Former NFL player and Best Defense Foundation founder Donnie Edwards has been collecting luxury timepieces for two decades, and his passion for horology is matched only by his love of giving back.
San Diego native and former Chargers linebacker Donnie Edwards is a self-proclaimed watch nerd. The avid timepiece collector is known to switch up his watch several times a day and says he’s turned more people onto Panerai watches than the local authorized dealer, adding, “My guys don’t buy one; they buy 20.” In addition to Panerai, the Italian luxury line that outfitted the royal Italian navy in the early 20th century, Edwards enjoys a classic Philippe Patek—though he admits that his all-time favorite piece is a stainless blackface Rolex Daytona he bought himself when he landed a contract with the NFL at the age of 23. “It’s the iconic symbol of success,” he says. Edwards, who has been collecting watches for 20 years, notes that his aesthetics might have changed over that time, but his Rolex “will never be for sale.”
You won’t find many flashy diamond-studded watches in his collection, as Edwards is more taken with a watch’s movement—the interior mechanism that defines a luxury watch for those in the know. This old-fashioned dedication to authenticity is at the heart of who Edwards is and underscores the mission of the Best Defense Foundation, his philanthropic nonprofit that brings World War II vets back to the battlefield.
44 mm Luminor Marina, $7,700, Panerai, La Jolla
“I want to use my platform to honor their sacrifice,” says Edwards of what he calls the “greatest generation,” or the half-million living World War II vets. “They stepped up and signed up,” he continues, adding that his grandfater served in WWII as a citizen soldier. “By taking vets back to the battlefield, we don’t just bring them closure; we give these guys something to live for in their twilight years.” When he’s not taking vets back to Iwo Jima, Guam and Normandy, he’s taking them to Chargers games. Honoring this generation is vital to Edwards. “Do we have their fortitude today?” he wonders. At a time when it feels so relevant, Edwards urges young people to remember the roots of their freedom while these heroes are still around.
Photography by: donnie edwards photo by Axel Koester/Corbis via Getty Images | watch photo courtesy of panerai