As a former writer and producer of feature films (I helped make ten martial arts action pictures back in the '80s and '90s) and a current watch journalist, I always pay particular attention to what watches are featured in the movies and on TV shows. Today, there are more and more watches making their screen debut. Here are just a few of the highest profile recent placements:
On the October 1, 2014 episode of “Modern Family,” entitled “Don’t Push,” Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill) talks about a Panerai watch he desperately wants for his anniversary gift from his wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara). He even mentions the watch’s black ceramic case and its 10-day power reserve.
In the recently released film “John Wick” starring Keanu Reeves, watch brand Carl F. Bucherer plays a big role on the wrists of Reeves, Willem Dafoe and Daniel Bernhardt.
In “Interstellar”, both Matthew McConaughey and his daughter Murph, played by Jessica Chastain, wear Hamilton watches. Hamilton created a unique watch just for the film.
French actor Jean Dujardin wears a Chopard watch in his upcoming film, “La French”.
In the soon-to-be-released “Kingsman: The Secret Service”, directed by Matthew Vaughn, Bremont, a UK-based watch brand, is featured throughout. Bremont co-founder Nick English even makes a cameo in the movie, in the conference room scene (which you can see in the film’s trailer).
A watch even plays a key role in the hit TV series “The Walking Dead” In the first episode of season five, “No Sanctuary”, Rick’s watch found amongst other recovered items confirms to Carol that he and the others must be in Terminus.
Watches and clocks have been used as symbols throughout the history of film. Remember the iconic image of Harold Lloyd hanging from the giant clock in the 1923 silent film “Safety Last”? In a way, every watch in every movie is a symbol – if only a symbol of what kind of character the actor is portraying.
“A big part of why we took ‘John Wick’ was to create a hyper-real world, a little shinier and more interesting, and we wanted to give the character a different look and change things around,” says Chad Stahelski, co-director of “John Wick” with David Leitch. “That goes down to the wardrobe, the set decoration and the props. We wanted something to go with the wardrobe that looked classic, clean but had a twist, so we chose the Carl F. Bucherer watches. We wanted something different that people hadn’t seen and Keanu agreed that this was exactly the watch his character would wear.”
Some watches, like the watch in Stanley Kubrik’s "2001: A Space Odyssey," are creative just for use in films. This year, Hamilton created a special watch for “Interstellar.” Matthew McConaughey wears a Hamilton Khaki Pilot Day Date in the film, but his daughter Murph (played by Jessica Chastain), wears an exclusive watch developed by Hamilton specifically for her character.
“When director Christopher Nolan asks, you can't refuse,” says Hamilton president Sylvain Dolla. “The propmasters came to us and said that they wanted to develop a special watch for the movie and we were very excited. Making a prop watch for Murph, the daughter in the film, was really interesting, because two critical emotional moments are based around the Hamilton watch. Before Matthew McConaughey leaves for space, he gives her the Hammilton watch, and she doesn't want him to leave. At the end of the movie, there is a very important moment based around time, and the watch is featured.”
“Since I have been at Hamilton, this is by far our best placement,” he continues. “People will remember ‘Blue Hawaii’, ‘2001’,‘Men in Black’ and they will remember ‘Interstellar’. For me, it's the strongest watch partnership ever, because the watch has a role in the movie.“ For me, as a watch lover and an audience member, it’s important that films and TV shows get a character’s watch right. Having a plumber wear a high-end Cartier timepiece when an entry-level Seiko would make more sense ruins the illusion that I am watching reality unfold on the screen. Filmmakers, like watchmakers, need to get it right.