This is how Hamilton became Hollywood’s go-to watch brandZach Blass
Watch brands love to tout records they hold – highest complication count, thinnest movements, greatest depth rating and so on. But Hamilton Watch Company holds a record of their own with their watches gracing the silver screen in over 450 major feature films. As a result, over the last 90 years, Hamilton has become known as the movie brand, thanks to their close association with Hollywood productions.
Hamilton watches first appeared in the 1932 Marlene Dietrich movie Shanghai Express and since then have made cameos in many other productions – notably including many of Christopher Nolan’s latest feature films (i.e Interstellar and Tenet). What is nice about Hamilton and their ties to film, is that their timepieces are very value-driven and offer high quality at a lower price point. This means it’s relatively easy for film and watch lovers to buy the references they spot on screen. For us to reflect on all of Hamilton’s 450 on-screen parts would require a novel-length article, so instead here are some of their most memorable watches to make it into the movies.
The Hamilton Ventura is an incredibly distinctive watch design, reaching a wider audience largely due to the fact that Elvis Presley popularised the watch on his wrist. While he notably wore the watch off screen as well, the Ventura had a starring role on his wrist in the musical comedy film Blue Hawaii – where Elvis returns home from the army and decides to go against his parents wishes to join the family business, opting to work with his girlfriend instead. The triangular watch is visible throughout the film and considering the superstar status of the person who wore it, many people left the theatre determined to acquire the timepiece themselves.
Matthew McConaughey as pilot Cooper wears a Hamilton Khaki Pilot Day Date in the film – but this was not the only Hamilton watch to make an appearance in the film. The Pilot Day Date was a standard production model at the time of the movie’s filming, but the Hamilton watch he gives to his daughter Murphy (or “Murph”) was a completely original creation for the film. In a really touching moment, Cooper presents the watch to his daughter as he heads off into the depths of space, promising that upon his return they will compare the time they have on each of their watches to see first-hand the effects of relativity.
As you get to the end of the movie, the watch is a complete scene-stealer as it becomes an integral part of the communication between father and daughter across time and space. While the production “Murph” watch was highly modified so that production could remotely trigger the second hand, a production Hamilton “Murph” model was created for consumers that leveraged the same aesthetic. In addition, the consumer model included subtle visual cues (such as the Morse code on the hands) that paid homage to the film’s sci-fi narrative.
Another instance where the movie watch deviates slightly from the models available to buy, the Hamilton Khaki BeLOWZERO was prominently featured in Tenet and was a crucial instrument for the characters while traversing timelines in order to destroy or save the world. The watch is available with two different second hand tips, the red and blue signalling whether the character was progressing into the past or the future. Other Hamilton watches can also be spotted in the film, but when John-David Washington and Robert Pattinson suit up in battle gear for a mission, the Khaki BeLOWZERO is always the watch on their wrists.
James Bond: Live and Let Die
Worn by Roger Moore while playing James Bond in Live and Let Die, the forward-thinking and futuristic aesthetic of the Hamilton Pulsar really catered to the gadget-driven nature of Bond and cemented the character as someone who leveraged the latest technology on their missions. It was, and still is, a very fashionable gadget. Interestingly enough, some Pulsar models even retailed by Tiffany & Co. back in the day.
2001: A Space Odyssey
An epic drama of space adventure and exploration, director Stanley Kubrick commissioned custom watches and desk clocks to be featured in the film. The watch did have a commemorative release a year after the films release in 1969, but the latest re-issue of the distinct timepiece came in 2006 with the Hamilton X-01 Odyssey – a limited edition release of 2001 pieces in honour of the film’s title. The cuff design of the quartz-powered watch is very unique, with the titanium case 36mm in diameter and lug-to-lug measurement of 77mm. The crown at 3′ adjusts the time and date, while the crown at 4′ once unscrewed can adjust the inner bezel GMT 12 hour scale.
In Ocean’s Eleven, George Clooney as Danny Ocean is a lovable thief who coordinates high-stakes heists timed and planned to the second. Therefore it was crucial that his character had a reliable and classy timepiece to accompany him during the planning and enacting of his thefts. As a sort of gentleman thief, the Hamilton Viewmatic was a great option to pair with his character – who again counted on his watch(es) heavily to evade capture and carry out his operations to a tee.
Men in Black films
The Men In Black saga also leveraged the Hamilton Ventura in character wardrobes and its usage in such futuristic films as well as older movies like Blue Hawaii is a testament to its timeless design. Like the Pulsar it is a watch that had a design so far ahead of its time that decades later it retains a futuristic aesthetic. In Men in Black, the Ventura design is a perfect fit because although the design is forward-thinking it still has an art-deco element that makes it ripe to be worn with a suit – the heroes’ uniform of choice in the films.
The Martian starring Matt Damon alongside a very talented ensemble was an exceptional film, based on a book, that explored an astronaut’s experience being stranded on Mars. Like Tenet, the watch featured was the Hamilton Khaki Navy BeLOWZERO.
The watch is certainly large and in charge, oozing a robustness you would expect for a wrist accessory traversing unknown terrain. The 46mm watch is 100 metres water-resistant, so while there is little water to encounter on Mars it’s depth rating at least suggests enough structural integrity to make it a worthy sidekick for an astronaut fighting for survival.