Two Hamilton Watches Go Interstellar
This was a milestone weekend in Hamilton's storied history in cinema. Not only did they host their 7th annual "Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards", but a new blockbuster movie featuring their watches also hit the theaters. The movie, "Interstellar" is a science fiction film by Christopher Nolan, starring Matthew McConaughey, in which two Hamilton watches feature prominently. Hamilton was chosen to provide timepieces for the film (they existed in the script before their involvement in the project) because their products have the look Christopher Nolan envisioned for the movie, and due to Hamilton' six decades long history of providing watches to the film industry.
Prior to the event, I spoke with Hamilton's Head of Product, Alexander Gannac, about the watches featured in Interstellar. It's a challenge to write about the two watches without giving away plot points in the movie, as their role in the film seems to transcend typical product placement, but rest assured this article contains no spoilers.
The subject I found most interesting was the age of the two "fictional" watches in relation to the story and to each other. The day before speaking to Mr. Gannac, I attended a panel he participated in with Interstellar production designer, Nathan Crowley. During the panel, Mr. Crowley explained that while the movie was set in future, it wasn't set in a specific year. Mr. Gannac confirmed considering the time concept as well, and seemed to light up when asked his thoughts about when each of the two fictional Hamiltons would have been made.
Left to Right: Hamilton's Head of Product, Alexander Gannac, Hamilton CEO, Sylvian Dolla, and Interstellar production designer, Nathan Crowley discuss the two Hamilton watches appearing in Interstellar at the Sherry Lansing Theatre on the Paramount lot in Hollywood California.
First we discussed the "Cooper" watch, the piece Matthew McConaughey's character "Cooper" wears throughout the film. The watch is a Khaki Pilot Day Date which is available for purchase in the non fictional world as part of Hamilton's 2014 Collection. While he said it would be a stretch to imagine the character purchasing the watch in the year 2014, he did imagine the watch as one the character would have bought for himself. He described how the Khaki Pilot Day Date is very legible and features a thin case which is almost entirely filled by a large readable dial with large markers. This was perfect for the character who is a pilot turned farmer.
The "Cooper" watch, Hamilton Pilot Day Date (H64615135) from the current Hamilton collection retails for $945
The second watch we discussed is the timepiece the Cooper character gives to his daughter, "Murph". This watch doesn't exist in any Hamilton catalog as it was custom made for the film. Hamilton presented various options in their collection to the Interstellar team, but none of them had the exact look they had in mind for the piece.
A wrist shot of one of the ten "Murph" watches produced solely for the film.
In order to achieve a vintage feel, Mr. Gannac created a watch by combining dominant features from several current Hamilton pieces. The elements most prominently used were the hands and dial of the Khaki Pioneer, and the case of the Khaki Field. Mr. Gannac was quick to point out this creative process was not like playing with Legos where the disparate elements would just fit together. A new dial and hands in the style of the Pioneer had to be manufactured to fit and look properly proportioned in a 40mm Khaki Field case. Amazingly, he was able to do it in two weeks! A total of ten pieces were produced for use in shooting the movie.
Mr. Gannac said he imagined he was making a piece that would have been purchased long before Cooper acquired his Khaki Pilot Day Date. While pointing out this was only his personal interpretation, he said he thought of it as perhaps a piece Cooper's father may have given to him. When asked how he imagined and produced the Murph watch to appear as a much older piece than the Cooper watch, Mr. Gannac explained it had to do with a consistent choice of features made to evoke the feeling of the 1940's and 1950's. He described how the hands and dial of the Pioneer were the type used in the watches of that time period. The thick bezel of the Khaki Field also evokes the time when hesalite crystals were used and required extra protection.
The dial and hands of the Khaki Pioneer, such as the H60515533, were the inspiration for the "Murph" watch.
The case used in the Murph watch is the 40mm Khaki Field. Shown above is one of the 40mm Khaki Field watches in the 2104 collection (H70595593) which retails for $695.
If all of this is a little hard to keep track of, it's certainly in keeping with the movie. The simultaneous use of a real watch that's commercially available in 2014, but perhaps was self purchased by a fictional character at an unspecified time in the future, which was possibly purchased after the purchase of a separate custom watch that isn't available in the real world, fits right in to the film's central embrace of such intellectually challenging themes as time, relativity, black holes, and wormholes. It's an incredibly challenging film for the viewer. If you love watches, how you think about the two watches in the film will probably be a significant part of the experience.
As to the role of the watches themselves, Hamilton seemed proud this might be the most significant role two of their timepieces have taken in a film. To describe the way they are used in any greater detail is best left to academics and film aficionados. However, I can say what I heard the senior Hamilton Swiss executives say over and over as they emerged from their initial screening of the film on Saturday, which was "What an emotional film!", and how thrilled they were to have their watches at the center of a it.The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.