Hamilton Watch Company at the Movies.
No other luxury watch company can claim to have spent as much time on cellulose media as the American founded Hamilton Watch Company, now owned by the industry behemoth Swatch.
What is remarkable about this is that Hamilton have never paid for so-called product placement in visual entertainment. Instead, the brand’s finest have been chosen by those that have worn them or those that are responsible for the look of those that have worn them.
Props can be as vital in visual story telling as the cast and script. Films and TV series are often reliant on time biased story lines. It follows that the most discernible manifestation of this dramatic inference is wrist watches on the screen. These portable time trackers can synchronise events and establish plausibility in an extraordinary situation.
I’m sure I am not alone, in the watch collecting fraternity, by being a constant wrist spotter throughout film and TV. The continuity supervisor needs to be on their game when I’m watching on, because I will spot if the time on a watch is incorrect. I now it’s not normal. But, then again, who is? I will have to wear a relevant timepiece for a film I’m watching. Be it a vintage piece when watching a Hitchcock classic or my BelowZero when watching The Martian, Central Intelligence or Predators. You may think this would detract from the escapism, but it just doesn’t. Instead this situation increases my involvement with a particular timepiece. I most definitely do not think I am James Stewart or Dwayne Johnson whilst wearing either timepiece after the event, as has been inferred by other watch “enthusiasts”. (Wearing a Submariner or Pro 300 will not turn Big Jim from accounts into James Bond from MI6. It just won’t). For me personally, I simply have a greater affinity with something I have paid a not unreasonable amount of money for. Although, with Hamilton its never as much as you would expect to pay. I love it when a watch has a story to tell. Even if it’s not my story.
Hamilton BelowZero (Reference H78585333)
I understand the need for product placement in the watch industry. It does work. However, for me, it has to have integrity. The more abuse and demands placed on a wrist watch throughout any form of visual entertainment the better. It’s as if the person on screen is life testing the watch for us. This doesn’t necessarily need to be restricted to the big and small screen. Hamilton is timekeeper to the Red Bull Air Races. In this incredibly physical sport Nicolas Ivanoff, Hamilton Ambassador, wears one of their X-Wind timepieces whilst performing. As a product placement this is a brave association, but one that is emboldened by relevance. And, this really is extreme testing at its most exuberant.
Nicolas Ivanoff wears a Khaki X-Wind reference H77755533
Hamilton’s timepieces have been prominently featured in over 500 films, starting way back in 1932, as seen in Shanghai Express starring Marlene Dietrich. Hamilton’s Flintridge and a Piping Rock (now the Boulton) were viewed within requisites to the plot.
Clive Brook wore his Hamilton Flintridge in Shanghai Express (1932)
Some timepieces from Hamilton’s collection are so recognised for their on-screen presence they have become monikered in reference to a particular film or character associated therewith. These include The Murph (see below), the Men In Black (Ventura), the Jack Ryan (Khaki Field Black), The Frogman (named after the 1951 film The Frogmen), the Ventura Elvis, the Interstellar Pilot and the Kojak (see link below).
Jack Ryan Khaki Chrono (TV series, not film). Reference H71626735
Khaki Frogman Titanium (reference H77805335)
Ventura Elvis80 Quartz (Reference H24551131)
Interstellar Pilot (Reference H64615135)
For me, the most important wristwatch in a film ever has to be the Khaki Pioneer/Field witnessed in the superb 2014 film Interstellar. This bespoke watch was created by Hamilton at the request of Legendary Pictures.
After its dramatic and profound inclusion in the film it drove fans to distraction as it was not a catalogue entrant that could be simply purchased over the counter.
That was until 2019, when Hamilton caused much excitement on social media with their announcement #wemadethemurph. I knew I had to own one. Please see my full review below:
Please not when I wrote the above it had not been widely recognised that Hamilton had featured in 1932 film Shanghai Express.
The Interstellar “Murph” watch was not the first custom-made timepiece for a film commissioned to Hamilton. In Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 blockbuster, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the director personally asked Hamilton for a one-off desk clock and watch. The cool and outrageous X-01 was created.
Speaking of “custom-made”: Christopher Nolan once again turned to the horological boffins at Hamilton when he required a special timepiece with a unique function that was not provided by the brand in their catalogue for his 2020 film Tenet. The chosen watch was the incredible value and under-appreciated Titanium Below Zero. The special function was a digital countdown timer. This amalgamation took months to perfect. There will be no spoiler alerts in this article so I will simply say that there is a blue version and a red version which are integral to Christopher Nolan’s usual paradox-filled, time-jumping narrative. Even if the Belowzero is not for you I urge you to watch Tenet. Insterstellar is still just my favourite of his award-winning cinematic offerings, but Tenet comes a close second.
There will only be 888 (a palindrome to mirror the movie title) of each limited edition colour.
I chose the Red version. Which would you choose? It may be factored by your favourite representation of time, as portrayed in Tenet.
The Hamilton Belowzero Tenet Limited Edition gets me pumped up.
A caveat copied from the Hamilton website:
*Please note: The special edition Khaki Navy BeLOWZERO is powered by an automatic movement and does not feature the digital screen that appears on the custom-made prop watch we created for TENET.
Spoiler Alert: This is the making of the watches and their relevance within the story telling of Tenet.
For all you completists out there, the Hamilton watch worn by The Protagonist, at the beginning of Tenet, before he donned the BelowZero is the Hamilton Jazzmaster Seaview Chrono Quartz, reference H37512131.
Another smart choice by the props department who worked on Tenet.
In many on screen situations historical pertinence is key to circumstantial authenticity and, therefore, believability. An example of this factual placement was in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, which featured a Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical. A watch that is still available today. Many US Servicemen were issued with this very watch throughout World War II.
Khaki Field Mechanical (reference H69439363)
Major TV productions are also following this trend by endowing their lead characters with Hamilton wrist watches. Such as Carrie Mathison in Homeland (Jazzmaster Lady), Dr Gregory House in, errm, House (Khaki Field King Auto), Jack Ryan in, errrm, Jack Ryan (see above), Eva Geller in Messiah (Jazzmaster Quartz), Ken Cosgrove (Ventura Electronic) and Pete Campbell (Sputnik) in Mad Men and Joe Krutel in Ballers (X-Wind).
Critical timing for Carrie Mathison, in the final season of Homeland, was entrusted to Hamilton
Dr Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) wore a Khaki King Auto, H64445533
Eva Geller (Michelle Monoghan) in Messiah wore a Jazzmaster Quartz
Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) wore a Hamilton Ventura Electronic in Mad Men
Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry) in Ballers wore an X-Wind in
The most conspicuous examples on the big screen have been:
- The Ventura Electric, as worn by the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, in the 1962 film Blue Hawaii.
- Pearl Harbor (Khaki Field Mechanical). Also see above.
- A Good Day To Die Hard (John: Jazzmaster Viewmatic Auto and Jack: X-Patrol Auto)
You’ll have to trust me. It’s a Jazzmaster Viewmatic (reference H32715531)
Jack McClane (Jai Courtney) in A Good Day To Die Hard wore an X-Patrol, reference H76556731
- Interstellar (Bespoke Khaki Pioneer and Khaki Pilot). See above
- The Martian (BelowZero)
- Live and Let Die (LED P2)
- Independence Day Resurgence (X-Wind Auto)
Further wrist spotting reveals Hamilton watches on most of Hollywood’s A-list celeb fraternity:
- Mark Wahlberg in Italian Job (Khaki Field Chronograph)
- Will Smith in I Am Legend (Khaki X-Wind)
- Adam Sandler in Click (Khaki Field on bracelet)
- Liam Neeson in Taken 3 (Jazzmaster Quartz)
- George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven (Linwood Viewmatic)
- Michael Keeton in American Assassin (Khaki Pilot)
- Dwayne Johnson in Central Intelligence (BelowZero)
- Eddie Murphy in Dolomite Is My Name (Vintage mechanical gold filled)
- Chris Pine in Shadow Recruit (Khaki Titanium)
- Robert Downey Jr in Spiderman: Homecoming. (Ventura XL Skeleton)
- Richard Gere in Autumn In New York (Ardmore)
- Edward Norton in Fight Club (Jazmaster)
- Ben Affleck in Daredevil (Linwood)
- Jennifer Connolly in Blood Diamond (Khaki King)
- Jessica Alba in Fantastic Four (Lloyd Chrono)
- Alec Baldwin in The Aviator (Dodson)
- Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind (Wilshire)
- Michelle Pfieffer in One Fine Day (Benton)
- Robert Wagner in Frogmen (Frogman)
- Tommy Lee Jones in U.S. Marshalls (Khaki King)
- Robert Shaw in Force Ten From Navarone (Broadarrow)
- Keanu Reeves in Chain Reaction (Khaki King)
- Steve Carrell in Get Smart (Field Multi Touch)
- Sylvester Stallone in Cliffhanger (Khaki)
- John Lithgow in Cliffhanger (Quartz Chronograph)
- Matt Damon in The Talented Mr Ripley (Ardmore)
- Steve Martin in Pink Panther (Boulton)
- Ashton Kutcher in Killer (Khaki Field Auto Chrono)
- Gene Hackman in Spartan (Khaki Field Mechanical)
- Viggo Mortenson in The Road (Jazzmaster Viewmatic)
- Chris Rock in Bad Company (Khaki Chronograph)
- Ewan McGregor in Big Fish (Khaki Field Quartz)
- Antonio Banderos in Homeland Security (Khaki GMT)
- Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde 2 (Jazzmaster Lady Pink)
- Samuel L Jackson in SWAT (Khaki Multi Touch)
- Ryan Reynolds in Buried (Khaki Field Officer)
- Rene Russo in Tin Cup (Khaki Sub Medium)
- Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man (Everest)
- John Travolto in The General’s Daughter (Khaki Chrono)
- Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon 4 (Ardmore)
- Anthony Hopkins in The Edge (Broadway Pocket Watch)
- Kurt Russell in Vanilla Sky (Linwood Viewmatic)
- Meg Ryan in City Of Angels (Boulton)
- Kevin Bacon in Where The Truth Lies (Vetura)
- Paul Walker in Into The Blue (Khaki Navy GMT)
- Gwyneth Paltrow in View From The Top (American Traveller)
- Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day (Carlisle)
- Nicolas Cage in Windtalkers (Khaki)
- Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail (Boulton)
- Jeffrey Wright in Quantum of Solace (Khaki X-Wind)
- Giancarlo Giannini in Quantum of Solace (Khaki Field)
To name but a few.
In recognition of this unequalled accomplishment, Hamilton recently introduced the superb Jazzmaster Regulator Cinema, reference H42605731, with subtle design cues that pay homage the world of movies. The separated hours and minutes displays are reminiscent of the reels from a vintage cine camera. This gorgeous and mechanically unique timepiece is aimed at someone with Cinephilia (an actual condition).
To give something back to the movie industry Hamilton Watch Company has created the “Behind The Camera Awards”.
This unique scheme within the industry aims to recognise the tireless and pioneering work that goes on behind the scenes, or behind the camera. If these unsung heroes have done their jobs properly you will not notice. Set designers, costume designers, prop masters and visual effects specialists are all, rightly, celebrated.
The 2018 winners were:
Sound editors: Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn.
Costume designer: Mary Zophres, First Man.
Director of Photography: Robert Richardson, A Private War.
Director: George Tillman Jr, The Hate U Give.
Visual Effects Supervisor: Dan DeLeeuw, The Avengers.
Producer: Graham King, Bohemian Rhapsody .
Cinematographic achievement: Gabriela Rodríguez, Roma.
Revelation Producers: Alison Dickey, The Sisters Brothers.
Breakthrough Director: Paul Dano, Wildlife.
Production Designer: Hannah Beachler, Black Panther.
Original Song: Troye Sivan, Boy Erased.
Screenwriter: Daniel Stiepleman, On the Basis of Sex.
Editor: Barry Alexander Brown. Infiltrated into the KKKlan.
With over 500 films featuring Hamilton wrist watches I was only ever going to be able to scratch the surface of Hamilton timepieces in the movies.
The next time you see a watch on the wrist of a main character check it out. Chances are it will be a Hamilton, as chosen by the actor, props department, writer or studio.
Right, I’m off to see my Murph assist in saving the whole of humankind.
Thank you to productplacementblog.com and wristwatched.com for some of the information within.