The casting of time

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Movie stars and watches, an everlasting link

The casting of time

The casting of time

Shaped like a legend -Steve McQueen dons a Heuer Monaco chronograph in the 1971 film «Le Mans»
Shaped like a legend -Steve McQueen dons a Heuer Monaco chronograph in the 1971 film «Le Mans»

There has been an almost mystical relationship between filmaking and watchmaking since the invention of the former. The watch is not only the cage of temporal oppression in which man is crucified, like Freder in Metropolis in the huge dial that marks the endless 10 hours of work, but also the container that holds in place something unstoppable.

John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in TENET by Christoper Nolan (C) 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.jpg
John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in TENET by Christoper Nolan (C) 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.jpg

Anyone who has spoken to a connoisseur of haute horlogerie will know just how true Walter Benjamin’s words are: «The collector has a rapport with objects that do not put forward their functional value, but rather studies and loves them as the much as the scene itself». Picture the anonymous buyer of the most expensive wristwatch in history - a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ref. 6239 auctioned in 2017 for $17.8 million; for such a laughable sum of money, this devotee saw the fate of Paul Newman’s «Paul Newman» join his own wrist. Because of this combination of the tangible and the ideal, the fatal and the instrumental, a watch with the person who made it famous, models that have appeared in films may have followed different routes. The moment we see a specimen cast in a story, it is not necessarily by choice of the costume designer or the producer. In many cases, it is the star who demands a detail to his character.

The casting of time

Like the celebrated Rolex GMT-Master ref.1675 that Marlon Brando wore while filming Apocalypse Now, which was auctioned by Aurel Bacs in 2019 for close to 2 million dollars. The back bears the inscription «M. Brando». It was the actor who wanted it for Colonel Kurtz, and he decided to remove the rotating bezel to give it a wild aura. Robert Redford has often made his characters don the watches he usually wore, especially in steel and, as a left-handed person, only on his right wrist. As in the case of Bob Woodward’s Rolex Submariner ref.1680 in All the President’s Men.

In December 2020, at the Racing Pulse event organized by Phillips, the legendary Heuer Monaco that Steve McQueen wore while driving the Porsche 917 in Le Mans went for over 2 million dollars, the engraved caseback read «To Haig Le Mans 1970», because it was given by the «King of Cool» to his personal mechanic, Haig Alltounian. Very few objects have defined a period and man like the Heuer Monaco Calibre 11. When an iconic timepiece appears in a film, the enthusiast tends to perceive it as an actor. But there are instances where the script itself makes it so. Anyone who has seen the 2014 film Interstellar knows that the Hamilton Khaki Field owned by the main character Joseph Cooper-Matthew McConaughey and bequeathed to his daughter «Murph» before departing on a mission into space embodies the pulsating key to the Nolan brothers’ screenplay. It was the watch that became the only means of communication between father and daughter. Five years after the release of the film, Hamilton put into production the watch, known as «Murph», which features a delightful reference invisible to the naked eye: the engraving «Eureka» in Morse code on the second hand.

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