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Tom Selleck, never without my Rolex GMT Master Pepsi
Watch Stories

Tom Selleck, never without my Rolex GMT Master Pepsi

Wednesday, 23 May 2018
By Frank Rousseau
Frank Rousseau

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5 min read

For 162 episodes, he played one of television’s best-loved private investigators… and put Aloha shirts on the fashion radar. We meet the man behind Magnum.

Exactly thirty years ago, in 1988, Magnum P.I. hung up his Hawaiian shirt for good, leaving behind millions of nostalgic fans. Age 73, Tom Selleck’s famous moustache is starting to grey but the actor has lost none of his verve… particularly when talking about his Ferrari and that Rolex Pepsi.

Rumour has it that when you were offered the role of Magnum, you asked if you could think about it!

Absolutely! I wasn’t crazy about the character at first; some kind of tropical James Bond with a lady on each arm and no sense of humour. The way things were heading, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d given me a rocket-launcher watch [laughs]. I suggested we explore different aspects of his personality and turn this smooth private investigator into a loveable, laidback guy with his own shortcomings. We went against the stereotype of the unflappable detective and that’s how the series became such a worldwide success.

Magnum and Selleck, together for ever! Wherever I go, people talk to me about him.
Tom Selleck
Are there times you wish you could get away from Magnum?

Whatever I do, people will always think of me as Magnum. That’s just the way it is. I’m philosophical about it now. Magnum and Selleck, together for ever! Wherever I go, people talk to me about him. I can be in a hotel room anywhere in the world, turn on the TV in the middle of the night and come across yet another rerun. Magnum is still a huge hit in more than 90 countries. Of course, without him I’d probably still be doing adverts for soda or cigarettes. I owe him everything!

Admit it, you'd had enough of the Hawaiian shirts!

[laughs] Hey, over there they’re an institution! A uniform! Not that it was always blue skies and sunshine. Some days we’d film and it could be quite chilly but, well, Magnum in a knitted hat and sweater wouldn’t have quite the same effect. Especially behind the wheel of a Ferrari…

Talking about the Ferrari, did they at least give you one to keep?

Ferrari doesn’t need publicity, then or now. It’s a legend. The cars sell themselves. You know, there are companies that still rent Ferraris with “Magnum” licence plates to Japanese vacationing in Honolulu. Maybe I should ask for royalties! And did I mention they get a stick-on moustache too! [laughs]. It’s big business! Seriously though, Ferrari never gave me a 308. The dealer used to provide a new one every two years and the old ones were sold at auction, often for way more than their valuation. I’ve heard of collectors and Magnum fans paying astronomical amounts. I drove three different models. First a 308 GTS, then a 308 GTSi and last of all a 308 GTS QV.

So not too disappointed not to have kept "your" Ferrari?

I don’t do nostalgia. If I’d driven off in a Ferrari, I’d have felt like a travelling salesman taking his work home, or a plumber who uses his van at weekends…

I've had my fair share of "sport" watches but never one as tough as the Rolex Pepsi.
Tom Selleck
What about the famous Rolex GMT-Master Pepsi, a legend for collectors?

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’m 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. It’s called the Pepsi because the bezel colours are the same as the Pepsi logo. Personally, I thought the red went well with the Ferrari and the blue matched Hawaii’s lagoons and sky.

Was it a multiple time-zone display?

Yes, which is very useful. I’ve never been a great traveller but when I was filming Magnum, I’d think a lot about my family back in California. Hawaii is three hours behind the Golden State, which isn’t much but enough to throw me off. What I like about the Pepsi is the fact it’s become a legend and in that respect will never go out of style. I still have it. It hasn’t changed a bit, unlike me! [laughs]. My moustache isn’t as thick as when I was starting out whereas my watch hasn’t rusted. Probably because it’s stainless steel. And still right on time!

I assume your watch is part of your new life as a farmer and ranch-owner.

That’s right. I own an organic avocado farm and we keep a few animals too. Acting aside, I live a very rural life. A life on the land. The ranch is how I stay in shape. I can’t always get the qualified workers I need for the season, so I do all the day-to-day jobs myself, whether it’s chopping wood, cutting hedges or filling holes in the road. When you live this kind of life, you have to wear a watch that’s up to the job. Thirty years ago, I was at the wheel of a Ferrari. Now I drive a pick-up with tools in the back. All that’s left of my Magnum days are my Rolex, a couple of Hawaiian shirts and my moustache comb. The rest is history!

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