made more playful by its rich red sundials and vulcanized-rubber strap.

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Zenith Defy Revival Shadow

A modern take on the Swiss brand’s iconic Defy timepiece, which dates back to 1969, this stealth design ($9,600, at zenith-watches.com) features a matte-black dial and 14-sided bezel for a slightly futuristic exterior along with distinct ’70s-style hour markers and a ladder bracelet.

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This article first appeared in FASHION’s October 2023 issue. Find out more here.

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